Flattened in Philly

76ers avoid record 27th straight loss in smashing Pistons 123-98


The story of the game in Pistons red, white and blue

WHITE HOT – The Pistons lost their third straight game, but the losing streak that really mattered Saturday was the one the Philadelphia 76ers snapped – a 26-game skid that was one from the NBA record. The Sixers wanted nothing to do with surpassing the 2010-11 Cleveland Cavaliers in the record books and dominated the Pistons from start to finish in a 123-98 beating. Thaddeus Young and Philadelphia rookie Michael Carter-Williams, the runaway favorite for Rookie of the Year, led the 76ers with 21 points each with Carter-Williams adding seven rebounds, four assists and four steals. Greg Monroe led the Pistons with 20 points and 10 rebounds. Rodney Stuckey added 17 points, hitting all 11 of his free throws.

BLUE COLLAR – Henry Sims and Jarvis Varnado, two big men any NBA team could have picked up last summer, combined to give the Pistons fits in different ways on both ends of the floor. Sims, undrafted out of Georgetown two years ago, knocked down several tough shots in the first half to help the 76ers build their big lead, finishing with 16 points and seven rebounds. Varnado, the NCAA’s all-time blocked shots leader, was a second-round pick of Miami in 2010 and has played in Europe and the D-League. He scored nine points and blocked six shots, including one on Andre Drummond in the third quarter where he sprinted the court to finish with a dunk.

RED FLAG – Brandon Jennings got hit with two technical fouls seconds apart and was ejected late in the first quarter. The Sixers had come out hot, but still led by just six points at the time. Things went downhill fast as they were outscored 7-3 over the last 1:18 to trail by 10 after one quarter and quickly by 14 in the second quarter. Josh Smith picked up another technical foul late in the second quarter. Both were arguing non-calls on drives, Jennings on one of his own and Smith on a Rodney Stuckey drove.

Today’s lesson: the power of humiliation as a motivational factor. The Philadelphia 76ers were one loss from joining the post-LeBron James Cleveland Cavaliers in NBA infamy. A loss to the Pistons would have meant their 27th straight defeat, dating to Jan. 29.

Instead, the Pistons had to pack that humiliation in their overhead compartment for the return flight on Roundball One, victims of a 123-98 humbling by a team that’s been administered its share of humblings this season.

“There was no effort tonight,” Greg Monroe bluntly assessed. “Absolutely no effort.” Why? “I don’t have a clue. I can’t speak for everyone. I’m trying every game. I don’t care what the circumstances and it shouldn’t be circumstances. I’m trying to win every game. … It’s tough. It’s really tough. It definitely hurts how we played last night (a 32-point loss to Miami, missing four players). To play like that two nights in a row …”

The turning point – if there can be a turning point in a game decided by 25 points – might have come late in the first quarter when Brandon Jennings, seconds after not getting the benefit of a whistle as he drove to the basket and twisted in mid-air while throwing up a prayer, drew two technical fouls and was ejected from the game. The Pistons were down six at the time. They were down double digits a minute later and never got it under 10 the rest of the night.

“We didn’t play,” John Loyer said. “The amount of points we gave up, 70 in the first half, I call that team a hungry, hard-playing team and they were more hungry than we were tonight.”

"Yeah. I mean, there was no effort tonight. Absolutely no effort."

- Greg Monroe on the game
Full game quotes
The deficit swelled to 19 at halftime and to 32 by late in the third quarter. The 70 points Philadelphia scored in the first half were the most the Pistons have surrendered in any first half this season – 69 at Houston to start March – and the 76ers crested their season’s previous biggest lead of 22 points, in an opening-night win over reigning NBA champion Miami, early in the second half.

It didn’t help much that with Jennings unavailable, Will Bynum had one of those nights where not much went right for him. In 18 minutes, Bynum missed 9 of 11 shots and committed five turnovers against two assists.

Pistons turnovers – and there were 18 – quickly ruptured into 4-on-2 Philly fast breaks. The 76ers were quicker to loose balls and quicker baseline to baseline, doing their best to run from history. Philadelphia converted those 18 bobbles into 25 points, accounting for much of their alarmingly high 29 fast-break points.

Aside from rookie point guard Michael Carter-Williams and veteran forward Thaddeus Young, the Pistons got beat by a bunch of guys who probably weren’t sure they’d even be in the NBA this season – or next.

Hollis Thompson was perfect on four shots from the arc and finished with 14 points. Henry Sims, an ex-Georgetown teammate of Greg Monroe’s who went undrafted in 2012, had 16 points and seven boards. Jarvis Varnado, a D-League vagabond, blocked six shots. And so it went. Everybody first-year coach Brett Brown waved in off his bench played hard and contributed, the Pistons unable to match the intensity Philadelphia mustered.

“This is amazing,” Thompson said after the 76ers were given a standing ovation by a raucous crowd as the final seconds ticked off. “We came out and got what we wanted, a win. We don’t even talk about the streak. We just knew we had a win coming and we got out there and got it tonight.”

“The message to the team, if this is the type of effort we’re going to have over the next nine (games), we’ll have results like we had the last two nights,” Loyer said. “We didn’t have that effort for the first 20-plus games (Loyer coached). I thought our effort in those games was tremendous. It’s our job and it’s their job as players to get back to that.”

Now the Pistons have to use the humiliation they lugged back from Philadelphia to their advantage Monday night, when a team with an even worse overall record, the 14-59 Milwaukee Bucks, comes to town.

“We have to refocus and we have to come out and fight every night,” Monroe said. “It never should matter who’s on the schedule. Every night we should come out and have the same focus, the same intent, every night, no matter who it is.”