No Embiid, No Bueno – Observations from Pistons 119, Sixers 104

Photo Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

That was ugly.

The Joel Embiid-less Sixers got their doors blown off by the 3-13 Detroit Pistons on Monday night, with Ben Simmons and Shake Milton bogged down with foul trouble to the point where they only played 44 combined minutes. Delon Wright went off for a season-high 28 points and a couple of third and fourth quarter runs were very quickly snuffed out by a Pistons team that you’d think was featuring Tayshaun Prince and Rip Hamilton. Could have fooled me.

This recap doesn’t need to be long, since the game was a total dud, but the Sixers are now 0-4 without Joel Embiid, and we can take away one of those games, because it was the Denver matchup when the team only fielded seven guys. So we’ll say they’re 0-3 without Embiid, but they’re 9-0 when the starting unit is intact. You understand the significance of missing your best player, but should they really be losing by 15 to Detroit without him? There’s always a lot of grumbling about Simmons in these games, because he’s expected to carry more of the offensive load with Embiid out.

In two games without Joel this season, Ben has done the following:

  • at Cleveland – 15 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists (28 minutes, second night of a back-to-back)
  • at Detroit – 11 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists (21 minutes)

He doesn’t need to go off for 30 on these nights, but Monday he only took nine shots and in the Cleveland game he got up eight. With Danny Green and Dwight Howard rounding out the lineup sans Embiid, Ben probably should be third in FGA, behind Tobias Harris and Seth Curry, unless he’s sharing heavy minutes with Milton on the floor. There’s enough to go around when Joel is absent, so that’s when the assertive 4th quarter Ben we saw the other night has to show up.

Said head coach Doc Rivers on Simmons’ foul trouble:

“I thought Ben’s third (foul), that was a bad one. Without having Joel on the floor, and then you get Ben in foul trouble, the team (struggles). Especially right now, with Mike Scott being out, we cannot have foul problems with Ben and Tobias (because of thin power forward depth). We’ve done it with back-to-back games and we got away with it the other night, but we couldn’t get away with it tonight without Joel on the floor. A lot of fouling. What did they have? 20 free throws at halftime? They ended up with 38 to our 20. You’re never gonna win a game on the road that way. You’re just not.” 

Rivers was also asked about his level of concern in losing these games with Embiid not playing:

“Not much, honestly. To me it’s what, 19 games or whatever into the season? I don’t have a lot of panic concerns at this point into the season, with all of the guys who have been in and out. I really don’t worry about it much. Obviously you have to win games without Joel, but you have to get your team in order first. I think the second half of the season, if that happens, we’ll see more, but right now it’s not on my list of concerns. I’ll put it that way.” 

One final quote from Doc, this one about the two-game series that are being played this season in an effort to crunch the pandemic-affected schedule and reduce travel:

“Until today, I loved them, because we were undefeated in those games. I think I have that right. I would say there’s a lot of pros and cons to them. I particularly like them better than most coaches. I think most coaches, especially of the better teams, don’t like them because it gives teams a chance to split with you. I think for our team, because we’re new, we get a chance to prepare for a second game. It gives me a peek in how we prepare and focus, so I kind of like them.”

Doc does have it right. Before Monday night, they had beaten the Celtics, Hornets, and Heat in two-game sweeps. The Celtics didn’t have Jayson Tatum, and Miami was depleted, but everybody is playing without somebody these days.

Assorted notes and video clips

Couple of other things worth sharing here.

Simmons took a three in the third quarter:

That’s the shot you’re looking for, if he’s ever going to make the jump. That corner three should be an entry point, but he missed badly. That’s a couple in a row that have barely grazed the rim, which is obviously a concern. The couple of threes he hit early last season looked really smooth, with good mechanics and automatic trigger-pulling.

This clip was also going around, of Josh Jackson calling Simmons a “bitch,” according to lip readers:

And then that resulted in Mike Scott, who wasn’t even dressed, getting in Jackson’s face and earning himself a technical from the bench:

It was that kind of game. Simmons in foul trouble. Detroit shooting close to 45% from three. Embiid not even playing. Mike Scott getting technicals from the bench.

Utterly forgettable, and now on to the next one, at home against the Lakers on Wednesday night.

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