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Feisty Embiid leads Sixers to dicey win over Pistons

Joel Embiid looked active and healthy in the Sixers’ tougher-than-it-had-to-be win over the Pistons Thursday.

Detroit Pistons v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

It was a perfect night for the winless Pistons to come to town.

After a sleepy start — and dicey finish — a feisty Joel Embiid powered the Sixers to a 110-102 win at the Wells Fargo Center Thursday night. The victory puts the Sixers back over .500 at 3-2. Detroit is now 0-4.

The Sixers won despite sloppy play, committing 20 turnovers. A trash-talking technical seemed to ignite Embiid and the crowd late in the first half. The Sixers took a six-point lead into the locker room before blowing the game open in the third. The Pistons made it interesting enough for the Sixers’ starters to check back in the game — likely inducing a lot of hyperventilating in the Delaware Valley — but order was (barely) restored.

Ben Simmons remains out for the Sixers for personal reasons. Doc Rivers mentioned pregame that Simmons has been at the team facility in Camden, New Jersey, the last three days, including Thursday afternoon’s shootaround. Shake Milton had a strong season debut after missing the Sixers’ first four games with a right ankle sprain.

The Sixers are back at it Saturday night in a rematch from last year’s postseason as they host Trae Young and the Atlanta Hawks.

Here are a few thoughts from tonight’s game:

First half

  • A lot of the focus tonight was understandably on Embiid’s knee. He looked good early and appeared to be a little more aggressive as a scorer. He had nine points and six rebounds in his first nine minutes of action. While the play below looked good, Embiid may have been grimacing after the landing.
  • The bench unit had its struggles offensively with Milton assimilating back into the lineup — though this game was far from an offensive clinic in general early on. When they moved the ball and got good looks they passed them up too often. With that said, Milton looked comfortable for a guy that hadn’t played yet this season.
  • Throughout most of the first half the winless Pistons just played with more purpose. The Sixers looked like they were sleepwalking, especially offensively. They committed nine turnovers, most of the unforced and careless variety. Detroit led for a good chunk of the half.
  • An Embiid offensive rebound followed by a dunk — and a technical for letting Luka Garza know about it — seemed to provide a little juice.

Embiid was huge to close the second quarter, finishing the first half with 19 points and 12 rebounds. His play was the main reason the Sixers were able to take a six-point lead into the locker room.

  • The point center plays from Embiid continue to be delightful. (Also nice to see Tyrese Maxey, who had nine points and five assists, stroke a corner three with confidence.)

Second half

  • It was more Embiid to start the third, who found himself in the middle of the action again. This time he (rightfully) took exception to a hard foul committed by Josh Jackson. There was likely some fear on the Sixers’ sideline that Embiid could pick up his second technical of the night, but ultimately it was just Jackson that got T’d up.
  • Shoutout to Harris for another solid night. He’s been the Sixers’ most reliable player through five games, much like he was last season. He played straight bully ball against the Pistons, often targeting second-year guard Killian Hayes on switches. He also played strong defense on former Sixer Jerami Grant.
  • The third quarter also featured one of Maxey’s best stretches as the team’s starting point guard — including hitting a pretty step-back three.

Maxey had 16 points and six assists on the night.

  • It seemed like Rivers rode his starters a little longer than usual in the third, perhaps hoping the bench unit would extend the lead enough to allow a few players to get some rest. When Embiid and Harris checked out, they had accounted for 39 of the Sixers’ 76 points.
  • A great flurry by the bench included some excellent defense and a three by Matisse Thybulle. A Furkan Korkmaz three stretched the lead to 18 early in the fourth. Milton is a somewhat polarizing figure to Sixers fans, but the second unit did seem a bit more organized with him running things. Milton finished with 13 points, five assists and just one turnover.
  • Unfortunately, the Pistons were able to cut the lead down to 14 after Andre Drummond fouled out midway through the fourth. Rivers decided to bring his starting five back in to close the game. The starters looked cold after a long break and likely believing their nights were over. Detroit was able to get within five.
  • Embiid finished with 30 points and 18 rebounds — and was serenaded with “MVP” chants while taking late-game free throws — while Harris had 17 points. You don’t get style points in the NBA, but this was as ugly a win as they come. Rivers really needs to figure out these late-game woes.

Jackson Frank and Jas Kang broke down the Sixers’ win in our latest podcast on the Liberty Ballers podcast network. You can listen to the full episode through one of the following links:

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