What started with verbal jabs on Twitter and in the media ended with a hug.
“I love having fun on social media,” Embiid said. “He does too. So we’re just young kids having fun out there.”
It wasn’t easy to tell which way this matchup would go. Following their first game in October, Embiid commented Drummond doesn’t play defense (see story), which prompted Drummond to tweet “See you Dec 2nd.”
Embiid then said Drummond can’t shoot, and Drummond snapped back by noting Embiid’s playing restrictions.
In response to Embiid, Drummond told me, "I mean you can't really have a conversation with a man who can't play a back-to-back... I've been playing for six years and I've missed maybe 4-5 games. So when he can play a whole season without taking a rest, he can come talk to me."— Johnny Kane (@JohnnyKaneFSD) December 2, 2017
Back and forth. Back and forth.
But the extent of their hostility turned out to be Embiid working toward fouling out Drummond, which happened with 2:35 to play. Six fouls, no spat, and a matchup between a 23- and 24-year old to watch for seasons to come.
“Before this game, I told my teammates that he was going to foul out and he did,” Embiid said. “But it’s all fun. At the end of the game, we hugged it out.”
Embiid recorded his 12th double-double with 25 points (7 for 21 from the field) and 10 rebounds in 32 minutes during his 50th career game.
Drummond was a menace across the floor. He posted 14 points (4 for 8 from the field), 11 rebounds, six assists, five steals and a block in 35 minutes. Drummond hit 6 of 8 free throw attempts and was the only Pistons starter on the positive side of the plus-minus.
"It's never hard feelings,” Drummond said. “When was the last time you seen two real big men go at it? It was just a great matchup, I look forward to playing him again. Obviously a hell of a player. I have nothing negative to say about him.”
Drummond and Embiid will go against each other another two times this regular season. They could face off in the playoffs if the Sixers and Pistons continue at this pace, and they end up being selected as All-Stars given how well they are performing.
The first two meetings of this season are only the beginning of how closely the bigs likely will be linked throughout their careers. And so far, they're all for pushing each other in this competition.