Just like Friday night, when Joel Embiid rested for the first time this season, the stars not on the floor were as big a story as those on it Monday night in the Sixers’ 116-102 win over the Pistons.
Jimmy Butler, fresh off back-to-back 38 performances, left in the first half with a groin strain and did not return, while Blake Griffin, who had averaged 39.7 points in his last three games against the Sixers, rested.
On the floor, the Sixers weathered a number of Detroit runs to maintain the lead they built in the first quarter, pulling away late to win their season series against the Pistons, 3-1. The Sixers are now 19-9 on the season.
• Every Embiid-Andre Drummond matchup is a must-watch, but this one was low on drama relative to the trash talking and general animosity we’ve come to expect from their meetings. You may recall Embiid scored a Wells Fargo Center record 32 first-half points his last time out against Drummond, and afterward said of Drummond and Zaza Pachulia, “I kicked both of their a--.”
Drummond did pick up a late technical foul with 3:30 left in the fourth quarter for complaining to the officials.
Embiid, who missed practice Sunday with a migraine, has been in the headlines lately because of his frustration with his offensive role along with his three-game “slump,” if you could call it that.
Though Embiid made his first shot, a three-pointer from the right wing with Drummond’s hand in his face, that jumper didn’t foreshadow Embiid returning to his early-season offensive dominance.
Embiid had 24 points on 6 for 16 shooting and eight rebounds and was a game-high plus-30. Drummond finished with 21 points and 16 rebounds.
• As he’s made a habit of doing this season, Ben Simmons started out looking to score, using his size advantage to dunk on the 6-foot-5 Bruce Brown inside and his speed advantage to blow by Jon Leuer on the perimeter. He also broke free in transition on a couple occasions, which is never good news for Sixers opponents.
Without Griffin, the Pistons just didn’t have any defenders who could counter Simmons physically or athletically. Credit Simmons for capitalizing on his edge early; he had 11 points on 5 for 5 shooting in the first quarter.
Simmons finished with 18 rebounds, 10 rebounds and seven assists. His 2 for 9 free throw shooting was a notable blemish on his night.
• After shooting 37.4 percent from the floor and 34.1 percent from three-point range in his first 20 games, Mike Muscala may have found his shot against the Pistons. He went for 18 points Friday in Detroit in arguably his best performance as a Sixer and had 10 points on 3 for 6 shooting, four rebounds and two assists Monday night.
*screams*— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) December 11, 2018
While Amir Johnson started Friday with Embiid out, it’s clear Muscala is the Sixers’ best option to back up Embiid. As head coach Brett Brown said pregame, Muscala is “not bashful” about shooting the ball, and, though he has his limitations, his defense hasn’t been bad recently.
• The Sixers’ bench still looks pretty thin, but a couple players outside Muscala knocked down key shots Monday. In one game, T.J. McConnell doubled his number of made three-pointers for the season (from two to four).
A good ole four point teamwork play.— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) December 11, 2018
McConnell for three, Embiid with the bonus shot as the Sixers hold a 71-59 lead. pic.twitter.com/EpBYCiORNU
Furkan Korkmaz had a big third quarter, posting 10 of his career-high 18 points in the period to help the Sixers stem a Pistons run.
FURK DOING WORK.— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) December 11, 2018
He nails a tough one from beyond for the Sixers to go up, 71-63! pic.twitter.com/f1aXQlTNI0
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