Bully for ‘Bully ball’! The rematch with the Pistons went differently than their first meeting. Blake Griffin did not drop another 50 (although he still scored a lot) while the Philadelphia 76ers welcomed Wilson Chandler in his debut.
The rematch between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Detroit Pistons turned out to be not much of a match for most of the time.
It played out much like Thursday’s contest with the Clippers. The 76ers pummeled their opponent in the first half, came out flat as a pancake for the second half and needed Markelle Fultz and Mike Muscala to provide a spark and held on for a 109-99 win in a foul-fest of a game.
Joel Embiid was a monster in the first half. It was pure ‘Bully Ball’ (he only attempted one 3-pointer, which he made) as Detroit could do nothing but foul with Embiid planted inside. He sank 15 of 17 free throws (best in league this season) and finished with 32 points in the first half.
For all the people who think the 76ers should start J.J, Redick over Fultz,, they did not get much to support that view in this game. The Sixers held a 69-47 lead at halftime and Redick started the second half. The Pistons (who outside of Blake Griffin have few weapons) were able to rip off a 13-0 run to start the half and it was a contested game again.
Fultz came in for Simmons and with his energy helped staunch the bleeding, and Muscala, after missing his first six shots, hit some key buckets.
The Pistons got as close as 92-87 with 4:43 left as the Sixers went almost seven minutes without a field goal in the fourth quarter, but Embiid and Redick made some shots down the stretch to hold them off.
Griffin did not get 50 like the last time but 38 points in still pretty good. However, outside of Process legend Ish Smith, he did not get a lot of help.
Here are grades on some of the key players for the 76ers in the game:
For a half Embiid was unstoppable. He not only got three fouls in the first half on real-estate holder Andre Drummond, but four on his backup Zaza Pachulia. His 15 made free throws in the first half is the highest total in the NBA this season.
He went pure ‘Bully Ball’, as he looked to score in the low post almost the entire time. He cooled off a bit in the second half but, coming off a 41-point effort on Thursday, he is certainly in a groove.
One cool fact he achieved, his seven games of at least 30 points and 10 rebounds in the first 10 games of the season has only been surpassed in NBA history by Wilt Chamberlain, and no other player has had seven in over 45 years.
The important thing was that Chandler actually stepped on the court of a regular-season NBA game in a 76ers uniform and ended his time with no apparent injury. He lasted three minutes of the first exhibition game before pulling his hamstring so badly he made his season debut in the 10th game of the season.
Chandler, unsurprisingly, looked a little rusty as in nine minutes, 30 seconds of action he was called for four fouls and did not attempt a shot. However, he did grab four rebounds and had an assist and steal, so he did contribute. A solid start.
Before the game, coach Brett Brown had said if Fultz did not play well on defense he would bench him in favor of T.J. McConnell, much like he did in the first Detroit game when Ish Smith made him look like a turnstile. McConnell never got on the floor.
For the second game in a row, Fultz was a defensive leader and energy guy, labels no one thought to give him even a week ago. Although statistically he did not do anything outstanding, Fultz had a major impact.
After the Sixers’ 22-point halftime lead had been frittered to 11 in the third quarter, Fultz came in and immediately made a steal and a driving layup to stop Detroit’s momentum. Remember, this was the 24th game in the 20-year-old’s NBA career.
After missing his first six shots, it looked like it would not be Muscala’s day. However, it turned out the Bucknell alum was just warming up, as he missed only one more shot the rest of the game.
When most of his fellow teammates could not hit much of anything in the second half, Muscala heated up at just the right time. He finished with 14 points, which is more than four starters. Brown rode the hot hand and kept Muscala in the game down the stretch instead of Dario Saric (five points).
When Chandler gets up to speed, he might take Muscala’s rotation spot but, for now, he is making the most of his opportunity.
Using an old ESPN euphemism, you can not stop Landry Shamet, you can only hope to contain him. The two top 76ers in plus/minus were Fultz and Shamet, who would have predicted the team would play its best when they were on the floor before the season?
Shamet was knocking down threes from the time he got into the contest with nine minutes left in the second quarter and was (besides of course Embiid) a major reason the Sixers held as much as a 24-point lead on Detroit.
He was not quite as hot in the second half but it is the rookie’s 10th career game so we can cut him some slack. Importantly, his defense was adequate, which was the major strike against by draft evaluators. When Chandler, who can play small forward and even some two-guard, gets in shape we will see how Shamet fits in the rotation.
Right now, he fits in fine.
The Sixers are now 6-4 on the season, having lost all their road games and won every time at home.
On Sunday they travel up the turnpike to take on the Brooklyn Nets. Maybe not a conference title contender but still a challenge for a team that has yet to win a game on the road.