Sixers trounce Pistons,120-102, for sixth-straight win

Philadelphia 76ers’ Joel Embiid, left, dribbles the ball past Detroit Pistons’ Jalen Duren during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Tuesday, April 9, 2024, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Derik Hamilton)

The Philadelphia 76ers came into tonight’s contest against the Detroit Pistons looking to continue their recent winning ways. The Sixers are winners of five straight and four consecutive since Joel Embiid returned to action. Their most recent win came in a double-overtime victory against Victor Wembanyama and the San Antonio Spurs. It took a 52-point performance from Tyrese Maxey and some key plays from rookie Ricky Council IV to pull away.

The Pistons came in losers of 11 of their last 12 games with their only win coming against the 15-win Washington Wizards. The Pistons have had a tumultuous season riddled with extended losing streaks and bad basketball. They have the vibe of a team ready to get the season over with and the Sixers would be looking to take advantage of that.

Sixers/Pistons game recap

Detroit Pistons’ Jaden Ivey reacts after a basket against the Philadelphia 76ers during the first half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, April 9, 2024, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Derik Hamilton)

The game started late due to a clock malfunction, which seemed to throw off both teams’ shooting early on. The Sixers started 6/15 and 0/5 from beyond the arc going into the first timeout but led 14-6 due to an aggressive Joel Embiid and Tobias Harris, who returned to the lineup. The Sixers continued to struggle from beyond the arc all quarter as the Pistons kept it close. Rookie Ricky Council IV hit Philly’s first three-pointer as the first-quarter buzzer expired to help extend the lead to eight.

In the second quarter, the offense looked better for the Sixers as Embiid got into a rhythm and started to destroy the Pistons’ defense. Unfortunately, the Pistons’ offense picked up, too, with Evan Fournier singlehandedly keeping the Pistons in the game, scoring 15 second-quarter points. Combined with Jaden Ivey, they one toe to toe with the Sixers. The Sixers led 64-52 going into halftime, withstanding a first half heaters from Fournier and Ivey.

The third quarter started out terrible for the Sixers, as the Pistons made them pay for the turnovers and missed shots. Jaden Ivey, Evan Fournier, and Jalen Duren helped trim the lead to three points. Once the score reached 73-70, the crowd began to get restless, knowing how important these games are down the stretch and how bad the Pistons are. When Embiid went out to rest, Oubre made it his business to help extend their three-point lead back to 12 by the end of the quarter.

The Sixers came out in the fourth quarter and did what good teams do: put teams away. A barrage of threes from Buddy Hield, tough buckets from Tobias Harris, and Joel Embiid dominance grew the lead to 21 points. Threes stopped falling for Detroit and it did them in, going down without a fight. The Sixers grab their sixth straight victory 120-102 behind an MVP performance from Embiid. Detroit was led by Jaden Ivey (25 points) and Evan Fournier (21 points).

Back to MVP form

Philadelphia 76ers’ Joel Embiid, center, dribbles the ball between the defense of Detroit Pistons’ Evan Fournier (31) and Jalen Duren (0) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Tuesday, April 9, 2024, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Derik Hamilton)

It has been four games since Embiid returned to the lineup after his knee injury and surgery in late January, and the big fella is starting to like himself. He missed the second half of their back-to-back Sunday but like very bouncy against the Pistons. He was scoring from all three levels, feeling comfortable, and getting used to making plays out of double teams.

Head coach Nick Nurse has changed his minutes distribution in the rotation, playing Embiid in shorter bursts instead of the longer stretches he played earlier in the year. This has allowed him to get his wind back as he prepares for the playoff minute load. The reigning MVP ended the night with 37 points, 11 rebounds, 8 assists, 3 steals, and 2 blocks.

Stepping up

Philadelphia 76ers’ Kelly Oubre Jr. goes up for a dunk during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Detroit Pistons, Tuesday, April 9, 2024, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Derik Hamilton)

With Tyrese Maxey out, the Sixers needed someone to step up and help assist Embiid with carrying the scoring load. Tobias Harris was aggressive early but didn’t get involved in the offense in the second half.

As the half-time lead dwindled, Kelly Oubre went on a late third-quarter scoring run to help keep the team afloat. His aggressive cuts and drives continue to be something the Sixers need, especially with the Big Fella back in the fold and drawing so much attention.

Ironing out the rotation

Philadelphia 76ers’ De’Anthony Melton, left, goes up for a shot past Detroit Pistons’ Jalen Duren during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2022, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Sixers guard De’Anthony Melton returned to the court after another long layoff due to some back issues he’s dealt with all season. Melton’s return brings another point-of-attack defender who can cover guards and wings. He also brings capable three-point shooting and ball handling. Melton was a starter before he went down but would now slot as a key cog off the bench.

Buddy Hield has struggled during his time with the Sixers outside his first five games, missing many of his attempts from beyond the arc. With Embiid returning, the hope is that he could return to form, building a two-man game with the big fella.

Against the Pistons, he got extended minutes late as he began to knock down open looks, helping them increase the lead and bury the Pistons. He ended the night with 18 points, knocking down five threes. If he continues to knock down his open attempts, it will be hard for Nick Nurse to plan his rotation every night in the playoffs. No matter what happens, having guard depth of Maxey, Melton, Lowry, Hield, and Payne is a plus in the playoffs.