Detroit Pistons (20-56) vs. Philadelphia 76ers (46-29)
When: 7 p.m. Thursday.
Where: Little Caesars Arena in Detroit.
TV: Bally Sports Detroit.
Radio: WXYT-FM (97.1) (Pistons radio affiliates).
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TUESDAY’S LOSS: How Pistons’ Cade Cunningham showed ‘it’ factor vs. Nets, Kevin Durant
ON GUARD: How Pistons’ Killian Hayes is using his floater — and body — better this season
Game notes: The race for the top seed in the East is about as tight as can be, as No. 1 entering Thursday (the Miami Heat) is separated from Nos. 3-4 (the 76ers and the Boston Celtics, respectively) by just 2 games. From there, though, there’s a bit of a buffer, with the Chicago Bulls sitting at No. 5, 2½ games out of fourth.
Still, the 76ers will be pushing hard over the season’s final two weeks, starting tonight at LCA. James Harden, their big trade deadline acquisition, has been scorching in his 15 games with Philly, averaging 23 points, 7.4 rebounds and 9.8 assists in 37.6 minutes while shooting 42.4% and 35.4% from 3-point range. That includes a 32-point game on Tuesday in the Sixers’ loss to the Bucks.
Harden’s post-deadline pace isn’t far off what Pistons rookie Cade Cunningham has done since the deadline: In 19 games over that span, Cunningham as averaged 20.9 points, 6.1 rebounds and 6.3 assists in 34.4 minutes a game while shooting 44.8% from the field and 30.9% from beyond the arc. Cunningham even lit it up against Harden’s former team, scoring 34 points in 32 minutes with six assists and two steals against Brooklyn on Tuesday.
Former Piston Tobias Harris, meanwhile, is averaging 17.6 points a game with seven rebounds and 3.5 assists in 35 minutes. Don’t look for fellow former Piston Andre Drummond, though; he was sent to Brooklyn in the deal for Harden. The 76ers are led by MVP candidate Joel Embiid, who is averaging 29.9 points and 11.4 rebounds a game.
Thursday’s game is the first of a back-to-back for the Pistons, their final of the season; they’ll head to Oklahoma City for a lottery showdown with the Thunder (who are 2 ½ games behind the Pistons, who are tied with two other teams for the No. 1 spot). The 76ers, meanwhile, get Friday night off ahead of a return home for a visit from the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday afternoon.
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Contact Ryan Ford at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @theford.