76ers’ Embiid carries bigger role vs. Pistons if Simmons out
The Sixers are 2-1 with Embiid averaging 28.3 points, 10.7 rebounds and 2.7 assists. He had 32 points in a 116-115 win over Orlando on Saturday.
Philadelphia played most of the game without Ben Simmons, who departed with back tightness. Simmons didn’t practice on Monday and is listed as questionable to play at Detroit on Tuesday.
Shooting guard JJ Redick played extended minutes in his absence and poured in 31 points, including a game-winning 3-pointer.
“I told him the other day that (Redick) is the best player, he was the best player I’ve ever played with just because we always understand each other so well,” Embiid told The Athletic. “I’m able to get him open and I love especially when it comes to sharing the ball, I know that when I’m going to set the screen or hand it off, I know I’m going to be happy with the outcome.”
Reserve big man Mike Muscala, who has yet to play this season due to a left ankle sprain, is also listed as questionable.
The Pistons won their first two games but they haven’t been overly impressive. They defeated two of the projected weaker teams in the Eastern Conference, Brooklyn and Chicago, both of whom were playing without two of their starters.
Detroit eked out a 118-116 victory over the Bulls on Saturday after squandering a late five-point advantage. Ish Smith’s finger roll with 5.4 seconds left proved to be the game-winner.
Like Embiid, Pistons power forward Blake Griffin is off to an impressive start, averaging 29.5 points, 10.0 rebounds and 5.5 assists. He’s gone 6-for-8 on his 3-point attempts.
Griffin was rehabbing from injuries in his last two seasons with the Los Angeles Clippers. He was in better health this offseason and used that time wisely.
“The last two summers I didn’t get to start working out until mid-August, and that was 15 minutes of spot shooting. So, you can imagine the frustration for me personally – you know for being so limited in working on my game, because that’s always been a big thing for me,” Griffin said. “So that’s not to say this season I’m going to shoot 70 percent from three this season, but being able to at least put in that time gives you confidence to take shots like that at the end of the game.”
Griffin also had the benefit of a full training camp with the Pistons and new head coach Dwane Casey after being acquired in a blockbuster trade in late January.
“He’s an All Star. He’s a superstar in our eyes,” Smith said. “Any time we need a big shot, we need that from him every night and he is going to give us that every night.”
Casey has at times paired up his top point guards, Smith and Reggie Jackson, and that has boosted the offense. The Pistons scored 43 points in the 11-plus minutes that duo was on the court together at Chicago.
“Our two (point) guard lineup is something we’ll see more of,” Casey said. “With Reggie, he’s one of our best standstill 3-point shooters so we can utilize him (off the ball).”
Philadelphia swept the four-game series last season.