For a team on a seven-game winning streak, the 76ers have received plenty of questions recently about their inconsistent play.
That’s because the opponent in each of those seven games was woefully undermanned. Usually when 76ers coach Doc Rivers is asked what he is looking for in his next game, he often says, “A win.”
Yet when the Sixers host the Detroit Pistons in tonight’s 7 p.m. game at the Wells Fargo Center, the Sixers hope to show more consistency and the ability to put an inferior team away.
The Pistons (20-47) fit the bill as many of the other teams the SIxers have faced during this streak. Not only is Detroit young, but the Pistons have had injury issues.
The Pistons showed some fight in their last game, Thursday’s 111-97 home win over Memphis that snapped a four-game losing streak. In that game Detroit was missing seven players including former Sixer and leading scorer Jerami Grant, who was sidelined with right knee soreness.
Grant (22.5 ppg.) has missed five consecutive games and was listed as questionable for the Sixers game on the late Friday night NBA injury report.
Rivers wasn’t happy after Friday’s 109-107 win over a New Orleans Pelicans team missing five players including its two leading scorers Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram.
The Sixers led by as many as 17 points, but had to comeback from a seven-point fourth quarter deficit.
Rivers mentioned that there is one thing he hopes his team improves on against the Pistons.
“I want to get back to guarding the ball,” Rivers said.
To illustrate that point, even with all their injuries, the Pelicans outscored the Sixers in points in the paint, 60-34.
During the Sixers’ 135-115 win on Wednesday in Houston, the Rockets were able to score 48 points in the paint. (Houston couldn’t stop the Sixers, allowing 58).
“I thought Houston, listen they were struggling with a lot of guys out, but I though they lived in the paint,” Rivers said. “I thought their guards beat ours off the dribble the entire night. So for me, something we have done well all year, back to back games we haven’t done well, we haven’t contained the ball so we have to do a better job with that.”
The Sixers (46-21) own a three game lead in the Eastern Conference over the Brooklyn Nets and Milwaukee Bucks, who are both 43-24. All three teams have five more to play. Three wins would clinch it, even if both Brooklyn and Milwaukee win their remaining five games.
The Sixers could use a little more aggressiveness on the offensive end from Ben Simmons. For the second straight game, Simmons didn’t have a free throw attempt.
“That was on me, I wasn’t as aggressive tonight, but I was trying to find my guys and make sure I had a good pace within what we were doing,” said Simmons, who had eight points, nine rebounds and 10 assists.
The Sixers are 7-0 since Simmons returned after missing four games due to illness, but in those seven games he is averaging just 2.0 free throw attempts.
It’s tough to judge too much on the last seven games due to the caliber and lack of health of the opponents, yet they all count as wins.
Against the Pistons, the Sixers will have to contain the long-range shooting of rookie Saddiq Bey from Villanova. Bey has made 158 three’s, a Detroit franchise record for a rookie.
Overall, he is averaging 11.8 points and shooting 38.3% from beyond the arc and in his last six games is averaging 16.2 points and shooting 44% from three.
So the Sixers will have much to work on when they return to the court in less than 24 hours.
“We need to do better with being mature, staying locked in and playing the full 48 (minutes) as if we are playing a top team in the league, no matter who is on the floor or not,” said Danny Green, who shot 3-for-10, including 2-for-8 from three-point range against New Orleans. “It is more about us at this point.”