Sixers return from break, face Pistons in Detroit tonight

Elton Brand slams one home against the Mavericks. (Ron Cortes/Staff Photographer)

Elton Brand will be returning to the starting lineup tonight for the Sixers when they play the Detroit Pistons in their first game since the All-Star break, but will their inept offense return, also?

The Sixers have lost five-straight games and averaged just over 83 points during that stretch. Their shooting has been horrendous and their starts to games recently downright putrid.

Just the return of Brand won't cure those ailments, but a much-needed practice Monday night was a good step in the right direction, the power forward said.

"It was good to have practice yesterday," said Brand. "We ran some sets where you get the touches, we can run the offense where we get to the second and third options, which we weren’t doing in the last eight or nine games."

Coach Doug Collins said that there has been many reasons the offense has sputtered so, mostl notably due to the injuries to Brand and starting center Spencer Hawes, who has missed 17 of the last 19 games with a strained Achilles'.

"Obviously injuries are a big part, every team has suffered," said Collins. Atlanta lost Al Horford for the whole season. You look at a guy like (Hawks coach) Larry Drew who hasn’t had his All-Star center for the whole year. Do we miss our big guys? Absolutely. But you’ve got to move forward. The last thing you do is start looking back and say could have, would have, should have. You can’t do that. The NBA is very unforgiving, the games are on top of you. There isn’t any time to worry about what might have happened. Players are pretty resilient. You can get a tough, tough loss and a coach will agonize a long time with it and players move forward. That’s the beauty of being a player."

There hasn't been much beauty in being a Sixers player, lately. Not only have they started games slowly, but they haven't finished much better, averaging 17.6 points in the final quarter. In fact, in nine of the past 20 quarters the Sixers have scored 18 points (once), 17 points (twice), 16 points (four times), 10 points (once) and eight points (once).

"We’re struggling, we haven’t been shooting well as a team," said Brand. "This second half of the season is what I’m looking forward to doing (helping team score). We’ve worked on getting to the foul line, facing up, driving to the hoop, things like that. There’s nuances to the offense, wrinkles to the offense that we haven’t been getting to that we’re starting to run now."