Joel Embiid recorded a ninth straight performance with at least 30 points Wednesday night.
He reached that number on a put-back hoop with 0.5 seconds left … in the second quarter.
Embiid again didn't have to play the fourth and the Sixers cruised past a vastly inferior opponent, notching a 129-111 win over the Pistons at Little Caesars Arena.
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Embiid posted 41 points on 14-for-24 shooting, 11 rebounds and five assists.
For the Pistons, Bojan Bogdanovic scored 33 points and Cade Cunningham had 21. Detroit’s Jalen Duren, Marvin Bagley III and Monte Morris were sidelined.
The Sixers improved to 16-7 with a fourth straight win and the Pistons dropped to 2-22 with a 21st consecutive loss.
The two teams will play again on Friday in Philadelphia. Here are observations on the Sixers' victory in Detroit:
Embiid elite at the line, impossible for Pistons to handle
Just as they had in Monday's win vs. the Wizards, the Sixers scored over and over again to the start the game.
Embiid drew a foul against Isaiah Stewart on the Sixers’ first possession, and the Detroit big man soon sat with two personals. Tobias Harris was also aggressive early, driving in for a fast-break layup and posting seven points over the first four minutes.
The Sixers did hit a mini-speed bump, missing a few mid-range jumpers and allowing Detroit to attack in transition. A Bogdanovic and-one layup capped a 9-0 Pistons run and cut the Sixers’ lead to 16-15.
Still, Detroit was profoundly overmatched vs. Embiid, especially without its usual starting center in Duren. Embiid was merciless in his total dominance, easily forcing fouls from the elbow and nail and sinking a “Why not?” three-pointer from the wing.
Embiid in the first quarter recorded 19 points and eight rebounds, shooting 9 for 9 at the foul line. He’s made 88.4 percent of his free throws so far this season, which would be a new career-best mark.
“At some point in my career, I want to become a 90 percent free throw shooter and just knock them down every time, because I get there so many times,” Embiid said in 2021.
That’s not out of the question this season. A third consecutive scoring title obviously appears very feasible as well.
Productive outings for Oubre and Harris
The Sixers kept a 10-man rotation and had Tyrese Maxey play his typical minutes alongside the second unit to begin the second quarter.
Maxey had a rare rough shooting game. He fell to 0 for 5 from the floor with a missed second-period layup and the Pistons went on a 7-0 spurt.
Kelly Oubre Jr. replaced much of Maxey’s expected production, though. In his fourth game back from a fractured rib, Oubre looked sharp and full of confidence. A heat-check three early in the second gave him 11 points on 4-for-4 shooting.
Embiid’s return to the floor immediately halted the Pistons’ second-quarter momentum. He remained a huge threat whenever presented the opportunity to work from the middle of the floor. Embiid was also solid against double teams, sensing when he needed to dish to a teammate and picking up several “hockey assists.”
He was a bit more deferential to teammates early in the second half. That was just fine for the Sixers, in part because Harris had an efficient night. The veteran forward scored 21 points on 7-for-10 shooting, his most since Nov. 21. Harris' three made three-pointers were also his most since that date.
Sixers offer Pistons no glimmers of hope
Embiid and the Sixers had better luck early playing drop pick-and-roll coverage than on Nov. 10, when the Pistons built a 16-point lead in the first half.
This time around, Detroit started 0 for 7 from three-point range. The Sixers seemed comfortable containing the ball in the half court with Embiid looming around the paint. The Pistons had some success in transition and took care of the ball well, but the Sixers avoided any extended stretches of bad defense and were clearly the superior team all night.
As Embiid knows from the Sixers' Process days, losing game after game can wear on players. Stewart was ejected late in the third quarter for a hard shove on Patrick Beverley deemed worthy of a Flagrant 2 foul upon review. James Wiseman fouled out following just 16 minutes of action.
It's hard to find silver linings for the 2023-24 Pistons. Embiid and the Sixers ensured they're still searching for their first win since October.