76ers-Pistons Preview


Despite a largely rough final two months of the season, the Philadelphia 76ers have played well down the stretch.

The visiting 76ers hope to build even more momentum heading into the playoffs with a fifth consecutive victory in Thursday night's regular-season finale against the Detroit Pistons.

Philadelphia (35-30) had a four-game lead in the Atlantic Division on Feb. 13, but is 15-21 since then and headed to the postseason as the seventh or eighth seed. The 76ers are tied with New York in the standings, but they are eighth in the Eastern Conference based on the Knicks owning the head-to-head tiebreaker.

Philadelphia can earn the seventh spot and a first-round matchup versus Miami with a win Thursday and a New York loss to lowly Charlotte. If the 76ers remain in eighth place, they will open the postseason in Chicago this weekend.

"The one thing I've learned is don't start jockeying,'' coach Doug Collins said. "Just win and play who you're supposed to play. Sometimes you can fool yourself and try to be too slick. We're going to try to win the game and then play whoever is in front of us.''

Regardless of where they finish, the 76ers just want to continue to gain confidence. With Elton Brand, Andre Iguodala, Lou Williams and Thaddeus Young all given the night off, Evan Turner had a career-high 29 points with 13 rebounds and Jodie Meeks scored 27 as Philadelphia overcame 35.6 percent shooting to win its fourth in a row - all on the road.

"I'm proud of them," Collins said. "We have a competitiveness about us. Regardless of who plays, guys play to win.''

It's uncertain if any of those players who sat out Wednesday will be in the lineup for the finale.

Meeks has averaged 15.0 points on 53.6 percent (15 of 28) shooting while the 76ers have won all three meetings with Detroit this season by an average margin of 24.3 points.

Set to miss the playoffs for a third consecutive season, Detroit (24-41) will try to win a second straight game at home, where it is 17-15.

Greg Monroe, who had 18 points and 12 rebounds in the Pistons' 103-97 loss at Indiana on Monday, has been one of the few bright spots while averaging team highs with 15.5 points and 9.7 boards. The second-year center has averaged 19.3 points in the three games versus Philadelphia this season.

This contest will almost certainly be the last for veteran center Ben Wallace, who said in February he'd retire at the end of the season. Wallace, who turns 38 in September, is a four-time All-Star and a four-time NBA defensive player of the year. He's played nine of his 16 seasons with the Pistons, including 2004 when they won their last NBA title.

"Ben can still contribute in a winning way," coach Lawrence Frank told the Pistons' official website. "I can't speak for him, but I would imagine you would want to keep your options open. What he decides to do, ultimately, is totally on him. The impact he's had on our team is well-documented."

Wallace has averaged 1.3 points and 4.2 rebounds while playing 15.8 minutes per game this season.