Pistons look to find scoring touch against 76ers

NBA Basketball

It’s easy to see why the Detroit Pistons have gotten off to a poor start. They can’t put the ball through the hoop.

Detroit is the only team shooting below 40 percent (39.4), and is even worse behind the 3-point arc (26.7 percent, also worst in the NBA).

A rugged early schedule has contributed to that issue and it won’t get any easier in the short run, as the Pistons host Philadelphia on Thursday and Brooklyn on Friday — teams that sport a combined 11-5 record.

The Sixers have already collected a victory over Detroit this season, a 110-102 triumph in Philadelphia last Thursday. The Pistons have only reached the 100-point mark in three of seven games, so it’s not surprising they’ve won just one game.

They’ve been blown out in their last two games by the Nets (117-91) and Milwaukee Bucks (117-89). Milwaukee was playing without three starters on Tuesday but led from virtually start to finish.

Frustration at the offensive end has led to mistakes and missed assignments on the defensive side.

“I just think the energy level, when you didn’t see shots going in, shoulders dropped, heads dropped, lost their confidence,” coach Dwane Casey said. “They work with coach (John) Beilein every day. I’ve seen them make shots in practice. But now we’ve got to transfer that to the game and you can’t let that deflate you.”

The Pistons can’t shoot much worse than they did against the makeshift Bucks. They shot 32.3 percent overall and made just eight of 47 3-point attempts.

“I don’t know if it’s just nerves or uptight or whatever, when it comes to shooting,” Casey said. “That catapults into the energy level. When you’re not making shots, you start turning down shots, and it’s just a snowball effect. It’s something we can control, is our energy and our focus.”

The top pick in the draft, Cade Cunningham, went 2-for-14 from the field in his second appearance of the season against the Bucks. He’s taken 14 3-point shots in those two games and missed them all.

“That’s part of his rust,” Casey said of the rookie, who sprained his ankle during training camp. “That’s why we tried to get him some minutes toward the end, just to get some rust off the pipes.”

The Pistons will be facing a team missing some key players of its own. Ben Simmons still hasn’t played this season for the Sixers and it was announced on Wednesday that high-scoring forward Tobias Harris has tested positive for COVID-19.

“He’s doing OK, but not great, honestly,” Sixers coach Doc Rivers said. “That’s the most I’m going to say about it. But it hit him, for sure. A lot of guys have had this and they are mad like, ‘What the hell? I’m fine.’ Tobias is not in that category right now.”

Philadelphia is also playing without starting wing Danny Green (left hamstring tightness).

Despite those absences, the Sixers defeated Chicago 103-98 on Wednesday. Seth Curry had a team-high 22 points and Joel Embiid and reserve Georges Niang contributed 18 points apiece.

Embiid made just one-third of his 18 field-goal tries and is 21-for-57 in his last four games. But he scored 30 points in 31 minutes during the Sixers’ win over the Pistons last week.

“Last year, I was probably the best mid-range shooter in the league,” he said. “At some point, it’s going to come back. I’m not worried about it.”

–Field Level Media

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