The Philadelphia 76ers have been playing much better lately, going into tonight's game 6-9 in their last 15 games after a 1-30 start.
The Detroit Pistons found out how much the Sixers have improved with the additions of Ish Smith and Mike D'Antoni, but still did enough to win 110-97, improving to 25-21 on the season.
After a first quarter they'd rather forget, the Pistons had arguably their best fourth quarter of the season, outscoring the Sixers 36-18.
Andre Drummond's poor interior defense enabled the Sixers to score 22 of their first 25 points in the paint (and the Pistons scored just 12 points in the first quarter), but he posted one of his better games of the new year with a dominant second half.
Dre finished with 25 points and 18 rebounds, with nine of those rebounds coming on the offensive end. He physically overmatched Philly's skinny bigs to pose a huge threat around the rim, and even hit seven of his 12 free throws.
Reggie Jackson hit a couple huge three-pointers for Detroit, going an impressive 4-for-5 from three-point range. He put up 27 points on just 18 shots, giving him 56 points in his last two games. Pistons not named Reggie Jackson went 1-for-16 from three-point range, so it was impressive that the team still grinded out the win.
Stanley Johnson had a nice game off the bench with 18 points and Aron Baynes continued his recent stretch of strong play with 12 points in just 12 minutes.
Nerlens Noel and Jerami Grant proved problematic for Drummond and Ersan Ilyasova to deal with, repeatedly finishing lobs and cleaning up messes around the basket. Noel had 20 points and seven rebounds and Grant contributed a career-high 21 points and eight rebounds. The two only missed seven shots between them, and Noel went 9-for-11.
Sixers season savior Ish Smith created a lot of the looks for Grant and Noel, but was held largely in check by Jackson as he was just 6-of-18 from the field with six turnovers.
The Sixers this year are a young team that struggles to close out games, much like the Pistons did in years past. It didn't hurt that the Pistons ramped up their effort, especially on the defensive end, in the final quarter. The Pistons and hit a couple big shots to ice the game in the fourth to make it look like a more comfortable win than it was.
The Pistons host the very newsworthy Cleveland Cavaliers Friday at 7:30 before heading on a short road trip.
- This post will not contain any hot takes on the Sixers and tanking, I can promise you that much.
- Andre has been sleepwalking through games lately, but I think he can be huge in this game if he wants. He's way too quick for Okafor and way too strong for Noel.
- Graphic flashes up that the bench has hit 45% of their three-pointers over the last four games. I'd love to believe there's something to this besides randomness.
- Looks like Philly is opting not to start Okafor and Noel together, which is probably smart. Noel's defensive talents are wasted standing around guarding Ilyasova and it kills their spacing on offense.
- Check that, Okafor is out with the flu.
- Andre and KCP both going up for the uncontested rebound and knock it out of bounds. I know DeAndre Jordan has publicly talked about how he hates it when his guard teammates do that.
- Good news is Andre looks fairly engaged. Has barely missed getting the roll on a couple offensive rebounds.
- Ilyasova cannot stay in front of Jerami Grant. Nice thing for the Sixers about Okafor being out is Grant can go up against slower guys.
- From what I've gathered this season the Sixers often jump on teams early (like they're doing to the Pistons right now) and fail to close it out, so I guess we'll bank on this. 10-4 Philly.
- Sixers have 12 of their 14 points in the paint. Andre is over-helping and they're getting beat by easy lobs and putbacks. Ish Smith has made a huge difference for them as a guy who can actually be a threat driving and dishing.
- They start bumping "Give it Away" by the Chili Peppers at the Palace and the Pistons turn it over. Maybe they should play it while the other team has the ball?
- We've got a TJ McConnell sighting. Reggie should be able to dominate him.
- Andre's really gotta stop helping off his man on McConnell's "drives." How is he going to hurt you?
- They might have something with this Richaun Holmes guy. At the very least, great energy.
- Pistons finish with a sterling 12 first-quarter points.
- SVG has told his team the Sixers aren't a total joke anymore lately, right? The team looks dazed, like the Sixers woke them up in the middle of the night and challenged them to a basketball game.
- Nice job by Stanley taking advantage of the mismatch of 6'0 Canaan and using the screen.
- Jennings drove right into three guys.
- Stanley is so much better blowing past slower guys instead of trying to post and iso against smaller guys. Tried to back Canaan down and still faded way away to avoid contact.
- Yet another awful example of Ilyasova completely ignoring the right defensive play to try and draw an offensive foul. Just let Grant post you up and shoot the brick, don't flop and give him an easy layup.
- I think the Sixers' length is bothering the Pistons defensively. They're not a good passing team to begin with, and even the simple pass right now is bothered.
- Wow. Sixers have 22 of their 25 points in the paint and the other three were free throws.
- I wonder how much Drummond is going to play in this game. Getting outplayed by Baynes again.
- Hollis Thompson hits Philly's first three, that's 28-20. First points outside the paint. I don't think Stauskas has been in since he started and played a couple minutes there.
- I was one of the bigger Aron Baynes skeptics and maybe still am. Can't deny that he's been quite effective, though. He's a pest, he plays hard and actually does seem to have a nose for the ball. Pistons within three.
- Well, there's a 7-0 run by the Sixers. Covington gets fouled on a three and then an offensive rebound leads to another one.
- Hey, an example of Andre being aggressive!
- Timeout Philly, 38-31 with 2:30 to go in the half. Have to credit Noel and the Sixers' defense here.
- Two big plays by Stanley Johnson - the offensive rebound and then a three to bring Detroit within two.
- Pistons could erase a lot of the bitter taste of this first half by staying close enough to have a great second half and still win comfortably? I guess?
- Reggie banks in the three at the buzzer!! 45-44 Sixers. Could be a loooooot worse.
- First lead of the game for the Pistons I think? Actually never mind, Blaha says we had one real early.
- Wow, Nik Stauskas is going to the free throw line. That'll be going in the diary.
- Reggie can really bail the Pistons out with his patience seeking out his own shot. Could see him taking over similarly to the Utah game.
- There's KCP's first field goal of the game. Rough couple trips for Stauskas getting the ball dumped to him with two seconds left on the clock and then committing the dumb foul on the other end.
- Probably the first jumper I've seen Noel hit all year. Then he gets the big dunk and Reggie dribbles off his foot on the other end.
- Love the applause for Andre hitting a free throw. Good that the Pistons were able to respond to Ish Smith's dunk (he can dunk?).
- Andre is playing Noel way too close. He comes out and Thompson cuts and scores. He can sag off Noel so far if he wants to stand by the three-point line.
- Feel like the Pistons' bench has barely played. 42 combined minutes with four guys. Might see a bench-heavy unit early in the fourth.
- Andre's gonna end up with a really nice statistical day. I would feel better about that if his interior defense in the first quarter wasn't so horrendous.
- With how expensive League Pass is I would expect it not to freeze every ten seconds. I'm falling behind. Gotta move back to Michigan.
- 10-3 run by Philly. They are hitting shots. The Pistons are missing shots. I'm of the belief that pretty much any three is a good shot, but Stanley just pulling up and trying to shoot over people is not my favorite.
- Does Blaha never call Marcus Morris just "Morris"? As far as I can hear it's always "Marcus Morris" or "Marcus." Does he think people might forget which Morris is on the Pistons?
- Noel and Grant are a combined 15-of-22 from the field.
- If I were Baynes I'd seriously consider getting a restraining order against Greg Kelser.
- My conclusion from this game is basically that Mike D'Antoni is a voodoo magician.
- Tie game...Pistons with the ball, and Reggie sinks the wide-open corner three.
- Drummond's really gotta stop helping on the drives of guards that can't finish. Reggie has Canaan locked up, he's very unlikely to score, you shouldn't be needlessly doubling and giving up the easy putback to Noel.
- Great defense by the Pistons. Despite my last quibble, they've locked the Sixers down and are forcing wild passes and shots. Good timeout by Brett Brown.
- What a horrible possession. Didn't get anyone moving until eight seconds left on the clock and it ends with Reggie getting blocked by Stauskas.
- I feel like I've been ripping on Drummond a lot, but he's been fantastic in this quarter. Nine offensive rebounds total even though the Sixers are putting three guys up to rebound against him. 22 points and 18 rebounds right now.
- Hoo boy. Intentional fouling. At least there are only 37 seconds left for them to do this.
- Not exactly the most statistically strong strategy there by Philly. If they were committed to fouling Drummond, that shouldn't change if he hits the first two.
- Kelser suggest flipping the rule so that you can only intentionally foul in the last two minutes. Better than what we have now, but I'd still rather see an outright ban.
- Reggie hits the three, and that probably does it. Ten-point lead with 93 seconds to go.