At this point it doesn’t matter who they send out there, the 76ers will just keep winning.
They’ve built their winning streak to five Thursday night with a 109-98 victory over the Pistons in Detroitmon the second of their first back-to-back, improving to 7-2.
Seth Curry scored 23 points on 9-for-14 shooting, Tyrese Maxey posted 20 points, Shake Milton 16, and Joel Embiid totaled 19 points (6-for-15 shooting), nine rebounds, and three assists.
Jerami Grant’s 27 points led Detroit, while the first pick of the 2021 NBA Draft Cade Cunningham had 18 points and 10 rebounds.
The Sixers were missing a bunch of guys, including Tobias Harris and Isaiah Joe (health and safety protocols), Danny Green (left hamstring tightness), Ben Simmons (personal reasons), and Furkan Korkmaz (right wrist soreness).
Here are takeaways:
Guard trio guides win
Once again, Curry was scorching hot in the opening quarter. He recorded 15 first-quarter points on 6-for-8 shooting.
In general, Curry’s persistence has been very impressive early this year. Whether it’s relocating after a defender denies his initial move then stepping into mid-range jumpers, Curry has been stellar about simply plugging away.
Milton had a strong first half as well, playing sturdy defense on 6-foot-8 Saddiq Bey — the highlight was a play where he locked down a Bey post-up and forced a jump ball — and scoring at all three levels. Bey finished with seven points and five rebounds, and Milton had a lot to do with his quiet evening.
Maxey — who’s celebrated his 21st birthday Thursday — shined in the third quarter. It’s usual that Maxey’s spent stretches hanging out off the ball when the Sixers run their offense through Curry, but he’s been good in third quarters at taking charge and pressuring defenses with his drives.
A 2-for-4 game from three-point range was also a plus, raising Maxey’s season percentage to 34.8.
Different looking lineups
The Sixers needed size at every position besides center to begin the game, starting a lineup of Maxey, Curry, Milton, Matisse Thybulle, and Embiid.
Sixers head coach Doc Rivers then went about as big as he could without Embiid and Andre Drummond on the floor. He used a lineup featuring Paul Reed and Drummond in the frontcourt and Georges Niang at small forward.
Much of Thursday’s test was necessary — there’s not many options for a team with nine available players, one of whom was second-round rookie center Charles Bassey — but the early-season experiment isn’t a bad thing. The Sixers have a long time before the postseason to figure out what works and what doesn’t, and to develop confident combinations.
Thursday wasn’t all about Embiid
Embiid faced hard double teams, which often forced him to give away the ball. He committed one poor turnover dribbling into the path of Killian Hayes.
Compared to Wednesday’s win over the Chicago Bulls, Embiid was significantly less active in the first half. The common thread was his ineffectiveness as a scorer. He was scoreless in the first quarter, attempting no shots and didn’t get on the board until 5:43 remained in the second quarter.
Embiid was frustrated by the lack of a foul call at least three times before halftime. Whether or not he had valid arguments, those plays were symbolic of his first half.
To be honest, Thursday wasn’t about Embiid. He didn’t see a heavier load than usual — 30 minutes — and had the luxury of enjoying his teammates’ success.
Nearly every Sixers’ victory this season has gotten the “team win” label, and this game didn’t. Five Sixers scored in double figures and each of the team’s eight rotation players made positive contributions.