The Philadelphia 76ers will look to move one step closer to securing the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoff race when they host the Detroit Pistons on Saturday.
The Sixers held off the shorthanded New Orleans Pelicans 109-107 on Friday and moved three games ahead of the Brooklyn Nets and Milwaukee Bucks. The Sixers have five games remaining.
Joel Embiid had been questionable with a sore shoulder but produced 37 points and 13 rebounds in the narrow win over the Pelicans. The Sixers (46-21) will now aim for their eighth consecutive victory.
“We’ve got to do a better job if we want to contend for a championship,” Embiid said on NBC Sports Philadelphia after 11-of-20 shooting from the field and 12-of-12 from the free-throw line.
The Sixers have clinched a playoff berth for the fourth straight season, but they have not won a championship since 1983. They last reached the NBA Finals in 2001.
“I want to win a championship,” said Embiid, who has yet to advance past the second round of the playoffs. “We’ve got a huge chance. We’ve got a good team.”
Tobias Harris scored 17 points and Seth Curry added 16 against New Orleans. Embiid and Curry have continued to mesh very well together in recent games.
Curry was 4 of 8 from beyond the 3-point arc.
“I think we complement each other well on both sides and also our pick-and-roll game/handoff game has been pretty good,” Curry said. “Whether I’m getting shots or he’s getting shots, it’s been a good duo. It’s been working great.”
The Pistons (20-47) will be looking to build on some rare positive momentum following a 111-97 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Thursday.
Wayne Ellington and Cory Joseph each scored 18 points despite missing the previous four games with injuries. All five starters scored in double figures.
“We’re out of the playoff picture, but we’re playing to build a culture and develop,” Pistons coach Dwane Casey said. “When guys step up like Cory and Wayne … they give them the confidence and hope.”
The Pistons had dropped their past four games before this victory. As the losses piled up, Casey could see a team careening in the wrong direction.
“We needed it. We were teetering and guys were hanging their heads with no confidence,” Casey said.
The Pistons are obviously headed for the lottery with a chance of landing a top draft pick to continue rebuilding this once-proud franchise.
“Those young players, if you’re not careful, they will lose hope and lose their confidence. That’s something that the veteran guys came in and gave the young players the confidence and the hope and the understanding of what it takes to win,” Casey said.
The Pistons have been dealing with a litany of injuries, especially to key players such as Jerami Grant (right knee soreness) and Josh Jackson (oral surgery). Mason Plumlee also was rested in the last game. Grant is expected to return against the Sixers.
–Field Level Media