Joel Embiid continues to dominate as the Sixers beat the Pistons


The Sixers matinee game against the Pistons was a revenge game, early in the season, to say the least. When the Sixers last played the Pistons on October 23rd, Blake Griffin went for fifty points in a game that saw the teams battling all game long and in to overtime where Griffin eventually won it with a three-point play. (One that the NBA subsequently said shouldn’t have counted.) This game would be different, for the most part. The Sixers lead from the beginning and the Pistons never really, despite a second half surge, stood a chance.


Joel Embiid continued his early season dominance of everyone that he’s played. Embiid finished the game with 39 points, 17 rebounds and two blocked shots. By the end of the first half Embiid already had 32 points. He so thoroughly dominated Andre Drummond and Zaza Pachulia that they were both in foul trouble before the end of the first quarter. Embiid was an absolute monster in the low post and you could see when Drummond fouled him and proceeded to laugh, that Embiid was in their heads and wasn’t going to be stopped by them.

The center didn’t attempt a three-pointer until the third quarter and only shot three for the game, making one. While he cooled off in the second half, or “sucked” according to him, when he was on the floor the Pistons were having an impossible time with him. The problem wasn’t so much Embiid cooling off as it was the refs couldn’t keep the whistles out of their mouths. There were more than enough questionable calls on both teams that really disrupted the Sixers in the third quarter as well as their own poor shooting, but Embiid came back and even when he wasn’t shooting the Pistons were watching him to make sure he didn’t continue to destroy them. If Embiid can keep this up, there’s little doubt that the MVP award may be in his immediate future.


Fultz shows more signs of improvement
Markelle Fultz didn’t have a great game statistically as he finished with 4 points, 3 rebounds and 3 assists. He did have a crucial late game block and two timely steals, later in the game that helped the Sixers control the momentum. What Fultz did do was show energy and aggressiveness. When Embiid and Simmons were sitting in what’s become the normal, horrible third quarter, it was Fultz who provided the energy and spark towards the end that helped the Sixers maintain the lead. His shooting was poor as he was 1-6 from the floor, but he attacked the rim and almost put Drummond on a poster in the second half that he was fouled on. The continued improvements, even small ones, are encouraging for the team going forward.


Young Padwan
Landry Shamet is looking like JJ Redick’s clone as far as his willingness to move constantly and come off picks and screen to shoot the ball. In just nineteen minutes, Shamet scored 11 points on 4-7 shooting, including 2-5 from beyond the three-point line. At the start of the season, Shamet moved slightly and looked timid, but over the past few games, having worked all season with Redick, he now looks like he’s ready to breakout and start putting up points. As it is right now, Redick and his protégé combined for 27 points on 4-11 three-point shooting against the Pistons. Shamet had good movement throughout the game and seems to be a clone of JJ when he’s on the floor. It’s a very good sign for the Sixers that he’s come along as quickly as he has for a rookie and doesn’t seem to show any fear shooting the ball. He will continue, as Redick does, to create problems for opposing defenses when Reddick isn’t on the floor.


Dario needs a rest
Dario Saric is playing on dead legs and everyone except Brett Brown seems to see it. It’s a true shame because Saric is a good player. Brown has chosen to continue putting Saric on the floor, although he only saw 22 minutes last night and it’s hurting Saric and the team. It wouldn’t be so bad if he was just having trouble shooting from the outside but he’s having trouble at the rim too. All of his shots are clanging off the front of the rim and that shows that he’s tired. He doesn’t have the movement or energy to be out there for 30 minutes a game yet, for the most part, that’s exactly what he’s been doing. Saric needs rest, plain and simple. With the return of Wilson Chandler, albeit on a minutes restriction, and the improved play of Mike Muscala, right now may be the best time for Brown to get Dario some much needed rest because he’s doing him no favors by continually putting him on the floor to miss shots and get beat on the defensive end.


Ben Simmons registered a quiet nine points and five each of rebounds, assists and steals. That may not seem like a lot, but Simmons only played 29 minutes against the Pistons as he wound up in foul trouble. Brett Brown needs to decide if Simmons is his point guard or his power forward. It seems like they give the ball to Simmons to bring it up the court where he is required to immediately hand off to the center then, at least in this game, take a spot down low. When you have someone as talented at passing as Simmons is, there’s no reason that he should be in the low post and Embiid should be trying to feed him the ball.

Right now, with Fultz and Simmons starting, it doesn’t seem like Brown has a defined role for Simmons. He also is taking the ball out of one of the better passers in the league with his set offense that revolved around the center setting screens on the perimeter each time up the floor. The true talent is that Simmons is still able to get almost nine assists per game, even in Browns stifling offense. If you see Simmons being aggressive and moving with the ball he’s a true wonder but saddled in this offense is hurting him. Instead of Brown talking to him about taking more shots, they should have Joel talk to him about being aggressive. With the two of them attacking at all times, there wouldn’t be many teams in the league that would be able to match the Sixers in terms of talent or pace. Hopefully, Brown can get Simmons in to attack mode as it seems that Fultz has thrown caution to the wind and figured he’s just going to start driving a lot more. Simmons should look at that and realize he’s even more dangerous than Fultz.


Muscala gains ground
The more I watch Mike Muscala play, the more I like his game. Muscala was having a horrible offensive game at one point missing all seven of his shots. But he finished the game with fourteen points and hit his last three shots including two huge three-pointers and a sweet layup off a Fultz steal. He’s aggressive on defense and seems to move very well. He plays well on opponents when he’s outside and inside as well as fighting for rebounds, blocking lanes and he doesn’t seem to have any fear taking shots. Even after his horrible start he was still shooting which lead to him hitting the last two threes that he took. He’s been a good addition to the team and should see continued high volume minutes with the way he’s playing.


Debunking the myth of RoCo
Robert Covington only finished with five points tonight and only three rebounds and one steal. That’s a bit off of his season marks but he was all over the court tonight. Covington really didn’t need to do much as Embiid was dominating the first half and in the second half he was just an all-around pest of the defensive side of the ball. The stats weren’t there but he made his mark during the game and has played better than last year and is hitting on 45% of his three-point attempts this season. Usually, everyone loves to give him a hard time and I think it’s mostly a carry-over from last season where fans felt he fell apart at the end of the year. What he’s done so far has shown that he’s one of the better defenders in the league. If he took a few more shots he could wind up averaging close to sixteen points a game and that would help the team more than people realize. What they can count on, despite their constant griping, is that Covington is a very good defender and the Sixers team really needs that.


While the game was out of hand in the first half, the Sixers third quarter has been an issue all season and this game wasn’t any different with the Pistons outscoring the Sixers 25-16. What was different in this game is that when the Pistons got the game as close as six points, the Sixers took back the game and put the differential back to around ten points for the remainder of the game. The ability to close out a team like the Pistons, that had beat them two weeks ago in the same type of game (at least the second half), shows that the Sixers are getting more confident and playing better basketball as a team. That should be scary to the Eastern Conference because Simmons isn’t scoring a lot, Fultz is just now starting to be aggressive and Saric has been playing on fumes for the whole start to the season. As the season goes forward and this team starts to come together they could really be a problem for any team in the conference including Boston and Toronto.


Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

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