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Pistons vs Sixers preview: Detroit’s first big test of the season

We know the Sixers are a playoff team - now we see if Detroit continues to play like one too

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Detroit Pistons Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

The Pistons take on the Sixers in their first challenging matchup of the season, after closer-than-desired wins against the Brooklyn Nets and Chicago Bulls. The Sixers are a good team with a legitimate chance of greatness - it’ll be interesting to see Detroit measure itself against a team ostensibly better than them this early in the year.

Here’s some things in particular to look at during tonight’s game:

Who even plays?

Andre Drummond was held out of practice yesterday with the flu and might not even play tonight:

He thinks he is, for whatever that’s worth:

Update: Andre is good to go tonight, per Dwane Casey

On the other side, Ben Simmons tweaked his back and is questionable for tonight:

Update: Ben Simmons has been downgraded to Doubtful, and Philly sounds as if it is preparing to play without him

Both of those players are vital to their team and the matchup changes drastically if either misses tonight. Detroit doesn’t have the big depth to handle superstar center Joel Embiid without Dre - Zaza Pachulia will combust in a confluence of fouls trying, Dwane Casey has been cautious with Blake-at-Center lineups, so it stands to reason he wouldn’t throw Blake Griffin into the meat grinder, and the thought of Jon Leuer trying to defend Embiid gives me hives.

Conversely, Philly is much easier to defend without Simmons - you can double or trap Embiid and make their other guys take contested shots or try to make plays. If Robert Covington and Dario Saric go 15-for-28 and you lose, you tip your cap, but it’s better than letting Embiid score 35 and throw down some demoralizing dunks.

Size and Skill versus Skill

The Sixers have a huge backcourt (Simmons-Fultz-Covington), and Casey has shown a propensity to play a small backcourt (Ish Smith-Langston Galloway-Reggie Jackson). That went poorly against the Nets’ big backcourt, and signs point to it going poorly against the Sixers as well.

Presuming that Simmons plays and Casey assigns Stanley Johnson to him, that’s only one matchup. And if Stanley is on the floor playing four next to three guards that aren’t Reggie Bullock and Luke Kennard, you can’t expect his effort to erase the size advantage the Sixers will have. I hope Bullock has more to offer on defense tonight than he did against Zach LaVine, as well.

This would definitely a time to see a wing lineup of Reggie Bullock, Glenn Robinson III, and Stanley Johnson to deal with the Sixers, if Casey is willing to be so bold.

Blake Griffin: Still Good At Basketball

Blake Griffin has been extremely productive during the first two games of the season:

If Blake isn’t matched up with Embiid, he will still have to deal with Joel’s threat as a shotblocker out of the post, but he’s shown the ability to kick out to open shooters. Dario Saric has the size, but maybe not the strength to hang with Blake - and recall that we said similar things about Bobby Portis prior to the Bulls game and that went well.

Ok, one last gushing tweet about how good Blake Griffin has been this season:

I’m just enjoying the ride.

Game Vitals:

When: October 23 at 7 p.m. ET
Where: Little Caesars Arena, Detroit, MI
Watch: NBA TV (oh god, National TV Pistons)

Projected Lineups:

Pistons (2-0)
Reggie Jackson, Reggie Bullock, Stanley Johnson, Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond

Sixers (2-1)
Ben Simmons, Markelle Fultz, Robert Covington, Dario Saric, Joel Embiid