The Philadelphia 76ers have returned home following their four-game California trip. The Sixers certainly experienced some highs in their jaunt to the West Coast, particularly Shake Milton’s career-high 39 points in Los Angeles and the team snapping their nine-game losing streak on the road in a win over Sacramento. However, the wildly disappointing loss to Golden State ended the trip on a sour note, and, despite some encouraging signs, the team still went 1-3 overall to sink to sixth place in the Eastern Conference.
Fortunately, the Sixers have four straight games ahead of them at the Wells Fargo Center, where they are 28-2 on the season. Things may feel a little different at the Center, though, in the wake of the ongoing global pandemic. Public health officials in Philadelphia have recommended that people avoid public gatherings of more than 5,000 people to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. Currently, sporting events and concerts are open to the public as usual, but it wouldn’t be shocking if that changed in the coming days or weeks. On last night’s conference call, the NBA discussed the possibility of moving games to different cities, which doesn’t make sense to me, since there isn’t enough testing available at this time to have a full grasp of which areas the virus has reached (but we don’t need to go further into detail on an idea that was merely thrown out there on a conference call). The league has already taken the step of preventing media access to the locker rooms.
On a much less serious note, tonight’s game between the Sixers and Pistons was already bumped from being a nationally-televised game — I guess the league decided the Shake Milton experience had already received enough coverage over the past week and a half. In addition to Shake’s emergence, the Sixers will get a boost on the perimeter with the return of Josh Richardson. J-Rich is not on the injury report after missing time due to a concussion, despite his admitting yesterday that he is still experiencing headaches (which...doesn’t seem great???). Joel Embiid has also been upgraded from out to questionable. Embiid participated in practice yesterday, and tonight’s game had been previously earmarked as the hopeful date for his return, so optimism seems warranted for his returning to action.
Meanwhile, the Pistons’ season is rapidly circling the drain as they look towards increased lottery odds later in the spring. Detroit has lost four straight and 11 of their past 12 games. Blake Griffin is out for the year, Derrick Rose and Luke Kennard are out with indefinite timetables for return, and Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson have both been shipped elsewhere.
The lone bright spot of late for the Pistons has been Christian Wood, who received some national love yesterday in a piece from The Ringer’s Jonathan Tjarks. Here’s the former Sixers’ stat line in 12 games since moving to the starting lineup for Detroit: 22.0 points per game on 54.0 percent shooting, including 37.3 percent from 3, 10.2 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 0.9 blocks, and 0.7 steals. The Sixers may rue the summer of 2016 when they let Wood sign with Charlotte rather than bringing him back into the fold.
Regardless of Wood’s fine work lately, tonight is absolutely a game the Sixers should win, doubly so if Embiid suits up. It’s an opponent playing out the string and waiting to head home in mid-April, in a venue where the Sixers have dominated far better teams on nearly every occasion. Let’s see a big victory tonight to get some positive vibes flowing around this team again.
Who: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Detroit Pistons
When: 7:00 pm ET
Where: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, PA
Watch: NBC Sports Philadelphia
Listen: 97.5 The Fanatic
Philadelphia: Ben Simmons (out - back); Joel Embiid (questionable - shoulder)
Detroit: Blake Griffin (out - knee); Luke Kennard (out - knee); Derrick Rose (out - ankle); Bruce Brown (questionable - ankle); John Henson (out - ankle); Brandon Knight (probable - hamstring)