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Pistons vs Sixers preview: Detroit will have its hands full trying to slow down Joel Embiid and friends

The Pistons look to bounce back from a tough loss against a hot 76ers team

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Detroit Pistons Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

A struggling Detroit Pistons team is looking to notch its second win of the season against the feisty Philadelphia 76ers. The Pistons are coming off their worst game of the year — a 117-89 blowout at the hands of the Milwaukee Bucks with the Bucks down several starters. The Pistons couldn’t get anything going, particularly on the offensive end and shot a horrific 8-of-47 from 3-point range. They look to right the ship tonight, but the Sixers and Joel Embiid won’t make it easy on them.

Game Vitals

When: 7:00 p.m. ET
Where: Little Caesars Arena, Detroit, Michigan
Watch: Bally Sports Detroit Plus or NBA League Pass
Odds: Detroit +8

Analysis

The Philadelphia 76ers roll into town coming directly off of a tight win against the Chicago Bulls. The 76ers only won by five points, but they thoroughly dominated the game. Joel Embiid had a cool 18 points, 9 boards, and seven assists and exerted his will despite his inefficient shooting. Georges Niang and Seth Curry also had big games, really benefitting from Embiid’s gravity.

The Detroit Pistons enter this game with virtually no expectations and the burden of a slow start already weighing on them. Cade Cunningham has had a rough start to his NBA career scoring wise and the Pistons have simply not held up well on defense at all. Philadelphia presents an interesting challenge to the struggling Pistons squad.

The big challenge for the Pistons will be guarding Joel Embiid. Isaiah Stewart will face his toughest challenge of the season so far, and I’ll be interested to see how many reps he gets 1-on-1 with Embiid and how often Detroit instead chooses to double. Jerami Grant is a great option to execute the double team, and there are some cerebral wing defenders who can fly around, but the 76ers can really shoot and Embiid has gotten good at passing out of a swarm of multiple defenders. Stewart is going to have to take a major step-up tonight defensively.

Killian Hayes is playing better recently and looks to continue that against the 76ers. The 76ers are not a team that is full of great perimeter defenders and hopefully he continues to hunt his shots and create for teammates. If he is matched up with Seth Curry, he will have the size advantage and he should use his strength to get some shots tonight.

Tyrese Maxey could challenge Killian on the other end. He doesn’t shoot the ball incredibly well right now, but he is a blur when getting downhill, and he leverages his strength well. Maxey is coming off of a good night against the Bulls and is still in the midst of a potential breakout season.

The big struggle for the Pistons tonight is going to be generating efficient offense. Some players are going to have good matchups (pretty much any wing starter not guarded by Danny Green), but Joel Embiid is a great pick and roll defender and he’s only gotten better with time. The bench units could really struggle to get anything going unless Kelly Olynyk is really killing Embiid with the pick and pop.

Combine those offensive worries with the lack of clear path to stopping Embiid and you get a game with a lot of disaster potential. This could be a repeat of the Bucks game, where the Pistons are just outmatched by a better player and a better team.

However, there is some potential for the Pistons to really put up a good fight here. Cade Cunningham is due for a breakout game and this might be the context for him to do it. He has still looked a but hobbled from injury during the past couple games, but if his step is back, he should have the size advantage offensively and the contests on his shots will be weak. With Grant and Saddiq Bey having played well recently, he is also likely to have plenty of space to work with.

Speaking of Grant, he was the lone bright spot in the blowout against the Bucks and he could continue that here. He should have the speed or size advantage on whoever is guarding him and there is a chance for him to have a big game tonight. If the shot is falling, Grant is tough to guard for a team like the 76ers.

The major storylines to watch are, as is consistent with the rest of the season, the continued development of the young players. Cunningham is still awaiting his “I’m here” moment and it should come anytime if he’s healthy. Hayes looked a bit better the last couple games and he needs to continue that aggressiveness as a scorer. Bey should have plenty of opportunities to continue his iso experiments tonight. Stewart is going to have a major challenge defensively and how he handles it will be a big theme for tonight.

Projected Lineups

Philadelphia 76ers (6-2)

Seth Curry, Tyrese Maxey, Danny Green, Georges Niang, Joel Embiid

Detroit Pistons (1-6)

Killian Hayes, Cade Cunningham, Saddiq Bey, Jerami Grant, Isaiah Stewart

Question of the Day

How will Isaiah Stewart handle Joel Embiid in the post tonight?