While it wasn’t easy, the Philadelphia 76ers took care of business Saturday night in Detroit as the beat the Pistons 114-110 as they advance to 12-5.
Detroit was without seventh overall pick Killian Hayes (right hip strain), Blake Griffin (left knee injury management), and Derrick Rose (left knee soreness). Vincent Poirier and Mike Scott remained out for the Sixers because of the NBA’s health and safety protocols and right knee swelling.
Here are three takeaways from Saturday night’s win:
Simmons makes up for bench’s off night
Like Joel Embiid on Friday night in a win over the Boston Celtics, Ben Simmons had a strong start which was interrupted by foul trouble. Before being called for his second foul with 4:56 left in the first quarter, he put up eight points, three rebounds, and two assists, driving down the court effectively.
For a second consecutive game, the Sixers’ bench players didn’t fare well during their time on the floor late in the first and early in the second quarter, making sloppy mistakes that helped the Pistons succeed in transition. Though the Sixers have gotten valuable performances from their bench early in the season, the team’s all-second unit lineups have sometimes looked shaky.
All said and done, the Sixers’ bench was outscored 55-23 by Detroit’s bench.
Dwight Howard did his best to provide physicality and energy, but was called for an offensive foul when he fought for an offensive rebound and Pistons rookie Isaiah Stewart ripped off part of his shorts. The veteran center also picked up a technical foul for arguing the questioning the call.
As for Simmons, he resumed his aggressive offensive mindset after the foul trouble on the bench. Simmons scored 16 of his 20 points in the first half, adding nine rebounds, seven assists, and three steals in an impressive performance.
With a 10-for-12 performance at the foul line, Simmons has now made 65.9 percent of his free throws this season.
Simmons’ great defensive assignment was Jerami Grant. While the former Sixer has been having by far his most productive season, he had a poor night against Simmons and the Sixers as he scored 11 points on three-for-19 shooting. It’s certainly not the first time one of Simmons’ matchups has had a not great game. Even if missed open shots are part of what went wrong for Grant, it’s no coincidence that Simmons often makes the opposition’s top offensive threat look much less potent than he typically does. Simmons covered Grant up nicely on one especially impressive third-quarter possession, mirroring his moves on the baseline, knocking the ball loose and forcing a jump ball.
Embiid was too much for the Pistons
Almost every time Embiid plays a game, it seems that he has an advantageous matchup, as if to indicate that his great output comes with a significant effect. When that’s the case, though, it says something about how difficult it is to defend Embiid. The apparent formula for slowing him down is double teaming at the right times and making him take contested mid-range shots and avoiding fouls. It’s all much easier said than done.
Miles Plumlee, Stewart, and former teammate Jahlil Okafor were the players that were put up a tough task, guarding Embiid, who was listed as questionable leading into the game because of back tightness. None had any convincing answers against the three-time All-Star, though Embiid wasn’t quite as sharp as he was during the Sixers’ mini-series sweep over the Boston Celtics, during which he scored 80 points on 34 field-goal attempts in both games. He still recorded 33 points on 10-for-20 shooting and 14 rebounds, however.
Nothing about his play was brilliant or exceptional by the very high standards he’s set. These sorts of performances look regularly within reach, which is crazy to say.
Grinding it out
Detroit held a sizable advantage over the Sixers in three-point shooting during the first half, hitting nine of 15 long-range attempts, compared to the Sixers’ two-for-eight from beyong the arch. The Pistons had a lot of success running Wayne Ellington (17 points) around screens, and the Sixers were occasionally not sufficiently strict in not tracking shooters well or flying past them.
The team’s defense also wasn’t flawless after halftime, either. However, the facts are that the Sixers overcame an 11-point first-half deficit to win on the road in the second half of a back-to-back. The Sixers did well to plow through those tough circumstances.
The Sixers (12-5) will stay in Detroit to play the Pistons (3-13) again Monday night.