In Review | Against Detroit, a Simply Dominant Performance

by Brian Seltzer Reporter


PHILADELPHIA, PA - On a night the 76ers sported their sharp red Statement uniforms in honor of all-time great and ceremonial bell-ringer Julius Erving, the team came out and delivered one of its most dominant performances of the Brett Brown era, a statement outing in and of itself.

Fueled by a spirited start, and maintaining a healthful margin throughout the evening, the Sixers rolled to their fourth win in a row Friday by downing the Detroit Pistons, 114-78, at The Center. The victory put the Sixers’ record back at .500, at 19-19, and allowed them to clinch their four-game season series versus Detroit.

With Ben Simmons serving as the tone setter, the Sixers gained control quickly, en-route to establishing a 17-point lead through the end of the first quarter, and a 30-point cushion by halftime.

For the evening, the rookie racked up 19 points (9-13 fg), 4 rebounds, 9 assists, 2 steals, and 2 blocks, and was largely responsible for sparking a 15-0 blitz that immediately gave the Sixers command after the Pistons netted the first basket of Friday’s tilt.

To a certain extent, Brown agreed with the notion that the nature of the outcome was that of a statement showing.

“I think some of that is true,” said the fifth-year head coach. “Ben starting the game out the way he started the game out, he made as dominant a statement as I’ve seen him start an NBA game. But collectively, it was an excellent team effort.”

Was it ever.

The Sixers received impact efforts from the rest of their starting corps, too. Joel Embiid paced all players with 23 points (9-16 fg) and 9 rebounds. He assumed a key role in igniting a 13-0 spurt that bridged the first and second periods, using a turnaround jump hook to pad the Sixers’ cushion to 27, at 42-15.

“We just follow the game plan, and relax,” Embiid said.

The real rest came in Friday’s fourth quarter, when the Sixers were afforded the luxury of sitting their starting unit.
JJ Redick poured in 21 points (6-11 fg, 3-8 3fg, 6-6 ft), while Robert Covington and Dario Saric each tallied 11.

All said and done, the Sixers led by double-figures for all but three minutes, 40 seconds of regulation. Brown was especially pleased with his club’s defense, which limited Detroit to 38.0 percent shooting.

Friday’s margin of victory was the Sixers' second-largest since Brown took control in 2013 (the Sixers beat the Dallas Mavericks by 42 last March).

Game Themes:

Simmons Sets Tone

In each of the Sixers’ two previous games, Ben Simmons took on the role of closer, notching 11 points in the fourth quarter in wins over the Phoenix Suns and San Antonio Spurs. Friday against Detroit, he had a legit highlight reel in the making midway through the opening quarter.

Sparking the Sixers in emphatic fashion, Simmons was a downhill attacking machine from the start. The point man scored his team’s first two buckets of the night, a pair of driving lay-ups, as the Sixers snapped off 15 straight points on the heels of Detroit’s game-opening basket.

Simmons’ successfully converted an and-1 to widen the Sixers’ margin to 20-6. By the time he subbed out with just under six minutes to go in the period, he had converted all 5 of his field goals, while handing out 3 assists.

“I think just mentally being prepared,” Simmons said, when asked about his approach Friday. “I’ve got to play like that.”

As such a dominant start would suggest, the Pistons had no answer for Simmons. First, they started Reggie Bullock on the Aussie, then went intermittently to Avery Bradley, with defensive doses of Tobias Harris sprinkled in. None could counter Simmons’ determination.

“I am excited when he plays like that,” said Joel Embiid. “That’s how we want him to play. He needs to be aggressive, and I was happy he did that. He just set the tone.”

In Friday’s first half, Simmons accounted for 35 of the Sixers’ 62 points, between the 15 he produced directly, and the 20 more that came from his 7 assists.

“I thought that at the start, he was on a mission,” said Brown. “He physically was as impressive as I’ve seen him going at bodies and inviting contact. He really came out and set the tempo.”

"I honestly don't know what they could do," Simmons said. "I was just being aggressive, forced myself in there to get easy buckets."

Embiid-Drummond, Part III

For the third time this season, Joel Embiid and Andre Drummond gave fans the opportunity to see two of the NBA’s top big men in action. By the end of Friday’s bout, it was safe to say Embiid won the battle on both the collective and individual fronts, as was the case with his previous meetings with Drummond this year.

Not only did Embiid’s 23 points and 9 rebounds exceed Drummond’s output of 10 points and 8 boards, the Sixers, per, outscored the Pistons by 24 points when Embiid and Drummond were on the court at the same time. For their three confrontations on the season, the Sixers have been 37 points better than Detroit with Embiid and Drummond on the floor.

“I did well on him,” Embiid said of his clash with Drummond. “I thought I played basketball. I moved the ball, got to my spots, and got what I wanted.”

“I thought Joel was excellent tonight,” said Brett Brown. “We saw him play tonight how I’m trying to grow him. I thought he scored, and played in a more fluid way, a more natural team environment way, and I think he got the better of that match-up.”

Feeling Better

Last Friday, the Sixers were coming off a stinging loss at Portland, their ninth defeat in 11 games. The stretch was one during which Brett Brown’s group was tested by a challenging schedule, and multiple injuries.

Since leaving Rip City, the Sixers have gone on to win each of their past three contests. Brett Brown attributes the turnaround, in part, to improving health.

“I think that when we’re healthy, and we can continue to stay healthy, then you can truly talk about getting into a rhythm,” said Brown. “You can feel it. I think tonight was a good example that we played good team basketball.”

Other Observations:

• Brett Brown said before Friday’s tip-off he planned to experiment with Richaun Holmes at the four spot a bit more, and so the head coach did. Throughout the evening, the third-year big man was used sporadically with Embiid (10 minutes, plus-5) and another fellow five-man, Amir Johnson (5 minutes, plus-2). While Holmes didn’t score against Detroit, he did snag 7 rebounds.

• The Sixers enjoyed a commanding 62-32 lead at Friday’s intermission break. It was their first time holding a halftime lead of 30 points or more since January 23rd, 2012, when they were in front by the same score against the Washington Wizards. The Sixers’ edge ballooned as large as 40 points twice in the final minute of Friday’s third frame.

• As impressive as the Sixers’ offense was in Friday’s first half, their defense was also pivotal to the dominance the club exerted through 24 minutes. They held Detroit to 15 points in the first quarter, then 17 in the second. The Pistons were shooting 31 percent at the break.

• Third in the NBA in assists per 100 possessions (25.1) the Sixers assisted on 29 of their 44 made field goals, or 66 percent.

• Robert Covington came alive offensively in Friday’s third quarter. He manufactured all 11 of his points in the period, hitting 3 threes.

• The Sixers have been working intently throughout the season on reducing turnovers. Friday, they committed 14. The team has now stayed at 15 turnovers or fewer in five of its last six outings.

• Making the Sixers’ offensive output that much more impressive Friday? The fact that it came at the expense of a Detroit team that began the day fourth in the NBA in points allowed per game, and ninth in defensive rating.

• The extent to which the Sixers had their way inside Friday was manifested on several statistical fronts. Ben Simmons, for starters, scored all 9 of his baskets in the paint. The Sixers, as a team, pumped out 44 total points in the paint, while outrebounding Detroit by 21, 55-34.

• With the Sixers comfortably in control, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot logged all 12 minutes of the fourth quarter, and made the most of his playing time. He shot the ball smoothly and with confidence, posting 13 points on 5 for 8 shooting (3-4 3fg).

• Back-up swing man Justin Anderson was in action for the first time since November 15th. He had been sidelined with shin splints, and played 8 minutes, grabbing 4 rebounds during that time.

• It was a pretty good first week of the new year for James Michael McAdoo. Not only did he become a first-time father, but he turned 25 years old Thursday. Friday, the two-way contract signee logged a season-high 7 minutes in his third appearance with the Sixers, and hit a 3-pointer.

Sixers Social:

One of 10 players in franchise history to have his jersey number retired, Julius Erving was back in South Philadelphia Friday, serving as the night’s ceremonial bell-ringer. Erving is the Sixers’ fourth all-time leading scorer, with 18,364 points.

Up Next:

For the first time in their existence, the Sixers will play a regular season game outside of the United States, facing archrival the Boston Celtics this coming Thursday at O2 Arena in London, England. Entering action Friday, the C’s boasted the Eastern Conference’s best record, at 31-10, while having won four games in a row. While the Sixers haven’t ever competed in a contest of consequence overseas, they have made six pre-season appearances abroad, last doing so at O2 Arena in 2013.