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Pistons vs. 76ers preview: Detroit looks for a broom in Philadelphia

Having split their first two on a four-game road trip, Detroit faces a back-to-back against a team they have already beaten three times this season.

Leon Halip-USA TODAY Sports

Fresh off a 118-103 whupping in Charlotte on Friday night, the 33-32 Pistons visit the City of Brotherly Love this evening to tangle with the 9-56 76ers. Philadelphia also played last night, notching a 95-89 victory over Brooklyn. While the Sixers have pride at stake (and it would take an improbable win streak to lift their record past the 14-52 Lakers), Detroit cannot afford to lose if it wants to stay in the race for a playoff berth. Chicago did help their cause by falling 118-96 at home to Miami last night to remain a half-game back in the battle for the eighth seed.

Game Vitals

Where: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, PA

When: Saturday, March 12, 2016, 7:00 PM EST

Watch: FSD

Game Analysis

Clipping the Nets broke a 13-game losing streak for Philadelphia, which endured an 18-game tumble to open the season. To make matters worse, center Jahlil Okafor has torn a meniscus in his right knee, so he will miss the remainder of his rookie campaign. Nerlens Noel, who has often started alongside him at power forward, will move to the middle. Rookie Jerami Grant (9.1 points per game) will move up from the bench.

After Okafor (17.5 ppg), the 76ers top scorer is point guard Ish Smith (15.4 points and 7.1 assists per game). His backcourt mate is Michigan alum Nik Stauskas (7.4 ppg). Robert Covington adds 11.9 ppg from his small forward spot. Hollis Thompson (9.2 ppg and .387 on threes) and Isaiah Canaan (10.6 ppg) lead the reserves. Seven Sixers scored 10 or more points against Brooklyn.

Reggie Jackson had a productive 20 points and 10 assists for Detroit versus Charlotte, but his three-point shot has mostly deserted him in March (.208 percent). Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (24 points on 9-16 shooting) had his best offensive performance in two weeks. Tobias Harris added 20 points.

The return to action of two key reserves who have been waylaid by injuries, Stanley Johnson and Anthony Tolliver, was a hopeful sign for the Pistons, though neither player made a significant impact in their combined 18 minutes. But last night’s loss was mostly a defensive failure against a hot-shooting Hornets squad.

Detroit will get Sunday off in our nation’s capital before confronting the Wizards on Monday. While they might understandably be looking ahead to this contest with a team that has already beaten them twice and is nipping at their heels, the Pistons first need to dispatch tonight’s foe.

Lineup Projection

Pistons: Reggie Jackson, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Marcus Morris, Tobias Harris, Andre Drummond

76ers: Ish Smith, Nik Stauskas, Robert Covington, Jerami Grant, Nerlens Noel

Injured/In Doubt

Pistons: Spencer Dinwiddie (out - ankle), Jodie Meeks (out – foot)

76ers: Joel Embiid (out – foot), Kendall Marshall (questionable – illness), Jahlil Okafor (out – torn meniscus in knee)

Key Matchup

Andre Drummond versus Nerlens Noel

Drummond played only 23 minutes against the Hornets due to foul trouble, failing to post double figures in either points or rebounds for only the fourth time in 2015-16. He should be well-rested to face the energetic Noel, who spots him about 60 pounds. While Noel scored 20 points (mostly from feeds off dribble penetration or put-backs) when he started in place of Okafor in a January meeting, Drummond owned the middle with 25 points and 18 boards. Detroit will need a similar dominating performance from him tonight.

Last Time We Met

February 24, 2016 at Detroit, Pistons won 111-91

Detroit raced to a 23-point halftime lead and coasted to an easy victory. In only his second start, Tobias Harris scored 22 points and Reggie Bullock added 16 off the bench. Okafor was the only 76er starter to score in double figures (13) as that unit only recorded 31 points.

Score Prediction

Pistons 104, 76ers 96

Community Question

Isn’t Drummond overdue for another 20-20 game?