The Sixers played a depleted San Antonio Spurs lineup on Wednesday and allowed the visitors to hang in there until the end during a 112-106 victory. This time, the Sixers learned their lesson. They started out on fire, and never took their foot off the gas in Friday's convincing victory over the Pistons. Detroit wasn't nearly as depleted (or anywhere near as talented) as San Antonio, but the Pistons were without point guard Reggie Jackson, who missed his fourth straight game with a sprained right ankle. The Sixers jumped out to a 32-15 first quarter lead and never were in danger the rest of the game. The Sixers got 20 points in the paint in the first quarter alone, many coming from drives by Ben Simmons and either he would finish or dish off. The entire Sixers team was aggressive in attacking the basket and putting pressure on the Pistons defense.
After scoring 26 points Wednesday, Simmons again set the tone for the Sixers with 11 first quarter points, three assists, and no turnovers. As mentioned last game, Simmons has been aggressive recently attacking the basket. What makes him so dangerous is that he is adept at finishing with either hand. And defenders don't know if he will use his left or right hand to finish. Actually, Simmons will often decide at the last second which hand to use. "I try to read the defense and see what they are trying to do, it depends," he said before the game. If Simmons isn't sure until the last second, imagine how difficult it is for defenders. An example came early in the game when the left-handed Simmons drove to his left and then laid it up with his right hand against Avery Bradley, the Pistons best defender. The Pistons started 6-foot-7 Reggie Bullock on Simmons and he was no match for the Sixers 6-10 point guard. Even on switches, when the 6-2 Bradley was on Simmons, the Sixers rookie still had his way. Simmons has never lacked confidence but near the midway point of his rookie season, he is playing with the attitude that nobody can stop him and he's proving that to be true.
Few big men play Sixers center Joel Embiid as physically as Detroit center Andre Drummond. When defending Embiid, Drummond would put his chest in Embiid's, not giving him a chance to use his quickness. At 6-11 and 279 pounds, the pounding Drummond administers can wear down a player. To Embiid's credit, he didn't try to force the issue. He wasn't open to take as many jumpers because Drummond wouldn't give him the room, but Embiid was able to still make a variety of shots. He blended in, instead of demanding to take over, scoring 14 points as the Sixers led 62-32 at intermission. One other note on Dummond – why was he playing so frequently on the high post on offense? He is a low-post scorer. Detroit should have pounded the ball to him down low and try to get Embiid in foul trouble. That happened infrequently in the first half. One other question – with the Sixers up by 40 points in the last minute of the third quarter, why was Embiid still in the game, especially with his injury history? He didn't play in the fourth quarter and ended with 23 points and nine rebounds.
Sixers forward Dario Saric has been a much more confident player recently from three-point territory. Against the Pistons he hit 2 of 4 three-pointers and is now 16 for 26 in his last five games. Saric and Simmons have nice chemistry. When Saric is open, he knows Simmons will get him the ball. And recently, Saric has proven to be an effective catch-and-shoot player from distance.
Taking care of the ball