Sixers

Embiid thinks new ball is a factor in his slow shooting start

Sixers

On the road again, the 6-2 Sixers have a golden opportunity to stretch their winning streak to five games. 

It appears they'll be very shorthanded, though. As of 3:30 p.m. ET, Tobias Harris (health and safety protocols), Danny Green (left hamstring tightness) and Isaiah Joe (health and safety protocols) were among the players out. Joel Embiid (right knee injury recovery) and Furkan Korkmaz (right wrist soreness) were listed as questionable.

Here are the essentials for the Sixers' meeting with the 1-6 Pistons: 

  • When: 7 p.m. ET with Sixers Pregame Live at 6:30 p.m. 
  • Where: Little Caesars Arena  
  • Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia Plus 
  • Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the MyTeams app 

And here are three storylines to watch: 

First look at first pick 

No. 1 pick Cade Cunningham made his NBA debut the game after the Sixers’ win last Thursday over Detroit. He’s yet to make a three-pointer. Two games into his professional career, Cunningham is 0 for 14 on threes and 3 for 22 overall. 

As he eases back into action after spraining his right ankle during the preseason, perhaps Cunningham is due for a shooting breakthrough against the Sixers. He made 40 percent of his threes at Oklahoma State. 

Cunningham isn’t the only Detroit player coming off of a poor shooting night. Pistons not named Jerami Grant shot 22 for 80 from the floor (27.5 percent) and 4 for 39 from three-point range (10.3 percent) in a blowout loss Tuesday to the Bucks. 

‘A process’ for Embiid with new ball 

Speaking of subpar shooting, Embiid hasn’t met his personal standards so far. 

Embiid has a 54.8 true shooting percentage, which would be a career low. After beating the Bulls on Wednesday, he pointed to the new Wilson basketball as a factor. 

 

“... Still (don’t) totally feel comfortable with it,” he said. “It’s a process, but every single day I work hard and I make those shots in practice. Last year I was probably the best mid-range jump shooter in the league. So at some point it’s going to come back. I’m not worried about it. 

“Every single day I’m going to keep working at it. Once it goes in and once it comes back, you mix the offensive ability I had last year with the defensive presence I’ve had this year, I think we’re going to be a much better team.”

Embiid was indeed a fantastic mid-range shooter last season. He made 48 percent of his long mid-range attempts, per Cleaning the Glass. This year, he’s only 9 of 26 (34.6 percent) on those shots. 

Paul George told reporters Monday the Wilson ball “doesn’t have the same touch or softness that the Spalding ball had.” Embiid didn’t identify any specifics and realizes some players are shooting just fine. 

“I don’t know, it’s just different. Obviously he’s not struggling with it,” Embiid said with a laugh, gesturing at Seth Curry next to him. “For me, it’s a huge difference. I can’t explain it.”

High expectations for the birthday boy 

Tyrese Maxey celebrates his 21st birthday Thursday. 

Sixteen starts into Maxey’s career, Sixers head coach Doc Rivers still wasn’t thrilled after a 14-point, six-assist, zero-turnover showing against Chicago.

“I liked him today,” Rivers said. “I didn’t love him today, honestly. I didn’t think he was at the basket as much as he could’ve been. He’s got to be more aggressive. I thought we put him back in with that second group and he let everybody else handle the ball. And we were trying to explain to him, that’s why you’re on the floor — for you to go downhill and make plays for the shooters. So we’ll get that corrected.”

On a good note with Maxey, he’s been very effective when he’s attacked the hoop. He’s shot 72 percent at the rim, according to Cleaning the Glass. Maxey is drawing fouls more frequently, too, which should help him be a more efficient scorer.