The Philadelphia 76ers and Pistons, traveling different paths to open the NBA season, will meet Friday in Detroit.
The game is part of the NBA’s new in-season tournament, and the first for each team in the format.
The Pistons need something to shake them up as they try to avert a seventh consecutive loss. For the 76ers, they are looking for their seventh win in a row.
Philadelphia is coming off a win on Wednesday, when it built a 15-point lead late in the second half against the Celtics, then had to hold off Boston’s late charge in a 106-103 victory.
“We did some really good things that we wanted to do. We had a lot of things we didn’t want to do happen, as well,” coach Nick Nurse said. “But it’s kind of that time of year, where we’ve got to continue to clean up some of that. … Overall, the battle was there, and that’s good to see.”
Philadelphia’s defense tightened up after giving up 128 points to the Washington Wizards in the previous game, which the Sixers still won by 18 points. In the three wins prior to that, they held opponents to 100 points or fewer.
“That’s one thing I really like about this team is that we may not have one guy that’s a lockdown [defender, but] … we’ve got like five above-average guys with size and athletic ability and aggressiveness,” Nurse said. “Guys that are out there trying really hard to guard.”
Philadelphia is playing relaxed and confident after the James Harden saga was resolved with a trade to the Los Angeles Clippers. Role players Nic Batum and Robert Covington, acquired in the deal, are contributing off the bench. Reigning league MVP Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey are the focal points of the offense.
“New coach, new systems, bunch of new guys, just trying to get everybody up to speed,” Embiid said. “Let’s see what we can do.”
The Pistons couldn’t take advantage of a big break in Milwaukee on Wednesday. Two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo was ejected in the third period, and Detroit erased a 13-point deficit and led by 10 — 109-99 — with about seven minutes left in fourth quarter.
The Pistons had too many empty possessions from that point and lost 120-118.
“We did have a bit of a drought,” coach Monty Williams said. “I told the guys that’s a great experience for us. We’ve got to grow in those moments.”
Williams was irritated by the free throw disparity, as the Bucks went to the foul line twice as much as his team.
“The foul thing, 32-16 free throws,” he said. “That was a tough one to swallow.”
Cade Cunningham led the Pistons with 33 points, and rookie Marcus Sasser continues to impress. He contributed 26 points off the bench.
Detroit had six players sidelined by injuries or illness. Its perimeter shooting is suffering without wings Bojan Bogdanovic, Alec Burks and Joe Harris. The Pistons made just 24.1 percent (7 of 29) of their 3-point attempts in Milwaukee.
“The toughness of our team with all the guys we have out is showing,” Williams said. “This is going to pay off for us as we progress.”
–Field Level Media