Though the early results have been disappointing, the Sixers have to be encouraged after beating one of the conference’s top clubs while playing without their star power forward.
After overcoming Brand’s absence and rallying for a comeback victory, the Sixers could again be without their leading scorer and rebounder when they return home to face the Atlantic Division rival New Jersey Nets on Saturday night.
Philadelphia brought in Brand over the summer after a strong finish last season to try to make the leap to become a serious contender.
Though the Sixers (9-11) have looked far from elite in the first five weeks of the season, they’re feeling better after beating perennial Eastern Conference finalist Detroit 96-91 on the road Friday night. Brand didn’t travel with the team because of a strained right hamstring, but the Sixers still managed to outscore the Pistons 38-24 in the fourth quarter to overcome a 15-point second-half deficit.
Donyell Marshall, only active because of Brand’s injury, scored eight points in the fourth, including a go-ahead 3-pointer with 35 seconds remaining.
“My job is to come in and work hard in practice, and when my name’s called, I’m ready to go,” said Marshall, who had only played 20 minutes all season prior to Friday’s game. “I stumbled a couple times, even when I was open, but I was able to get my feet set at the end.”
Brand, averaging 16.7 points and 10.0 rebounds, is day-to-day.
Philadelphia could use another strong performance to beat New Jersey (10-8), which had seven players score in double figures in a 113-84 rout of Minnesota on Friday night. Vince Carter, who called out his team following a 108-88 home loss to Washington on Tuesday night, led the Nets with 18 points.
“I made the statement, so I had to go out there and back it up,” he said. “We were aggressive and ready to play, right from the jump ball. It’s not about making shots. It’s about getting to the basket, making plays for guys instead of being stagnant.”
It was the Nets’ eighth win in 11 games following a three-game losing streak that coincided with Devin Harris’ three-game absence with an ankle injury. Since returning, the fifth-year point guard is averaging 26.2 and 6.5 assists while shooting 50.6 percent from the field.
Harris has been even more impressive on the road this season, leading the league with 28.0 points per game, adding 6.7 assists and shooting 54.4 percent. He had a career-high 47 points in his last road contest, a 117-109 victory over Phoenix on Sunday for New Jersey’s third straight road win.
The Nets won their first two games against the Sixers last season before dropping both head-to-head contests following their acquisition of Harris at the trade deadline.
Harris averaged 18.0 points and 5.0 assists in those games, but was outplayed by Philadelphia point guard Andre Miller, who had 22.5 points and 8.0 assists per contest.