Philadelphia 76ers v Detroit Pistons
Chris Schwegler/NBAE via Getty Images

Game Recap | Physicality, Rebounding Prove to be Difference at Detroit

by Brian Seltzer
Sixers.com Reporter

At the Buzzer:
AUBURN HILLS, MI - Entering the finale of a four-game, six-day road trip Monday, the 76ers hoped to get back on track, following a winless start to their trek.

The team will return to Philadelphia with that same goal at the forefront, as it suffered a 113-96 defeat to the Detroit Pistons at The Palace of Auburn Hills.

Making their last appearance ever at the suburban Detroit venue, which will be replaced by a new downtown arena next season, the Sixers had trouble matching the Pistons’ prowess on the glass. Led by low-post powerhouse Andre Drummond, Detroit finished the night with a commanding 60-41 rebounding edge.

“We really got, I thought, out-physicaled at times on the boards,” Brett Brown said afterwards. “I felt that probably as much as anything.”

Drummond accounted for 17 of the Pistons’ rebounds, and also offered 16 points (8-15 fg). The double-double was his 33rd this season.

“He’s just so big, and he’s so committed,” Brown said of the 2016 All-Star. “He’s got nimble feet, and a great attitude to go chase stuff down. He really is a difficult assignment. We tried to do it with a team effort, but weren’t as successful as we needed to be.”

The Sixers were paced by Jahlil Okafor, who put up 16 points (7-11 fg) and four rebounds.

Through 12 minutes of action, the Sixers found themselves in an auspicious spot, holding a 27-24 advantage. As they approached the halfway mark of the second quarter, their margin had grown to five points.

Catalyzed by the backcourt combination of Reggie Jackson and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Detroit pushed forward.

With Drummond on the bench, back-up center Aron Baynes, whom Brown worked with when he coached the Australian national team, gave the Pistons a big boost. He scored six points in the span of 60 seconds to send his group into the locker room in control, 55-46.

After pumping out 31 points in the second period, Detroit went off for 34 more in the third. The Sixers’ deficit expanded to 26 points late in the third frame, and couldn’t be overcome.

By the conclusion of the contest, the Pistons had poured in 66 points in the paint.

“They’re a physical team,” said Brown. “That’s what they do. When you look at the veterans on the team, I respect the toughness. I respect that group. The physical side of that team, especially with their starters, is something I give them credit for.”

Philadelphia native Marcus Morris pitched in with 19 points (9-16 fg) and eight rebounds. Jackson and Caldwell-Pope combined for 26 points and nine assists.

For the Sixers, Okafor was steady, specifically in the early stages of Monday’s affair. With six points in the first quarter, he assumed the role of sparkplug, and drew two quick fouls on Drummond, too.

Okafor missed Saturday’s game with soreness in his right knee. Brown sounded like he was appreciative of the second-year Sixer’s efforts.

“He was extremely active,” Brown said. “When you see Jahlil in that mindset, that mood, you see his skill. He can score, he really can score the basketball. We tried to play through him, and I thought when they did show a crowd, I thought he had some unselfish, skilled passes playing out of traffic.”

“It really just felt like there was a lid on the rim,” Okafor said about Monday’s second half. “We really couldn’t get any shots to fall for us. We’ll go back to Philly, watch film, and try to correct the mistakes we made to make us get so far behind.”

“He didn’t play the last game,” noted Brown. “I thought he came back. I thought really for being down a game, he came in and jump-started that first period especially.”

Much like Okafor’s on-court contributions Monday, Brown has also been pleased with how the 21-year old has handled off-court matters as of late.

“There’s an open conversation with all my guys,” Brown said. “The rumors are rampant always, and I think in some ways, it’s an inverted complement, that there are people mentioning your name.”

Regardless of circumstance, Brown pledges to keep the best interests of his players in mind.

“You’re trying to help these guys,” said Brown. “You’re really trying to grow them, to help them, and put them in a position where they can help our team, and help themselves. Sometimes, they’re mutually exclusive, but by and large, I feel like we’re pretty transparent, we’re pretty clean discussing stuff like this with our players.”

From there, Brown believes the onus subsequently shifts to members of the roster themselves to “go perform, play to their abilities, and help the 76ers win games.”

Monday, Okafor competed with such a spirit.

“So far, I really, really enjoy coaching these young guys, even with the swirling rumors,” Brown said.

Another encouraging development to emerge Monday was simply that Robert Covington was healthy enough to suit up. Having sat out the Sixers’ three previous contests with a right hand contusion, Covington reassumed his spot at small forward in the starting line-up. In all, he manufactured 11 points (2-10 fg, 2-5 3fg, 5-7 ft) and four rebounds.

Seventeen of Covington’s 29 minutes came in the first half. He tweaked his leg in the third quarter.

“With his hand and with his leg, the game didn’t feel like we were going to get back in it,” said Brown, “and so we sat him, and continued to sit him throughout the rest of the period.”

The Sixers were without Joel Embiid for a fourth consecutive game. Brown said prior to Monday’s tip-off the rookie, who didn’t travel on the road, has been progressing “for sure” in his recovery from a left knee contusion back at the Sixers’ training complex.

“We’ve got great resources, great people, and it’s moving in the direction that we want,” said Brown.

According to the head coach, the timetable for Embiid’s return still remains unclear.

Two of the Sixers’ other rookies received extended run down the stretch of Monday’s tilt. Dario Saric notched 13 points (6-14 fg, 1-5 3fg), six rebounds, and four assists. Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot generated a well-rounded box line consisting of nine points (2-4 fg, 5-5 ft), five boards, and three assists.

Sixers Social:
Despite Monday’s final score ending in one-sided fashion, the Sixers enjoyed an auspicious start. Jahlil Okafor, filling in for the recuperating Joel Embiid, helped rev his squad up, punching in all three of his shots in the opening period, to finish the quarter with six points. Two of those baskets came at the expense of All-Star Andre Drummond.

Up Next:
The Sixers’ dash towards the All-Star Game break rolls on Wednesday, when the team returns home to face the San Antonio Spurs for the second time in the span of seven days. The Sixers dropped a 102-86 decision to San Antonio last Thursday, and will be seeking to snap an 11-game losing streak to Brett Brown’s former employer. The Spurs began their annual rodeo road trip Monday at Memphis. In all, the marathon stretch will cover eight games over the span of 20 days.

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