The Sixers picked up their 6th loss of the season in what was considered an extremely winnable game prior to the tipoff. The biggest story was that the team would be without their MVP candidate, Joel Embiid, who was being held out due to “back soreness.” This was likely just a rest day for the big fellow, but it was clear the team missed him on the floor.
From start to finish the Sixers looked flat and failed to climb back into it after giving up a big lead early on. The Pistons outshot the Sixers from the field (50% vs 42.6%), from beyond the arc (44.7% vs 32.1%), and from the free-throw line (84.2% vs 75%). Detroit also got to the line at a much higher rate as the team shot 38 free throw attempts compared to the Sixers’ 20. The battle on the boards was also fairly lopsided as the Pistons grabbed 11 more rebounds than the Sixers in this matchup.
Sixers start poorly
The Sixers started this game extremely slow with the team looking sloppy and disengaged, especially on the defensive end of the court. Ben Simmons scored the team’s first basket but was soon limited due to 2 quick fouls. Doc Rivers took an early timeout after the team fell behind 15-4, but he had no such luck in changing the momentum.
Wayne Ellington had the hot hand for the Pistons, scoring 14 points and going 4-6 from beyond the arc in the first half. Jerami Grant also added 14 points and Delon Wright was third on the team in scoring with 13 first-half points. Ben Simmons picked up his 3rd foul with 10:15 left in the second quarter and he was held to just 7 minutes on the floor on the first half as a result of this.
Despite some energy brought by the second unit, the Sixers were unable to climb back into the game. Matisse Thybulle did a great job defending Blake Griffin and had a pair of impressive steals. In his 10 first-half minutes, Tony Bradley scored 6 points and had 6 rebounds- looking like a much more polished player than he has shown thus far.
The Pistons out-rebounded The Sixers 26-16 in the first half and got to the free-throw line 20 times compared to the 7 free throws that The Sixers shot. The Pistons climbed to their largest lead of the game with a score of 57-40 with 3 minutes left in the 2nd quarter. Shake Milton was also limited in minutes as he picked up 3 first-half fouls as well. The teams went into the locker rooms at half-time with the Pistons leading 64-40.
Too little, too late
Ben Simmons attempted to make up for the lost time and came out looking aggressive at the start of the second half. There was a noticeable increase in pace after halftime with Simmons leading the charge in this. The Sixers ended the game with 11 fast-break points after scoring 0 in the first half. Simmons picked up a 4th foul early on in the 3rd quarter, but Doc Rivers showed his trust in Ben and left him on the floor for several minutes after the foul. Despite this uptick in energy, The Sixers still failed to get stops on the defensive end and ended the third quarter trailing 89-76.
Shake Milton’s foul trouble also followed him into the second half and he picked up his 4th and 5th would in the 3rd quarter. The biggest sign of energy from the team came from Mike Scott who managed to pick up a technical foul despite being dressed in street clothes and on the bench for the game. Scott got into it with Josh Jackson and Jackson soon picked up a second technical and was ejected shortly after the scuffle was deescalated.
The overall lack of energy caught up to the Sixers and they were unable to climb back into the game. While the lead was cut to single digits multiple times, the game never had the feel of the Sixers being competitive and it ended with a score of 119-104. Tobias Harris was the team’s leading scorer with 25. The next two highest scorers for the team were Tyrese Maxey with 17 and Tony Bradley with 12 points. The lack of production across the board ultimately led to the Sixers’ demise.
The Sixers Need Embiid
There is always going to be a drop-off when a team’s best player is missing, but it is clear the Sixers are a completely different team when Joel Embiid is not on the floor. The Sixers are now 0-4 on the season in games Embiid has missed compared to their 12-2 record with him in the lineup. It is tough to replace the 27.7 points and 11.5 rebounds per game that he averages, but is becoming an increasingly concerning issue how the team looks without the 7’0 superstar.
The lack of paint presence was especially seen in the latest matchup and the Sixers were only able to tally 3 total blocks compared to the 6.8 per game that they typically average. Embiid would also help to cut into the free-throw deficit as Joel is averaging 10.7 free throw attempts per game.
Tobias Harris Stays Solid
Outside of his struggles on opening night, Tobias Harris has been a model of consistency this season. He is averaging 19.4 points per game while continuing to shoot 45.5% from deep so far this year. In this game, Harris led the way in scoring as he poured in 25 points on a team-high 30 minutes played.
In a game where just about everyone came out flat, Tobias proved to be the reliable starter that the Sixers need him to be on a nightly basis. This game was looked at as a potential trap game ahead of the Lakers matchup on Wednesday and it proved to be just that. The Sixers will look to get on the same page moving forward and it will take a much greater effort from every player if they want to pick up a better result in that one.
Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire