Game Preview | Looking to Bounce Back in Motown
If the 76ers (17-9) are to get back on track, they’ll have to do so without their All-Star big man.
Following Friday’s morning shootaround in suburban Detroit, Brett Brown announced that the team had decided to rest Joel Embiid (26.3 ppg, 13.3 rpg) for its game later in the evening against the Pistons (13-9). It will be the first contest the 7-footer misses this season.
At the time, Brown wasn’t ready to name Embiid’s replacement, other than it would likely be either Amir Johnson (10.3 mpg, 4.2 ppg, 3.0 rpg), or Mike Muscala (23.7 mpg, 7.9 ppg, 4.9 rpg).
Regardless of whom the Sixers go with at the five spot, he’ll be tasked with the challenge of going up against another All-Star, in Andre Drummond. Drummond tops the NBA with 11 games of 15 points x 15 rebounds.
Really, though, in looking back at the Sixers’ first two match-ups of the year against Detroit, Blake Griffin has been the bigger issue.
He dropped a career-high 50 points, 14 rebounds, and six assists on the Sixers the first time around, in the Pistons’ 133-132 overtime victory on October 23rd. The following week, Griffin went for 38 points, 13 boards, and six dimes in a game the Sixers won at The Center, 109-99.
The 29-year old is on pace for his top scoring campaign to-date (24.9 ppg), and is posting his highest rebounding average (9.1) since his second season as a pro.
“He’s grown his game over the years, from just being a bull in a china shop athlete to his ability to pass (5.0 apg), his ability to now shoot threes (51 3fgm, 36.2 3fg%), his ability to really get out in open court on defensive rebounding and dribble outs and make plays as a point forward,” said Brown.
In the Sixers’ first two meetings with Detroit, the sixth-year head coach relied upon a by-committee approach to defending Griffin, in order to give the former no. 1 pick a steady dose of looks. Whether All-League defender Jimmy Butler now contributes to to those efforts will be a subplot worth monitoring Friday.
“He is really, really good," Brown said of Griffin, "really good. I respect the growth of his game.”
Heading into this week, Detroit was one of the hottest teams in the NBA, and not just because they had won five in a row, and 9 of 11.
It was a matter of the opponents the Pistons were beating, too. During their run, they racked up victories over Toronto (on the road, no less), Houston, and Golden State.
Detroit, though, will take the floor Friday at Little Caesars Arena having lost consecutive games for the first time since a season-high five-game skid at the end of October.
Led by Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin, the Pistons have been among the league’s best on the glass. They boast a 30.7 offensive rebounding percentage (4th), and 76.4 defensive rebounding percentage (2nd).
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