The Philadelphia 76ers have one of their biggest games of the season this week: a Christmas Day game in Philadelphia, playing the Milwaukee Bucks for the first time this season in what many predict will be the eventual matchup in the Eastern Conference Finals. But we can’t get ahead of ourselves and look ahead to that meeting, and neither can the Sixers. First, Philadelphia has to pop up to Detroit for a one-game road trip and handle business against the Pistons.
Fortunately, the Sixers are catching Detroit at a good time, as half of the Pistons’ rotation is either out or questionable for tonight’s game. The injuries are taking their toll on the Pistons, who are currently suffering through a four-game losing streak and have slid to the bottom of the bad-but-still-hopeful-to-make-the-playoffs tier in the Eastern Conference (Orlando, Charlotte, Chicago, Detroit).
To give you an idea of what the Pistons are currently rolling out there, in Saturday’s home loss to the Bulls, Markieff Morris, Tony Snell, and Bruce Brown all started and played at least 32 minutes. There is a chance both Derrick Rose and Blake Griffin return to action tonight, and both have had big games against the Sixers in the not-too-distant past. of course, had his 50-point explosion against the Sixers last season. Griffin missed these teams’ first meeting this season back in October, a 117-111 Sixers win, but Rose went off for a still-season-high 31 points.
Whether those two participate or not, the main event will take place on the interior between Joel Embiid and Andre Drummond. Embiid missed that first game, with Al Horford stepping up to hold Drummond to just 13 points and 12 rebounds before the Pistons center fouled out. With Embiid playing tonight, we should expect the usual fireworks. Last season alone, Joel trolled Drummond into an ejection, which led to the “I own a lot of real estate in his head” comment.
A couple weeks later, Embiid ground Drummond into dust with 39 points and 17 rebounds. The saga led to what I felt was one of the funnier bits of sportswriting last season: Haley O’Shaughnessy’s piece on The Ringer about how much mental real estate Joel Embiid actually owns. I’m still trying to save up for the 20 percent down on a townhouse in Karl-Anthony Towns’ temporal lobe.
Sadly, tonight also marks Game 1, A.M.I (After Matisse’s Injury). As agile and slippery as he is on the court, even Matisse couldn’t escape the Sixers’ Rookie Curse for long, now out indefinitely with a bone bruise and sprain of the right knee. With Thybulle out, expect to see more Furkan Korkmaz on the floor. Shake Milton was also recalled from the Blue Coats for added wing depth. All I want for Christmas is you healthy, Matisse.
The last thing I want to have on this holiday week is 36 hours of hand-wringing and sky-is-falling rhetoric on Sixers social media because they dropped a December game to a wounded Pistons team. Let’s hope Philadelphia takes care of business tonight, so we can enter the crucial Christmas Day clash in high spirits.
Who: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Detroit Pistons
When: 7:00 pm ET
Where: Little Caesars Arena, Detroit, MI
Watch: NBC Sports Philadelphia
Listen: 97.5 The Fanatic
Philadelphia: Matisse Thybulle (out - knee)
Detroit: Luke Kennard (questionable - knee); Derrick Rose (questionable - knee); Blake Griffin (questionable - illness); Christian Wood (out - knee); Khyri Thomas (out - foot); Reggie Jackson (out - back)