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Sixers-Pistons Recap: This Can’t Be Life

Only 20 more of these left, folks.

NBA: Detroit Pistons at Philadelphia 76ers Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Look, there's no shame in saying that you didn't watch -- nor even considered tuning in to -- this game. Sports are designed specifically as a distraction from the modern dystopia that is our world, and the Sixers in its current state are decidedly insufficient in this regard. And especially now: our starting center is hurt, the backup has been traded for a stack of magazines and an old compass, the backup to the backup is also hurt, and the backup to the backup to the backup hurt himself mid-game. We get the flash-in-the-pan moments here and there, sure — such as beating New York and Washington with the season’s presumed three best players either street-clothed or working in eastern Texas — but we’ve been conditioned to only recognize them as such. Almost three quarters through the season, it will neither be an interesting nor enjoyable home stretch.

But leave it to Dario Saric -- he of the "never coming over" variety -- to deliver a glimmer of hope in an atrocious 30-point dismantling. Filling out the scoreboard yet again with 19/6/8 and a block, it’s easy to label him as the quintessential glue guy. But glue implies stickiness, whereas Dario is more comparable to a pinball machine knocker.

The game simply breathes easier whenever Saric takes the floor, his presence keeping the pace humming and the ball pinging. Dario’s game has evolved with urgency despite appearing uncomfortable with the new NBA speed at the season’s start, already making for a better center than Jahlil Okafor and a better point guard than Sergio Rodriguez. He compensates for a notable disadvantage in length and overwhelming athleticism with an undying energy and impeccable court awareness. As long as he is on a basketball court, the game is worth the watch:

But the Pistons, still clawing for an early playoff berth, weren’t going to toy around tonight — especially with known Andre Drummond kryptonite Jahlil Okafor absent. Detroit managed to find advantages at seemingly every facet of the game: four Pistons logged 20 or more points, Andre Drummond turned the Philadelphia frontcourt into bowling pins, and the 12-turnover difference between the teams effectively sealed the game by the third quarter. The Sixers made a valiant effort with the ball, collecting a promising 30 assists and 14 triples along the way, but the margin for error is miniscule with so many star players missing. Philadelphia simply doesn’t have the firepower to fill all the cracks when the other team is on its game.

Some notes:

  • Nik Stauskas messed around and put together one of his more brilliant games for the Sixers, draining two-thirds of his attempts in addition to five boards, two dimes, and two steals. But a thing to keep an eye on: one of the bigger draws to Sauce’s game exiting college was his ability as a secondary playmaker, and he still has a propensity to ignore his surroundings. Too often will he drive off the pick-and-roll, draw a double team, and yet completely ignore the availability of the open man as he pummels his way to the basket. He’s made strides in the area of finishing since joining the team last season, but not enough to warrant looking off the screener every time.
  • I both consistently and deservedly draw the ire of the comment section for not putting T.J. McConnell’s name in this space enough, but what more is there to say at this point? He’s incredibly adept as a playmaker, his defense is some of the best you’ll find at his position, and his mid-range jumper off the screen is good as gold. T.J. was uncharacteristically sloppy with the ball in this one (four turnovers to his eight assists), but he’s more than earned his keep as at least the Sixers’ long-term backup point guard.
  • Marc Zumoff and Alaa Abdelnaby could make a funeral interesting, and their chemistry has ballooned into what makes for a beautiful partnership over this last year and change. Never, ever take these two for granted.
  • Sofoklis Schortsanitis is still a Sixer, per ESPN, but still couldn’t find a minute in a game where the Sixers were bereft of size. C’mon, Brett! Quit sleeping and give our guy Schort some burn.

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