The Pistons have been working hard to get back into playoff contention, winning their past five games, but they will fall short of their aim.
While the squad is just one-half game behind the Cleveland Cavaliers for the No. 3 seed after a 10-game winning streak, it could also slip down the standings over the final couple of weeks without some key players.
In contrast, the 76ers have recently clinched their first playoff berth since 2012.
This is ultimately what the ROY race comes down to: Should Mitchell's status as the No. 1 option on the 44-33 Jazz squad be viewed as more important than Simmons' status as, basically, the No. 1A option on the 46-30 Sixers? The Nets are a scrappy bunch that doesn't win a lot but knows how to hang around. The Pistons shot 45.2 percent from the field, hit seven of 19 from three point range and won the rebounding battle 53-40. It turns out "The Process" was more than just a mantra to try and bring fans to watch a failing organization; it was a strategy that has brought enough young talent to the 76ers that they could conceivably still win 50 games this season. "I would like to take a few more years, but this is the last season".
Philly was missing star center Joel Embiid, who is out for the remainder of the regular season following surgery for a fractured orbital bone. All of those games have been played with Simmons in the lineup.
Playing with a rest advantage, Stan Van Gundy's Pistons failed to stop the 76ers from executing. Their 13-26 record away is woeful, but at home they are sitting at 24-14, akin to sides like Boston and OKC. With the Celtics now in the No. 2 spot in the conference but missing two of the league's best players in Irving and the still-injured Gordon Hayward - not to mention Marcus Smart (hand), who remains out - a potential second-round matchup sounds much more appealing against Boston than top-seeded Toronto. Listen, we lost our starting point guard (George Hill) last game, so we're trying to get everybody acclimated. Despite this, Simmons is on another level all together, and could be far too much for Jackson to handle at both ends of the floor. Ben Simmons added 16 points, six rebounds and seven assists. He shot 9-for-13 for 19 points, and also contributed four rebounds, nine assists, two steals and two blocks.
The 76ers were monsters on the glass in this one, as well.