Joel Embiid could effortlessly do anything he wanted on the floor. Emphasis on anything, and emphasis on effortlessly. He finished the night with 41 points and 11 rebounds. He could power through defenders, shoot over defenders, and create easy looks for himself all night.
The game of basketball is pretty simple. Good teams can defend without fouling. Good teams can make a high percentage of its open 3s. A good team limits opponents to one shot down the floor. A good team’s locker room leader doesn’t get himself ejected when the team is already shorthanded.
The Detroit Pistons couldn’t do any of that. They are not a good team.
The Pistons committed 22 fouls. Philly was able to turn that into 28 points from the free-throw line. Twelve of those came courtesy of Embiid. Philadelphia hit 36% of its threes while Detroit could manage just 30%. The Pistons also gave up 20 2nd-chance points, turning good defensive stops into extra possessions for Philly, who then found an open look, often from deep or at the rim.
The rebounding disadvantage negated a number of possessions that forced tough Philly shots, and Monty Williams said the Pistons can’t afford to have such a lopsided rebounding night.
[Rebounding has] been a point of emphasis for 24 games and even in the preseason. We have to be a team that finishes a possession with a rebound. We drill it, we technique it. We talk about it all the time. There were times where we played pretty good defense, got a stop and couldn’t get the board.”
Perhaps worst of all, on a night when the Pistons were down Jalen Duren and Marvin Bagley, Isaiah Stewart delivered a terrible performance, let his frustrations boil over, and got himself ejected in the final moments of the third quarter after a hard screen. Wiseman became the team’s only center, and he fouled out with 9:47 remaining, and the Pistons were forced to play Kevin Knox and Isaiah Livers as their supposed big men.
Stewart is a player who the team, both players and executives, has championed as a lock room leader and the heart of a young team.
“We have to be smarter in those situations when certain guys are going to do whatever to provoke you. You have to be more poised and show a level of experience in that situation,” Williams said of Stewart.
The only Pistons who were able to generate offense were Bojan Bogdanovic (an efficient 33 points on 19 shots), and Cade Cunningham (on an inefficient 21 points on 17 shots). Only Ausar Thompson (10 points) and James Wiseman (10 points) were able to join them in double figures.
Williams acknowledged the team’s extended shooting struggles, especially from deep, are having an impact on the young players.
“Everybody plays this game to score. When you’re a kid, you’re on a court, in your back yard, empty court, you’re shooting the ball, you’re not defending a shadow. Everybody wants to score. so when you don’t it can be deflating,” he said.
The loss was Detroit’s 21st consecutive defeat, and there is no reason to expect things will be any different when the team travels to face these same Sixers on Friday.
NBA infamy looms with the NBA-record 26-game losing streak seriously in sight. I’m not sure the Pistons have any answers to avoid making history.