Game Preview: Clinging to Playoff Hopes, Pistons Face Injured Sixers
With a glimmer of hope this late in the season, the Detroit Pistons (37-40) have not yet been mathematically eliminated from the postseason. Granted it would take Detroit winning out along with the Milwaukee Bucks collapsing like a wet paper towel, but stranger things have happened. Tonight the Pistons will look to stave off the seemingly inevitable against the injured, yet rolling, Philadelphia 76ers (47-30).
The Sixers have gone off for an 11-game winning streak, catapulting up the standings in the Eastern Conference. They are only a half-game behind the Cleveland Cavaliers, who have found their footing as well, for the third seed in the playoffs. With the jockeying for position that’s happening, the Pistons can get involved and play spoiler. They have won five in a row and seven of their last ten to pull within 4.5 games of the eighth seed Bucks, but it appears to be too little too late.
It was fun when the Pistons were fully healthy, wasn’t it? Blake Griffin is OUT tonight meaning Anthony Tolliver, who started in his place last time out, is likely to start tonight. The good news is Reggie Jackson still has both of his ankles and is getting healthier. He poured in 29 points Sunday against the Brooklyn Nets, though turned the ball over five times. At this point in the season, everyone is nicked up.
While not having Griffin is unfortunate, the Sixers are even more injured. Center Joel Embiid and forward Dario Saric are both OUT tonight, leaving a gaping hole at center. That should work to Andre Drummond’s advantage, assuming he does not get ejected like on Sunday. Philly did get top draft pick Markelle Fultz back and he looks to be gaining some confidence. While he will not be a game-changer tonight, Fultz is someone fun to watch as he has the capability to put together some impressively flashy offensive outbursts. That makes him the second-most fun player to watch tonight, behind probable Rookie of the Year Ben Simmons.
While the Pistons have an advantage in the paint and perhaps at point guard now that Jackson is back, Ben Simmons is a glaring matchup nightmare. He has size, passing ability, and excellent basketball IQ to put his teammates in position to score. Detroit will have to contain Simmons and force him away from the rim if they want any hope of mitigating an otherwise humming Sixers offense.
I’d like to think Detroit stays alive with a win tonight, but one of these win streaks has to end. I lean on the side of pessimism. Philadelphia has too many weapons, even with Embiid out, that Detroit will have a tough time handling. If Griffin was playing things would be different, but alas here we are.