By Connor Thomas
In another installment of what is finally starting to feel commonplace in the NBA, the Sixers take on the Detroit Pistons tonight in the back end of their 4th 2 game series this season. Saturday night was not the prettiest performance, but Philadelphia was able to eke out a 114-110 win in Detroit thanks to another strong effort from Joel Embiid. It was speculated before that game that Embiid may sit because of back soreness, and though he was listed as questionable until shortly before game time, the Sixers superstar played through the discomfort to drop a game high 33 points. Eventually the big man will have to rest, however, and he is again listed as questionable for tonight’s game with the same injury designation. If Blake Griffin returns to the lineup for Detroit, a Philadelphia side without Embiid would have their work cut out for them. Though Detroit sits at 3-13 on the year, good for dead last in the Eastern Conference, the Sixers have had difficulty overcoming their starting center’s absences this year. Philadelphia is 0-3 this year when Embiid does not play, losing those 3 contests by a combined 38 points. If the big man sits, the Sixers will have to prove they can still take care of a lesser opponent.
The bulk of that task will fall on the shoulders of Tobias Harris and Ben Simmons. Simmons, who had arguably his most impactful quarter of the season in the 4th quarter of Sixers-Celtics on Thursday, scored a season high 20 points against the Pistons in game 1. It seems he may be hitting his stride as Philly heads into their 17th game on the year. Harris, on the other hand, has been consistent all year, and remarkable at times. As a player who has proven to be a capable 2nd fiddle when Embiid plays, it will be important to see him front the scoring workload if the Sixers number one option does indeed take the night off. Regardless of the circumstances, any time a 1st place team takes on a last place team, it is fair to expect a win. The Sixers will look to do just that, and following back to back victories against Boston, they will also have the opportunity to sweep another 2 game series and remain undefeated on the year in those sets.
The offensive matchup of the game for the Sixers will be Danny Green against Detroit’s wing defenders. Green was the only Sixers starter who did not carry his share of the scoring workload, mustering up only 7 points during Saturday’s contest. Green does have the ability to hit a hot streak, and the Sixers wouldn’t mind him tapping into his ability to knock down a string of 3 pointers come 7pm tonight.
The defensive matchup of the game will be whoever has to cover Blake Griffin if he does in fact return to the lineup for the Pistons tonight. Griffin still has the ability to find a 30 point game every once in a while, and assuming Embiid’s absence, he may be able to exploit the rest of the Sixers defensive unit. Doc Rivers will have to be creative with his matchups to make sure the former slam dunk champion doesn’t become a one man wrecking crew.
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