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Pistons host 76ers

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Once again, big ups to Kevin for the preview. Ball tips at 8 PM on FSN -- leave your thoughts in the comments. -- MW
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By: Kevin Sawyer

76ers: 8-11 (3-6 road)
Margin: -0.6 ppg (-4.3 away)
Last 10: 4-6 (margin -2.2)

Pistons: 11-6 (5-3 home)
Margin: +0.8 ppg (+1.0 home)
Last 10: 6-4 (margin -1.4)

Oppo research:

While it was reasonable to expect a slow start out of the gate for the 76ers, I don’t think anyone thought this team would struggle to reach .500 after acquiring Elton Brand in the off-season. A dark horse to make it out of the East, the new-look 76ers are now looking up at the other teams in their division. Dark times indeed.

Worse for the Sixers, Brand suffered a hamstring injury in Wednesday’s game against the Lakers just as he was starting to heat up and will miss tonight’s game. Without him, the 76ers surrender their one major advantage, rebounding.

As expected, Philly’s lack of outside shooting allows teams to pack in the defense, which has stunted the growth of youngsters Thad Young and Louis Williams. Both have been major disappointments. They play Willie Green and Reggie Evans for 30+ mpg combine, which can’t be the look they were hoping for when the season started….

And the fact that I went three paragraphs without mentioning Andre Iguodala should tell you the kind of season he’s having.

Expect Mo Cheeks to shake up the lineup, possibly finding more minutes for Donyell Marshall in an attempt to stretch the defense. We’ll also get a look at Marreese Speights, who has been the lone bright spot for Philadelphia, albeit in limited minutes due to frequent foul trouble.

The Drama

Allen Iverson faces the team that traded him to the Nuggets two seasons ago, and the Pistons face the team that gave them an early scare in the first round of the playoffs a season ago. Also, expect handshakes and hugs for (twice) former Piston Theo Ratliff.

Keys for Detroit:

Prepare for anything: Philadelphia is desperate, having lost four of its last five games, and now without its best player. Coach Cheeks knows this would be an important win psychologically, so expect the kitchen sink approach. Ironically, Brand’s absence might free up the lane for greater dribble penetration. The Pistons should be ready for whatever look the Sixers show.

Slow down the game: The 76ers are still good at forcing turnovers, but they have been just as bad at handling the ball. Half-court sets have been toxic, as teams are able to force Philly’s athletic wings into making bad decisions with the ball. Our offensive game isn’t as focused on perimeter passing as it was last year, so the Sixer guards won’t be able to feast on the passing lanes as they did in the first round series last year.

Sheeeeeeed!!!: Philadelphia has nobody who can guard him. If he doesn’t drop 25 and 10, it’s because he doesn’t want to.

Question of the game:

Are the Pistons capable of winning a game in which they are, ostensibly, favored? Aside from Kwame-Dalembert, I don’t think Philly wins any of the personnel matchups (and we take back the aforementioned advantage when we bring in Amir). This begins a stretch of six very winnable games, so we’ll see if this team has put the off-switch theory to bed, and if they can get a good run of wins going.