Could Sixers, Pistons see each other in postseason?

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Could Sixers, Pistons see each other in postseason?

For all the talk of early games against the Celtics, Warriors, Cavaliers and Rockets being a measuring stick, the Sixers' first two meetings with the Pistons were just as significant.

There are the teams to beat around the league, the ones who have already proven to be title contenders. Then there are the teams on the rise who are showing signs of being trouble to compete with in the future.

Put Detroit in the latter category.

“This is a team that we’ve got to beat if we want to make the playoffs and if we want to have potentially homecourt advantage in the first round,” JJ Redick said of the Pistons. “I don’t look at them as a team like us; they’re a team that’s been in the playoffs. They’re a team that, to me, is good and is playing as well as anybody in the East right now.”

Both the Pistons (14-8) and Sixers (13-9) are on the upswing. They hold two of the top five spots in the Eastern Conference (the Pistons sit fourth and the Sixers sit fifth, as of Sunday morning) and could very well be a playoff pairing this season. The Sixers are looking to return to the postseason for the first time since 2012. The Pistons' last postseason appearance was in 2016, when they were swept by the Cavaliers in the first round. 

While upsetting conference finals mainstays is a mark of notable progress, learning how to beat a potential postseason opponent is critical. The Sixers have won both of their matchups with Detroit this season, including a 108-103 victory on Saturday. The Sixers won, 97-86, in Detroit on Oct. 23. 

“They’re a really good team,” Joel Embiid said after Saturday's victory. “That’s a good win for us. We’ve dropped a lot of easy ones this year, so getting those wins against what we could be opening in the playoffs if we make it and if they make it is always good, learning their style of play.”

The Sixers are turning the franchise around with Embiid and Ben Simmons at the helm. They are rounded out with depth from Robert Covington and the veteran Redick, as well as a balanced roster that is proving to be able to withstand injuries. 

Over on the Pistons, Andre Drummond is figuring out how to hit free throws, Avery Bradley and Reggie Jackson are pesky in the backcourt and Tobias Harris is playing career-best basketball. 

“Trying to balance out the Drummond rolling and still giving attention to those good wings is a trick,” Sixers head coach Brett Brown said. “You learn a little bit about physicality and halfcourt execution, and then you learn how physical they are on defense. It gets back to being strong, secure with the ball and respecting things, not trying to make home run passes.”

The Sixers face the Pistons again twice more, including an April 4 game that could have postseason seeding implications. 

“They gave us a run [Saturday] off a back-to-back,” Covington said. “They fought with us the entire team. That team is different than what we saw the first time. We’re going to have to see them two more times —  potential playoffs. It’s a matter of us locking in and making sure we continue to grow.”

76ers Gaming Club to participate in NBA 2K League

NBA 2K League

76ers Gaming Club to participate in NBA 2K League

The 76ers Gaming Club is Philadelphia’s latest professional esports brand. 

Set to compete in the inaugural season of the NBA 2K League, the fresh new esports brand —  which was officially released on Thursday by Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment — maintains the Sixers' classic style, which includes seven stars circling around a bell made up of the numbers seven and six. 

“We are excited to unveil 76ers GC’s new brand identity as we welcome another dynamic sports property to the Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment family,” said Chris Heck, Philadelphia 76ers President of Business Operations. “Working alongside the NBA 2K League, we developed a brand identity that pays homage to the revolutionary origins of this city, speaks to the new Philadelphia fan and exemplifies the edge of the esports audience.”

Aggressive in its pursuit of esports investment opportunities, HBSE, already owners of Team Dignitas, a highly respected competitive esports club, bought into NBA 2K League with 16 other NBA franchises back in May. 

76ers GC joins Kings Guard Gaming (Sacramento Kings), Pistons GT (Detroit Pistons), Pacers Gaming (Indiana Pacers), Mavs Gaming (Dallas Mavericks), Cavs Legion GC (Cleveland Cavaliers), Wizards District Gaming (Washington Wizards), Magic Gaming (Orlando Magic), Jazz Gaming (Utah Jazz), Blazer5 Gaming (Portland Trailblazers) and Celtics Gaming (Boston Celtics). Also included will be the Toronto Raptors, Memphis Grizzlies, Golden State Warriors, Miami Heat, Milwaukee Bucks and New York Knicks.

While 76ers GC was born to participate in NBA 2K League, it should be noted that the name “76ers Gaming Club” is void of any mention or image of basketball or NBA 2K. This leaves open the possibility of 76ers GC adding more competitive games and gamers under its brand in the future.

NBA 2K League is a professional esports league co-founded by the NBA and Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc., the creator of North America’s most popular sports title, NBA 2K. Players will receive a competitive salary and benefits. The league will begin its inaugural season, featuring five-on-five competition in May, following official player tryouts and a live player draft set for March. 

Best of NBA: Thunder carry George to win in Indiana return

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Best of NBA: Thunder carry George to win in Indiana return

INDIANAPOLIS -- Paul George made a winning return to Indiana, hitting the clinching free throws with 10.7 seconds left in the Oklahoma City Thunder's 100-95 victory over the Pacers on Wednesday night.

Steven Adams had 23 points and 13 rebounds and Russell Westbrook finished with 10 points, 17 rebounds and 12 assists in his ninth triple-double this season. The Thunder have won two straight on the road.

Victor Oladipo led the Pacers with 19 points and Bojan Bogdanovic scored 15. Indiana had a chance to tie the score after getting the ball back with 15.2 seconds left but committed a turnover and then fouled George.

The Pacers' winning streak ended at four.

But the highly anticipated matchup between George and Oladipo, the key components in last summer's blockbuster trade, didn't go as expected.

George was booed loudly during introductions and every time he touched the ball. Fans only cheered for George when he was called for a foul or made a mistake and it seemed to take a toll on the four-time All-Star. He finished 12 points on 3-of-14 shooting, had two rebounds and four turnovers.

Oladipo, the reigning Eastern Conference player of the week, didn't have a typical night either. He was 9 of 26 with five rebounds and six assists (see full recap).

Wizards top Grizzlies in Wall’s return
WASHINGTON -- Bradley Beal scored 18 points and John Wall had 13 in his return from a sore knee to help the Washington Wizards hold off the Memphis Grizzlies 93-87 on Wednesday night.

Beal scored 11 points in the fourth quarter, hitting three 3-pointers. Otto Porter Jr. added 14 points, and Marcin Gortat had 12.

Wall missed nine games, with Washington going 4-5 in his absence.

After the Grizzlies took their first lead of the night, 67-65, on James Ennis III's 3-pointer with 8:53 left to play, Washington responded with a 13-0 run and Memphis got no closer than 83-80 the rest of the way.

Andrew Harrison led Memphis with 20 points, JaMychal Green had 15 points and15 rebounds, and Marc Gasol had 15 points and 10 rebounds. The Grizzlies have lost five straight and 16 out of 17 (see full recap).

Lillard leads way as Blazers rally past Heat
MIAMI -- Damian Lillard scored seven of his 18 points in the final 3:16, and the Portland Trail Blazers overcame a 16-point second-half deficit to break their five-game losing streak, beating the Miami Heat 102-95 on Wednesday night.

Lillard, who came into the game averaging 26.6 points, had only one field goal in the first 31 minutes. But he converted a three-point play put the Trail Blazers ahead to stay, 98-95, and sank two free throws on their next possession for a five-point lead.

CJ McCollum scored 28 points for the Trail Blazers (14-13). They climbed back above .500 and improved to 7-5 on the road. The Heat (13-14) fell below .500 and dropped to 5-7 at home.

Miami reserve Wayne Ellington sank seven 3-pointers and scored a season-high 24 points. Dion Waiters added 17 points for the Heat, who were hurt by three missed free throws down the stretch.

Both teams were short-handed. Heat forward Justise Winslow left the game in the first half with a left knee strain and did not return, and guard Tyler Johnson sat out because of a migraine.

Miami was also without center Hassan Whiteside for a seventh consecutive games because of a bone bruise in his left knee (see full recap).