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Sixers turn in ugly performance in loss to lowly Pistons

The Sixers had zero energy all night, culminating in an embarrassing fourth-quarter effort in Detroit.

Philadelphia 76ers v Detroit Pistons Photo by Chris Schwegler/NBAE via Getty Images

Ew.

Despite holding a lead for most of the night, the Sixers coasted for far too long, resulting in a 102-94 loss to the Pistons, the second-worst team in the East, at Little Caesar’s Arena Thursday night. The Sixers lost the fourth quarter 29-15. It’s their third straight loss, dropping them to 46-30 on the season.

The Sixers are still well within striking distance of the one seed, but if they actually have interest in getting it, it would behoove them to take advantage of their soft schedule.

Here are a few thoughts from Thursday night:

First quarter

  • Funky start. Plenty of pace but not many points. Halfway through the quarter the Sixers held a 12-6 lead after a James Harden step-back three. Not exactly thrilling.
  • Both teams playing sloppy — Pistons because they’re not very good and Sixers because there just isn’t much juice. Detroit is switching everything and the Sixers aren’t making them pay nearly enough.
  • Joel Embiid just doing whatever he wants. When Isaiah Stewart checked out, the Pistons used Marvin Bagley III on Embiid. It went as you would’ve expected.
  • This is a fair night to use lineups with no Harden or Embiid. DeAndre Jordan is your backup center again.
  • Not a very exciting first quarter. Embiid with a game-high 11 points and six boards. Sixers with a 25-20 lead.

Second quarter

  • More sloppy play from the Sixers. I’ve seen more energy at a dentist’s office.
  • Harden kind of sat back in the first quarter, but he’s asserting himself much more in the second without Embiid on the floor. It does look like one of the duo will be on the floor for most of the night.
  • Whoa, small-ball lineup from Doc! Tobias Harris and Georges Niang your tallest players. Sixers need some kind of jolt. Detroit managed to get it within one.
  • Harden with a step-back and-one three. He’s really had his patented shot going the last two games.
  • Cade Cunningham is the real deal. He’s sort of Luka-ish with his size, strength and patience in dissecting the defense. That patience has served him well against Matisse Thybulle who’s been far too antsy defending the rookie.
  • Another nice start from Harris. He’s hit a pair of threes and joined Embiid and Harden in double figures.
  • Embiid settling for midrange shots and not connecting. The Pistons are starting to get out in transition and make the Sixers pay for poor possessions. The Sixers built the lead back up to seven, but Detroit whittled it back down to one with 3:31 remaining.
  • Obligatory ridiculous Embiid highlight:
  • Give Dwane Casey this: his team plays hard. The Sixers lead 54-50 based purely on the talent disparity. Embiid (18) and Harden (14) are dominating, but neither player has necessarily had their best half. The Sixers did not get a single point from the bench. Cunningham had 14 for the Pistons.

Third quarter

  • Sixers showing Cunningham some different looks. They’re switching more and Embiid has been flashing harder on the pick-and-roll.
  • It’s been a slog, but having the luxury to just dump the ball to Embiid is nice. Not much the Pistons have been able to do against him.
  • Shake Milton has just been solid recently. He’s not doing anything spectacular, but he’s taking open shots (he had the only bench points through three quarters on a three) and not making mistakes defensively. Milton and Danny Green looking like themselves would be huge for the postseason run.
  • Harden appeared to get banged up on a drive late in the quarter. He had to come out of the game for the final possession of the period. Not sure if it was the hamstring, but it did seem like it was something with his lower body.
  • Embiid just played the entire third quarter, the only reason the Sixers are taking a 79-73 lead into the fourth. He has 33 points, 15 rebounds and three assists.

Fourth quarter

  • Harden on the floor to start the fourth. Phew.
  • Some news that may shock you: the Sixers are relinquishing their lead while Embiid is on the bench. Jordan is a minus-9 in just under 10 minutes. I have no answers for you. Doc seemed pretty adamant pregame that the Sixers are going to ride or die with Jordan as their backup five (barring a team going small). Buckle up.
  • Oh, the Pistons are within one. It’s 85-84 with 6:43 left.
  • And the Pistons take the lead with under six minutes left.
  • As great as Embiid has been, he’s been sloppy with the ball most of the night. He’s up to six turnovers. But it’s a little hard to crush him for that considering he’s the reason they’ve been up for most of the night.
  • It’s been a struggle for Harden in the second half. He’s 4 of 13 on the night and seems to be laboring.
  • The Sixers are wilting down the stretch. Just multiple ugly turnovers and defensive breakdowns. This is the worst fourth quarter we’ve seen them play all season. Cunningham is carving them up.
  • The Sixers just lost the fourth quarter to the Pistons 29-15. That simply cannot happen. They just coasted the whole night and it came back to bite them. They didn’t have the effort level to overcome their backup center situation. There were silver linings the last two games. There’s none here. This is embarrassing.