3 Observations: Sixers Punish Undermanned Pistons Behind Dominant Performances From Embiid, Harden

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia 76ers came away with as easy a win as could be asked for. They defeated the Detroit Pistons 147-116 on Tuesday night at the Wells Fargo Center.

Joel Embiid, after missing three games with left foot soreness, returned to the lineup with a new look. He finished with 36 points on 12-of-20 shooting to go with 11 rebounds and two blocks in just 24 minutes. James Harden recorded his second consecutive triple-double, totaling 16 points, 12 rebounds, 15 assists and two steals. The Sixers shot a red hot 60.7% from the field and out-rebounded the Pistons 55-26.

The Pistons were heavily undermanned. Isaiah Stewart was a late scratch with left shoulder soreness, resulting in former Sixers Nerlens Noel getting the start at center. Marvin Bagley III, Bojan Bogdanovic, Cade Cunningham and Jalen Duran were also all out of the lineup.

The Sixers move to 25-15 on the season. Their next matchup is on Thursday at home against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Here are three observations from the win:

Sixers get off to fast start

The Sixers had their fully healthy starting lineup against Detroit, marking just their seventh game all together this season. It did not take long to see how potent this unit can be. Tobias Harris kicked off the scoring, knocking down a mid-range jumper at the end of the shot clock. He had the hot hand in the first few possessions, scoring the Sixers’ first seven points. It took just over three minutes for the Sixers to build up a 14-5 lead. They connected on six of their first seven shots from the field.

One thing the Sixers looked to take advantage of early and often was the Embiid-Noel matchup. Noel got the early edge, blocking an Embiid pull-up jumper and drawing a charge a few plays later. However, the momentum quickly swung back in Embiid’s favor. He connected on a handful of jumpers, including a 3-pointer in rhythm from the top of the key. The Sixers effectively utilized the pick-and-roll between Embiid and Harden throughout the first quarter. Noel and the Pistons seemingly elected to give Embiid those mid-range jumpers and live with the results. Embiid, Harden and Harris combined to score 23 of the Sixers’ 27 points in the opening quarter.

Embiid checked out of the game for the first time with 3:30 remaining in the first quarter. Montrezl Harrell came into the game and continued his recent stretch of positive play. He got involved early by dishing out a good pass from the post to a cutting Matisse Thybulle for a layup. A few minutes later, he powered through a defender for a crafty hook shot. However, not everything was sunshine and rainbows for Harrell. He committed two turnovers and two fouls in the first half.

What became clear in the first quarter continued into the second: Detroit had no answers for Embiid. After an overall successful stint from Harrell, Embiid checked back in with 7:16 left in the second quarter. He continued to put his imprint on the game, getting into the paint at will and bringing the Philly crowd to a roar with a pair of dunks. Between his mid-range game and ability to get into the paint, he is a handful to attempt to slow down. The Pistons made the mistake of attempting to go small against Embiid at some points in the third quarter.

Another balanced Harden performance

Harden needed no time at all to impact the game in a flurry of positive ways. He scored seven points, including multiple finishes around the rim, in the opening quarter. After going through a brief shooting slump, it is safe to say he has broken through. He also continued to orchestrate the offense with ease, dishing out five assists in the opening quarter. A plethora of those assists came on the aforementioned pick-and-roll game between Harden and Embiid.

The 33-year-old’s ability to fill the stat sheet with such ease is incredible to watch. He finished the game shooting a crisp 6-of-7 from the field, although that was far from the most impressive piece of his performance. After taking a triple-double into halftime in their previous game (also against the Pistons), it took him until 5:22 remaining in the third quarter to record his second consecutive triple-double.

Harden’s backcourt mate Tyrese Maxey continued to get his legs back under him after missing over a month due to a left foot fracture. It took him until the second quarter to get on the board, but once he did the points came in bunches. He scored seven points in a two-minute span early in the second quarter. His jumper was not falling, but he still had his incredible ability to finish around the rim. He capped his night off with a pair of and-one layups that lifted the Philly crowd to their feet. He finished with 16 points on 6-of-11 shooting.

Coasting to the finish

From the opening tip, the Sixers had the game well in hand. The Pistons managed to keep the game relatively close, heading into the second quarter down just seven points. However, the Sixers pulled away with a 15-0 run midway through the second quarter. They went into halftime holding a 22-point lead despite committing 12 turnovers.

The game was blown open even more after the Sixers went on a 21-1 run midway through the third quarter. The Sixers, up 99-61, were able to take all their starters out of the game with 3:20 remaining in the third quarter.

The Sixers were able to empty out their bench for the remainder of the game in a case of old fashioned load management. With a West Coast road trip coming up for the Sixers beginning on Saturday, getting the starters some extra rest could prove very beneficial.

Some standout performances included Paul Reed (six points, three rebounds and three blocks in 10 minutes) and Jaden Springer. It was Springer’s sixth appearance this season. He finished with 10 points, two rebounds and a steal in seven minutes.