PHILADELPHIA — The start the Philadelphia 76ers’ first unit got off to tonight was so good, they did not need to be around for the finish.
All five starters scored in double figures for the Sixers as the team opened up a 15-2 lead and never let up in a 114-78 demolition of the Detroit Pistons on Friday, Philadelphia’s fourth consecutive win and its fifth in its last six outings. Joel Embiid led six players overall who scored in double digits with 23 points in just 24:31 of game time.
In fact, none of the Sixers players played more than 25 minutes tonight, as Embiid, Ben Simmons, Dario Saric, Robert Covington and JJ Redick all sat out the entirety of the fourth quarter after Philadelphia had built a 97-61 lead after the first 36 minutes. In the first 12 minutes, it was Simmons who led the charge, scoring 11 points and dishing out three assists as the Sixers’ lead was 17 at the end of the first stanza (32-15).
“I thought our defense was excellent, I thought individuals stepped up,” said Sixers head coach Brett Brown. “Ben [Simmons] starting the game out the way he started the game out, he came out and made as dominant a statement as I’ve seen him start an NBA game. But collectively, it was an excellent team effort.”
Interestingly enough, Brown attributed Simmons’ hyper-aggressive start to his recently improved foul shooting; Simmons, who has been the recipient of the “Hack-a-Shaq” treatment in multiple games this season, is only shooting 55.7 percent from the line this season, but was coming off a 10-for-15 performance from the line in Wednesday’s win over the San Antonio Spurs.
In the last three games, Simmons is 18-for-27 from the line (67 percent), including hitting his only free throw tonight.
“I think some of [his fast start tonight] needs to be associated with his confidence going to the line,” Brown said. “I think that when people aren’t confident shooting free throws, it can’t help but drip-feed into your aggression on trying to get there, and I think the better he feels about his free throws, the more physical he’s going to play. I thought that at the start, he was on a mission. He physically was as impressive as I’ve seen him going at bodies and inviting contact and he really came out and set the tempo.”
By the end of the game, Simmons, who just played 23:01, finished with 19 points, nine assists, four rebounds, two steals and two blocks.
“It feels great to come out and not play the fourth [quarter] just because I want to see everybody in the game and doing well,” Simmons said. “I think that was a great credit to us staying on them. We played well as a team and were very consistent.”
Though Detroit (20-17) has exceeded expectations so far this season, it has lost all three games against the 76ers, with this defeat by far the most lopsided.
“There was no defensive resistance and we didn’t rebound at all,” said Pistons head coach Stan Van Gundy. “We can’t rebound with this team. We haven’t been able to keep them off the glass. They destroy us on the glass.”
Frustrations boiled over for the Pistons during the blowout, with Van Gundy and center Andre Drummond both receiving technical fouls. Forward Tobias Harris led Detroit with 14 points.
Philadelphia’s challenging start to the New Year – which started with facing the Spurs and Pistons and will include two match-ups with Eastern Conference pace-setters Boston and games against Toronto and Milwaukee, all by the 20th of this month – continues across the Atlantic, as its next game will be against the Celtics at the 02 Arena in London next Thursday.
“I was in London this summer,” said Embiid after the game. “That became one of my favorite cities to go to. I want to go out there and put on a show. I got a bunch of friends over there to and I’m excited.”