The Pistons have been working hard to get back into playoff contention, winning their past five games, but they will fall short of their aim. At 37-40, they are in ninth position, but 4.5 games behind Milwaukee, Washington and Miami with just five games to play in the season.
In contrast, the 76ers have recently clinched their first playoff berth since 2012. Their 47-30 record currently has them in fourth place in the east and facing a first round matchup against the Pacers, a side they would no doubt be confident of beating.
Considering Philadelphia have won 11 games in a row, they would have reason to feel confident against any side they face at the moment. Their latest win came at home yesterday, when they punished the lowly Nets 121-95. No player exceeded 20 points in what was an all-round performance from the young side, though the experienced combination of JJ Redick and Marco Belinelli top scored with 19 and 17 points, respectively.
Three keys to the game
Detroit’s waning motivation - The Pistons deserve credit for their sustained late push for the playoffs, but with it becoming increasingly clear with every passing game that it will be in vain, their players will surely drop off a little in the remaining five matches. Perhaps they will look to finish the season on a high note, but it’s tough to imagine their motivation will rival the 76ers, who are jostling for playoff positions.
76ers’ form - Philadelphia have been elite at both ends of the floor during their current 11-game winning streak. At the defensive end, where they have been good all season, they are allowing just 96.2 points per 100 possessions, the best in the NBA during this time. Their offense has taken off too, with their offensive rating sitting at 112.2 in the past 11 games, giving them an overall net rating of 16.1 during the win streak.
The Pistons home court advantage - Detroit are one of those teams which plays significantly better at home than on the road. Their 13-26 record away is woeful, but at home they are sitting at 24-14, akin to sides like Boston and OKC. They may not have the motivation that the 76ers have for this game, but they do have the home floor advantage.
Matchup to watch
Reggie Jackson vs Ben Simmons - This could potentially be a one-sided matchup, with Simmons a significantly more talented player than his counterpart in Jackson. The Pistons’ point guard is coming off a good game though, having put up 29 points against the Nets yesterday. Despite this, Simmons is on another level all together, and could be far too much for Jackson to handle at both ends of the floor. The Australian averages 15.8 points, 8.1 rebounds, 8.1 assists and 1.7 steals in his debut season, and his ability to read the floor combined with his extraordinary size and athleticism make him a near impossible matchup. Jackson will need to play out of his skin to keep this matchup somewhat even and prevent Simmons from taking the game away from the Pistons.
Detroit Pistons predicted starting lineup
PG - Reggie Jackson | SG - Reggie Bullock | SF - Stanley Johnson | PF - Anthony Tolliver | C - Andre Drummond
Philadelphia 76ers predicted starting lineup
PG - Ben Simmons | SG - JJ Redick | SF - Robert Covington | PF - Ersan Ilyasova | C - Amir Johnson
Simmons had a quiet second game against the Pistons this season, but in Philadelphia’s other two games against them he has proven tough to stop. In the first, he went 8-for-11 from the floor for 21 points, grabbed 12 rebounds, and dished out ten assists. In the most recent game between the sides, which the 76ers won by 36 points, he was similarly efficient. He shot 9-for-13 for 19 points, and also contributed four rebounds, nine assists, two steals and two blocks.
Oddsmakers are expecting this to be a close one, giving the 76ers just a 1.5 point handicap. Perhaps this is justified given both sides are in good form, but Philadelphia are a much better team even in the absence of Embiid, and should be able to cover the line.
Though only one of them has anything to play for, both these sides are in excellent form, and should play out an entertaining matchup. Philadelphia played yesterday, and travelling back-to-back will no doubt impact their performance, but they should still be able to get over the line.
Embiid may be absent, but Simmons is still an elite young talent and will be unstoppable in this game. He’ll put up 20 points and flirt with a triple-double and lead his 76ers to victory. They’ll run out 108-101 winners on the road.
The game will be broadcast locally on FS Detroit and NBCSP. Tip-off is at 7pm ET.