The Sixers were playing the Pistons, but they looked like their own toughest opponents. Not Andre Drummond. Not Tobias Harris. The Sixers were beating themselves.
The Sixers had been skating their way to a victory with a 16-point halftime lead. A second win of the season against the Pistons seemed easy enough.
Then the turnovers began to pile up in the third, and after committing nine, the Sixers found themselves tied at the end of the quarter. The Pistons outscored the Sixers 33-17 in the quarter while shooting 52.9 percent from the field. The Sixers didn’t make a trip to the line, contrasted with 11 for 13 shooting there by the Pistons in the third.
It was back to the drawing board in the fourth, where the Sixers had 12 minutes to try to reclaim everything they had worked for in the first half. They broke an 89-89 tie with seven minutes remaining and stayed ahead of the Pistons for the rest of the game. Drummond fouled out with 2:35 to go and less than a minute later, Dario Saric drew the entire arena to its feet for an eruption of cheer with a key three to push the lead to eight.
The Sixers improved to 13-9 while the Pistons stand at 14-8.
• The Joel Embiid vs. Drummond matchup didn’t turn out to be as heated as expected, but in the end, Embiid drew Drummond’s sixth foul and sent him to the bench for the final 2:35. Pistons reserve Eric Moreland actually committed one of the more physical fouls against Embiid. Sixers fans clearly were aware of Drummond’s comments about Embiid (see story). They booed him every time he touched the ball early on and gave him a standing ovation for fouling out. Embiid finished with 25 points and 10 rebounds, while Drummond had 14 points, 11 rebounds, six assists and five steals.
• Ben Simmons scored only five of the Sixers' 108 points. He attempted a mere six field goal attempts (2 for 6) and did not get to the line until the fourth. His previous season low was 10 points, having scored in double-digits every other game. Simmons still contributed with 10 rebounds and six assists. He picked up a Flagrant One foul in the fourth period after his elbow caught Stanley Johnson in the face (see video).
• Robert Covington overcame his three-point shooting skid (6 for 13). He drained a pair of treys in the first quarter, key in establishing rhythm for the remainder of the game. Covington, who had been above 50 percent this season, shot 9 for 36 in his previous three games.
• Harris and Reggie Jackson continue to have standout seasons for the Pistons. They combined for 52 points.
• Drummond’s free throw form is effective and certainly unique with a low squat before the release. But hey, it works for the 6-foot-11 big man (6 for 8 from the line). His average is up to 63.9 percent from 38.6 percent last season.
• Injury update: Markelle Fultz (shoulder) is receiving physical therapy in Kentucky. Justin Anderson (left leg) and T.J. McConnell (left shoulder) remain out. Jahlil Okafor was inactive again. Jon Leuer (left ankle) was out for the Pistons.
• The Sixers surprised Philadelphia basketball pioneer Sonny Hill with a tribute during halftime. Allen Iverson made a special appearance to escort Hill to center court for the presentation, which commemorated his nearly 60 years of involvement with the game. The Sixers announced the new Sonny Hill Legacy Award, established to recognize youth who show high character on and off the court.
Sixers honor Sonny Hill tonight. pic.twitter.com/eYZG02SEAu— Jessica Camerato (@JCameratoNBCS) December 3, 2017
• Phillies J.P. Crawford and Rhys Hoskins rang the ceremonial bell, donning personalized Sixers jerseys. They met and talked with Simmons before the game in the locker room.