Streaking Sixers can’t afford letdown vs. lowly Pistons

The Philadelphia 76ers appear to be a lock to participate in the play-in portion of the Eastern Conference playoffs.However, thanks to reigning Most Valuable Player Joel Embiid’s return and the stellar play of All-Star Tyrese Maxey, the Sixers still have a chance at avoiding the play-in.Philadelphia (44-35) enters this week trailing the sixth-seeded Indiana Pacers by one game with three contests remaining.The Sixers will host the Detroit Pistons (13-65) on Tuesday with a chance at inching closer.Maxey scored a career-high 52 points Sunday to carry the Sixers to a 133-126 double-overtime victory over the San Antonio Spurs for their fifth win in a row.”We know how important these games are,” Maxey said. “It’s playoff time, postseason time, and I didn’t want to let us lose. I just wanted to do whatever I could. Exert all my energy and I can live with the result after that. No matter how tired, no matter how sore, I wanted to go out there and try and help us win.”Embiid was given the night off to rest his surgically repaired knee after playing against the Memphis Grizzlies one night earlier.Maxey played 54 minutes and almost singlehandedly willed the Sixers to the win.”I thought he was as fast as I’ve seen him in a while,” Sixers coach Nick Nurse said. “He really was turning on the jets a lot and he made good things happen.”The Sixers also played without Tobias Harris, Kyle Lowry, De’Anthony Melton and Robert Covington. Melton and Covington are expected to remain sidelined while it’s possible to see Embiid, Harris and Lowry back in the lineup.Detroit arrives in Philadelphia on a four-game losing streak.In their most recent game, the Pistons fell 113-103 to the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday. It was another frustrating defeat in a season filled with losses and injuries.