Blake Griffin

Sixers at Pistons: 3 storylines to watch and how to stream the game

Sixers at Pistons: 3 storylines to watch and how to stream the game

Updated: 3:05 p.m.

Before they’re in the spotlight on Christmas vs. the Bucks, the 21-10 Sixers have a quick road trip.

Here are the essentials for Monday night’s game against the 11-19 Detroit 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 NBC Sports MyTeams app

And here are three storylines to watch: 

A long list of injuries and illnesses 

Joel Embiid and Raul Neto both missed shootaround due to illness, according to NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Serena Winters. Neto is probable, while Embiid will play after being listed as questionable. Matisse Thybulle is sidelined by a right knee sprain and bruise.

Norvel Pelle has been ahead of Kyle O’Quinn recently in the center rotation, so he’d likely be the Sixers’ backup big man if Embiid doesn’t play. 

The Pistons have a much more extensive injury report. Reggie Jackson (lower back stress reaction), Luke Kennard (bilateral knee sorenss), Khyri Thomas (right foot surgery) and Bruce Brown (bilateral calf soreness) are out, while Blake Griffin (flu) will play, and Derrick Rose (left knee soreness) and Christian Wood (left knee bone bruise) are probable. 

Another chance for Milton?

With Thybulle's injury, the Sixers have called up Shake Milton.

In his past three games with the Blue Coats, Milton averaged 29 points and shot 50 percent from three-point range. More than the numbers, the fact that he was able to get minutes and play confidently in the G League is encouraging.

His season was somewhat derailed by the right knee injury he sustained back on Oct. 28, but this could be an opportunity for Milton to work his way back into the Sixers’ rotation. If the Sixers continue to face zone defenses, his shooting might be a valuable skill. 

Milton had 10 points in 12 minutes during the Sixers’ comeback win over Detroit on Oct. 26. 

Horford’s shooting slump

Al Horford is 4 for his last 26 (15.4 percent) from three. According to NBA.com/Stats, four of those shots have been “open,” meaning the closest defender was four to six feet away, and the other 22 have been “wide open,” with the nearest defender six-plus feet away.

The Sixers clearly need Horford to hit those good looks at a better rate. Whether it’s against a zone defense or in lineups alongside Embiid, opponents will continue to let Horford take threes. Right now, it makes sense to prefer an open shot from Horford over an Embiid post-up, a Ben Simmons drive or almost anything else in the Sixers’ offense.



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Sixers 116, Pistons 102: Despite Jimmy Butler's injury, another win over Detroit

Sixers 116, Pistons 102: Despite Jimmy Butler's injury, another win over Detroit

BOX SCORE 

Just like Friday night, when Joel Embiid rested for the first time this season, the stars not on the floor were as big a story as those on it Monday night in the Sixers’ 116-102 win over the Pistons.

Jimmy Butler, fresh off back-to-back 38 performances, left in the first half with a groin strain and did not return, while Blake Griffin, who had averaged 39.7 points in his last three games against the Sixers, rested. 

On the floor, the Sixers weathered a number of Detroit runs to maintain the lead they built in the first quarter, pulling away late to win their season series against the Pistons, 3-1. The Sixers are now 19-9 on the season.

• Every Embiid-Andre Drummond matchup is a must-watch, but this one was low on drama relative to the trash talking and general animosity we’ve come to expect from their meetings. You may recall Embiid scored a Wells Fargo Center record 32 first-half points his last time out against Drummond, and afterward said of Drummond and Zaza Pachulia, “I kicked both of their a--.”

Drummond did pick up a late technical foul with 3:30 left in the fourth quarter for complaining to the officials.

Embiid, who missed practice Sunday with a migraine, has been in the headlines lately because of his frustration with his offensive role along with his three-game “slump,” if you could call it that. 

Though Embiid made his first shot, a three-pointer from the right wing with Drummond’s hand in his face, that jumper didn’t foreshadow Embiid returning to his early-season offensive dominance.

Embiid had 24 points on 6 for 16 shooting and eight rebounds and was a game-high plus-30. Drummond finished with 21 points and 16 rebounds.

• As he’s made a habit of doing this season, Ben Simmons started out looking to score, using his size advantage to dunk on the 6-foot-5 Bruce Brown inside and his speed advantage to blow by Jon Leuer on the perimeter. He also broke free in transition on a couple occasions, which is never good news for Sixers opponents.

Without Griffin, the Pistons just didn’t have any defenders who could counter Simmons physically or athletically. Credit Simmons for capitalizing on his edge early; he had 11 points on 5 for 5 shooting in the first quarter. 

Simmons finished with 18 rebounds, 10 rebounds and seven assists. His 2 for 9 free throw shooting was a notable blemish on his night.

• After shooting 37.4 percent from the floor and 34.1 percent from three-point range in his first 20 games, Mike Muscala may have found his shot against the Pistons. He went for 18 points Friday in Detroit in arguably his best performance as a Sixer and had 10 points on 3 for 6 shooting, four rebounds and two assists Monday night. 

While Amir Johnson started Friday with Embiid out, it’s clear Muscala is the Sixers’ best option to back up Embiid. As head coach Brett Brown said pregame, Muscala is “not bashful” about shooting the ball, and, though he has his limitations, his defense hasn’t been bad recently. 

• The Sixers’ bench still looks pretty thin, but a couple players outside Muscala knocked down key shots Monday. In one game, T.J. McConnell doubled his number of made three-pointers for the season (from two to four). 

Furkan Korkmaz had a big third quarter, posting 10 of his career-high 18 points in the period to help the Sixers stem a Pistons run.

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Late-game stumble sends Sixers to crushing overtime loss to Blake Griffin, Pistons

Late-game stumble sends Sixers to crushing overtime loss to Blake Griffin, Pistons

BOX SCORE

Admit it: the Sixers had you fooled.

When JJ Redick absorbed a foul and still made that rainbow three-pointer to take a lead over the Detroit Pistons with 5.6 seconds remaining in overtime, you thought things would be different. For a moment, you forgot just how much the Sixers struggle to finish off close games.

And then it all came crashing down as Blake Griffin rumbled through the lane and finished through Robert Covington’s contact for the and-one. Griffin tacked on the free throw of his career-high 50-point night to hand the Sixers a thrilling, yet gut-wrenching, 133-132 loss (see observations).

“It was a great game. You think it was a fantastic game for fans to watch,” Brett Brown told reporters. “You’re going to learn a lot more when you can actually sit down and see the tape.”

What the Sixers will learn from looking at the game film is that old habits die hard as their late-game struggles creeped up yet again.

The Sixers were 4-7 in regular-season games decided by three points or less a season ago. That trend continued in the postseason when they dropped two games within that margin during their series loss to the Boston Celtics.

The Sixers almost met a similar fate their last time out against the Orlando Magic before they ultimately survived at home. But on this night, against a better opponent, the team wasn’t able to outrun one of its major flaws.

The final defensive sequence to cap Tuesday night’s breakdown consisted of several mistakes. Brown made the questionable decision of having Amir Johnson in the game at that moment. Then somehow both Johnson and Joel Embiid bit on a fake dribble handoff move from Griffin. The trifecta was complete when Covington challenged Griffin at the rim only to foul the high-flying forward.

All of this even though the Sixers knew exactly what was coming.

“The last play, when Blake scored, that’s what we knew they were going to run,” former Griffin teammate Redick said. “We just did a poor job defensively executing that. That was what we drew up in the huddle. We said this is what they’re gonna run. We’ve got to be better there.”

The Sixers have been saying for a while they need to get better in the final moments of tight games. Maybe one day their actions will follow suit.

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