In Review | Back-and-Forth Battle Sways in Sixers' Favor
PHILADELPHIA, PA - With the calendar transitioning from November to December, the 76ers have found themselves in the midst of a gauntlet that’s required them to face plenty of “NBA royalty,” as Brett Brown has described it.
Games against the Golden State Warriors, a home match-up versus the Cleveland Cavaliers, and a visit to the Boston Celtics have all dotted the schedule as of late.
Saturday at The Center, there was no relief. The Detroit Pistons were in town, entering the evening tied for third in the Eastern Conference, and boasting a good deal of talent.
But, at the end of a topsy turvy, back-and-forth tilt, it was the Sixers that emerged on top, 108-103. For a team that has ambitions to play beyond April 11th, the victory was a helpful one to have, even if room for growth was detected in the aftermath.
“It’s good to be able to take something that you have to improve on, and deliver it after a win,” said Brown. “To be able to identify those, and still be able to come [away] with a win is a great thing.”
Mostly because Detroit has been one of the better NBA teams to-date, having already defeated this season the likes of the Boston Celtics and Golden State Warriors, Brown noted.
Nonetheless, that didn’t make it any easier for the head coach to look back on a specific segment of Saturday’s game in which the Sixers saw a sizable lead erode.
After trailing by 9 points early in the first quarter, the Sixers soared ahead by as many as 18 points right out of the half. The Pistons responded by going on to outscore the Sixers 33-17 in the third quarter, which forced the Sixers to play catch up in the fourth.
“For me, we didn’t respect the lead,” said Brown, pointing to the Sixers’ 9 third-quarter turnovers. “We blink and they were back in it, and we were playing good basketball. It’s part of the youth, part of the evolution of learning how to hold onto leads, respecting what 48 minutes means.”
Growth the Sixers feel is pivotal to becoming an elite club.
“This is a team we have to beat if we want to make the playoffs,” said JJ Redick, who netted 18 points on 6 for 10 shooting, while handing out season-high 7 assists. “They’re a team that’s been in the playoffs. They’re a team that’s good, and playing as well as anybody in the East.”
Despite experiencing a few hiccups, it was indeed the Sixers that proved to be the superior team Saturday.
As for how they pulled off the win?
There were clutch deposits, such as those delivered by Dario Saric. En route to posting 17 points (6-11 fg, 2-5 3fg) and 7 rebounds, the Croatian nailed the first of two timely 3-pointers at the 6-minute mark, sending the Sixers in front for good, 92-91. He then locked in on another crucial long ball with 2 minutes, 35 seconds to go, to make the score 103-95, and essentially put the game out of reach for Detroit.
Further aiding the Sixers’ cause down the stretch Saturday was their free throw shooting. They went 14 for 15 from the line in the final frame, with Joel Embiid converting all 4 of his attempts. The 7-footer’s 11 for 12 effort from the line accounted for the backbone of his 25-point showing (7-21 fg).
“They’re a really good team,” Embiid said of the Pistons.
With 10 rebounds, Embiid tallied his 12th double-double of the fall.
“That’s a good win for us. Getting those wins against what could be [a playoff team] is always good, learning the style of play.”
Also looming large in the Sixers’ second win of the season over Detroit were several other factors. The Sixers backed up their rank as the second-best offensive rebounding team in the league by outdoing the Pistons 17-7 in that category. The advantage yielded a 17-7 margin in second-chance scoring, coincidentally enough.
The Sixers managed to shut down Detroit’s typically efficient 3-point game, too, as the visitors were just 9 for 31 from the perimeter. The Pistons began the day with the NBA’s third-best 3-point shooting percentage, at 38.6.
There was the matter of Robert Covington’s spot-on performance, as well. The veteran swingman connected on a pair of threes on back-to-back possessions to propel the Sixers in front, 23-21, and advance a substantial 22-6 spurt that sent the Sixers into the second period with a 32-25 edge.
“It felt good to see a couple early shots go in,” said Covington. “That just made it better.”
Covington’s box line was highlighted by 25 points (8-19 fg), 6 treys, 8 rebounds, 2 steals, and 2 blocks. He manufactured a plus-8 rating in 38 minutes.
“I’m liable for a lot of things on the court,” Covington said. “I’m one of the leaders on this team. I carry myself that way, so in order for me to be there for [the team], I have to do other things that’s real impactful.”
Entering Saturday’s contest, there was an understandable good amount of attention being paid to the impending center battle between Embiid and Andre Drummond. Both big men had their moment.. Embiid, however, prevailed in both the battle, and the war.
“We won the game,” said Embiid, playing his 50th game as a pro. “This wasn’t about any of us. It was about Sixers against Pistons, and we got the win and I’m happy about it.”
With 2 minutes, 35 seconds remaining in regulation, Embiid induced Drummond, who posted 14 points, 11 boards, and 6 dimes, into fouling out. The Cameroonian, his teammates, coaches, and a capacity crowd of 20,562 were all able to head home happy Saturday because the end result was a win, in spite of there being several swings and sways.
“I think the thing that I most appreciate is the vocal side of this building, the ability to get low, get high, it really wears its heart on its sleeve,” Brown said of The Center, where each of the Sixers’ 11 appearances have been sellouts. “We feel it. You’re on the sideline, you feel it. To ultimately be able to close out a game, and give these amazingly passionate fans something to walk out of the building and be proud of is fantastic.”
Ben Simmons scored 5 points (2-6 fg), to go with 10 rebounds, 6 assists, and 2 blocks. He manufactured a plus-6 rating in his first career game in single-digits.
T.J. McConnell might not have been able to suit up for a second straight game (sprained AC joint, left shoulder), but he had no problem saluting his BFF, whose interior scoring has been increasingly effective as of late.
— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) December 3, 2017
The 76ers will be idle Sunday, then resume their 3-game homestand Monday versus the Phoenix Suns. It’s been a somewhat bumpy season so far for Phoenix, which, after three contests, replaced coach Earl Watson with Jay Triano. With Saturday’s 116-111 loss at TD Garden, the Suns have now dropped 6 of its last 7 outings. In his third season as a pro, potent guard Devin Booker leads his team with an average of 23.0 points per game.