Pistons hope to get back on track against 76ers
The Detroit Pistons, off to a surprisingly strong start, hit a speed bump in the opener of a four-game road trip Friday night.
They face another potential challenge Saturday night, when they visit the Philadelphia 76ers.
The Pistons, 37-45 last season, own the Eastern Conference’s third-best record (14-7) despite Friday’s 109-91 loss to the Washington Wizards.
Detroit, which saw a three-game winning streak end, led by six at halftime. The Wizards, however, reeled off the first 17 points of the third quarter and outscored the Pistons 35-15 in that period, 63-39 in the second half.
“They played so much harder than we did,” Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy told the Detroit Free Press. “We did nothing. I don’t really have an explanation for it, but I know what we all saw.
“They played a lot harder at both ends. They brought more offensive energy, they brought more defensive energy, intensity. We brought nothing to the table. It was an embarrassing effort.”
Tobias Harris scored 15 points, and Andre Drummond collected 14 points, 17 rebounds, seven assists and four blocked shots for the Pistons.
“The way that we started the second half was unacceptable and we played like we thought the game was over from the beginning of the second half,” Harris told the Free Press. “They were able to jump on us. They were able have good energy and get more physical. We just couldn’t pick it up from there.
“That’s on us as starters. All five guys out there have to be better because that wasn’t a good effort.”
The Sixers (12-9) rested center Joel Embiid on Thursday night in Boston, as it was their second game in as many nights and he has not yet been cleared to play in a back-to-back situation after undergoing surgery on his left knee in March. T.J. McConnell also missed the game with a sprained AC joint in his left shoulder.
Without them, the Sixers hung around against the NBA’s best team, behind the 18-point, 10-rebound effort of Dario Saric and the 17-point outing of J.J. Redick.
Philadelphia ultimately could not withstand the Celtics, who were led by Kyrie Irving with 36 points.
“It’s disappointing in a sense that when you battle and you play that hard and you lose, there’s a little bit of soul-searching there,” Redick told Philly.com. “I think that’s where it can be frustrating.
“But I’m proud of us. We fought and gave ourselves a chance to win a game in the fourth quarter. You have to give them a lot of credit for the plays they made down the stretch.”
Embiid is expected to return Saturday night, but McConnell’s status is uncertain.
One guy who will definitely be available is guard/forward Ben Simmons, named Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month on Friday. He leads all first-year players in scoring (18.6), rebounds (9.4) and steals (2.25), and is tied for the lead in assists (7.2).
The Sixers continue to be without guard Markelle Fultz, the first overall pick in this year’s draft. He has missed the last 17 games with a shoulder injury.
Philadelphia is also without guard/forward Justin Anderson (shin splints).
Detroit is without forward Jon Leuer (ankle).