Preview: Pistons at 76ers


GAME: Detroit Pistons (38-6) at Philadelphia 76ers (23-22).

TIME: Friday, 8 p.m. EST.

LINE: The 76ers are 9-point home underdogs. The total is set at 182.

The Detroit Pistons showed they can respond to a tough loss. The Philadelphia 76ers might have a hard time doing the same without Allen Iverson when they take on the league`s best team.

Detroit had won 11 in a row before losing 91-84 at New Jersey on Tuesday, coming up two victories shy of the longest win streak in team history.

It was just the sixth loss of the season for the Pistons. Every other team in the league has at least 10.

One night after shooting a near season-low 36.6 percent from the field against the Nets, the Pistons bounced back to shoot 45.5 percent and easily beat Minnesota 90-74 on Wednesday. Richard Hamilton scored 21 points and Tayshaun Prince added 20 as Pistons coach Flip Saunders beat his former team for the second time in nine days.

Detroit has not lost consecutive regular-season games since a three-game skid from March 22-25.

``The thing I love about these guys is that, when we lose, they have taken it hard and decided to bounce back,`` Saunders said. ``This was a great win after a poor performance last night.``

The 76ers are coming off an awful performance minus Iverson, losing 123-99 at home to Phoenix on Tuesday. It was their largest margin of defeat at home this season.

Philadelphia had won its previous two games without an injured Iverson, but those victories came against sub-.500 teams Orlando and New York. Iverson is not expected to play against the Pistons, though he could return Saturday against Cleveland.

He said a bone bruise on his right ankle is bothering him more than his sprained left one.

``My wife is joking that I`m walking around like Fred Sanford,`` said Iverson, second in the league with 33.6 points per game.

Philadelphia had enough trouble against Phoenix, owner of the league`s fourth-best record, and at least one Sixer thinks facing Detroit will be even tougher.

``We are going to have to bounce back strong because Detroit is better than these guys,`` Kyle Korver said. ``We`re going to have to pull it together. We`ve got a couple days to get ready and give it what we got.``

One area of concern for the Sixers will be limiting Ben Wallace`s effectiveness. He went scoreless on Wednesday, but had 17 rebounds, four steals and three blocks. Wallace had only eight boards with no steals or blocks in the loss to New Jersey.

He`s a big reason Detroit is outrebounding the opposition by 9.1 per game, best in the league.

Including a five-game series victory over the Sixers in the first round of last year`s playoffs, the Pistons have won 10 of the last 12 meetings.

STANDINGS: Pistons - 1st place, Central Division. 76ers - 2nd place, 1/2 GB, Atlantic Division.

PROBABLE STARTERS: Pistons - F Prince, F Rasheed Wallace, C Ben Wallace, G Chauncey Billups, G Hamilton. 76ers - F John Salmons, F Chris Webber, C Samuel Dalembert, G Andre Iguodala, G Kevin Ollie.

TEAM LEADERS: Pistons - Hamilton, 21.6 ppg; Ben Wallace, 12.3 rpg; Billups, 8.5 apg. 76ers - Iverson, 33.6 ppg and 7.5 apg; Dalembert, 10.2 rpg.

SEASON SERIES: Pistons, 1-0.

LAST MEETING: Nov. 2; Pistons, 108-88. At Detroit, Hamilton had 37 points and the Pistons never trailed in the season opener for both teams. Iverson led the Sixers with 31 points.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Pistons - 17-4 on the road; 76ers - 15-9 at home.

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