76ers, Pistons match up without injured frontcourt players
The depleted Sixers stretched their winning streak to 11 games by clobbering the hapless Brooklyn Nets 121-95 on Tuesday. Playing without center Joel Embiid and power forward Dario Saric, Philadelphia had eight players in double figures, led by J.J. Redick’s 19 points.
Both big men will miss Wednesday’s game at Detroit as well. Embiid is recovering from a concussion and orbital fracture, while Saric is dealing with a bacterial infection in his right elbow.
Top overall pick Markelle Fultz scored 10 points for the third time in five games since returning from a shoulder injury that kept him out most of the season.
“I just want to help the team,” he told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “That’s the same next year. When I come in, I feel like I’m in the position that’s best for me, screen and rolls, running the offense, being a point guard.”
Coach Brett Brown said he likes what he’s seen from Fultz since his return.
“I think he’s trending in tremendous ways,” Brown said to the Inquirer. “I really think he’s heading in the direction that we all hoped. The risk of bringing him back into a group that’s fairly tight was ever-present. It was real. But he fits in.”
The hot streak has vaulted Philadelphia (47-30) into fourth place in the Eastern Conference.
The Pistons have won seven of their last eight games to keep their slim playoff hopes alive. They defeated New York and Brooklyn on the road over the weekend without power forward Blake Griffin.
Griffin missed those games with a bone bruise in his right ankle. He’s not ready to return but coach Stan Van Gundy is hopeful of getting Griffin back for the last four games.
“We’ll just continue to evaluate,” Van Gundy told Pistons.com. “We’re not going to do anything stupid. We’re not bringing him back if he’s not ready to come back, but if he’s ready to come back he’ll play whether it’s the last two or the last game or whatever. If a guy’s ready, they play.”
Detroit (37-40) also finished the 108-96 victory over the Nets on Sunday without center Andre Drummond. The league’s top rebounder was ejected during the third quarter for a scuffle with Quincy Acy. Drummond was fined by the league for the incident but not suspended.
“Sometimes you have to just figure out a way to win,” Tolliver said. “Whenever things are not going your way or you have some guys go out, whether it be by injury or by whatever, you just have to figure out a way to win and have guys step up.”
The Sixers are looking to sweep the four-game series, though the teams haven’t seen each other in nearly three months. Embiid was a major factor in each of those victories, averaging 26.0 points.