Strong-starting 76ers square off versus Pistons

NBA
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The Philadelphia 76ers started the season in impressive fashion. They’ll try to avoid falling into the same trap the Detroit Pistons did in their second game.

The Sixers defeated another prime Eastern Conference contender in the Boston Celtics, 107-93, in their opener on Wednesday. They outscored the Celtics 58-45 in the second half.

Philadelphia will play six of its next seven games on the road, beginning with a trip to Detroit on Saturday.

Boston was limited to 36.7 percent shooting overall and 26.9 percent from 3-point range. The Sixers also outrebounded the Celtics 62-41 and blocked seven shots.

“We have a really good defensive team and that’s where we want to form our identity, being a team that’s getting after it and hustling and protecting the rim all around,” forward Tobias Harris said. “We want to be the best defensive team in the NBA.”

Point guard Ben Simmons got off to a strong start, posting 24 points, nine assists and eight rebounds. But the Sixers’ offense was spotty, as they shot 43.5 percent overall and 24.1 percent from long range while committing 17 turnovers.

“In my opinion, the offense needs to catch up to the defense,” coach Brett Brown said. “I expect the defense to be quite good. If the defense can hold the fort, I expect the offense to catch up and make more shots.”

The Sixers won three of the four meetings with the Pistons last season, with Detroit’s lone victory coming in a 133-132 overtime thriller. The Pistons needed a 50-point outing from All-Star forward Blake Griffin to pull out that victory.

Griffin will be wearing a suit on the bench on Saturday. He’s expected to miss at least the first five games while recovering from left hamstring and knee injuries.

Detroit overcame the absence of Griffin in its opener at Indiana on Wednesday with a spirited 119-110 victory. Center Andre Drummond dominated the paint with 32 points and 23 rebounds, while reserve swingman Luke Kennard scored a career-high 30 points.

The Pistons couldn’t come close to duplicating that effort the next night, dropping their home opener to Atlanta 117-100. Drummond scored 21 points and had just one offensive rebound among his 12 boards. Kennard shot 3-for-12 from the field while scoring 13 points.

Atlanta scored 38 points in the first quarter and outscored Detroit 57-37 in the second half.

“Our defense (Thursday) was porous and you put that along with bad shooting in the second half, that’s a bad recipe,” coach Dwane Casey said.

A back-to-back to start the season might have contributed to the loss but Drummond wasn’t buying it.

“No excuse for the way we started that game,” he said. “The way you start is the way you finish. We started off slow, allowed them to get up and down and traded baskets with a team who had a day off.”

Drummond won’t have to deal wtih nemesis Joel Embiid, who consistently has outplayed him in recent seasons. NBC Sports Philadelphia reported Saturday morning that the Sixers’ big man would miss the game with an ankle injury. Embiid averaged 32 points, 12 rebounds and 3.7 assists in three games against the Pistons last season.

–Field Level Media

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