AUBURN HILLS – The Sixers have won two games in a row, and both on the road. While the progression of this organization couldn't be measured in wins the past few years, now seems to be a good time to look at that as the barometer. Here were three keys to the 97-79 win over the Detroit Pistons on Sunday at The Palace of Auburn Hills.
Ball movement. This is a real area of growth with the Sixers lately. While Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor do provide proven scoring down low, simply dumping the ball to them and standing is not something this team has done for the last handful of games. The Sixers are passing and moving, creating good angles for passes and making the extra pass or two on almost each possession to ensure a good shot. Rarely on Sunday did the Sixers have a bad offensive possession. It's good basketball and refreshing to see.
Defense. Over the past three games, opponents have averaged just 87.7 points against the Sixers and have shot less than 40 percent from the floor. The rotations seem to be better, there is more pressure on the ball, and their pick-and-roll defense has improved immensely as of late. Also, with the better ball movement comes better shot selection, meaning the long three early in the shot clock, which always seems to lead to easy baskets at the other end, isn't happening as much. And, except for the fourth quarter Sunday, the team has done a better job of protecting the basketball.
T.J. McConnell. Pressed into the starting lineup because of the stomach flu gotten by Sergio Rodriguez on Sunday, McConnell was terrific at both ends of the floor. In 37 minutes, the 6-2 guard totaled 12 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. At least two of his three turnovers came late in the game when he was trying so hard to get that one assist for a triple-double. His performance is exactly what you need from time to time from a backup player. Few are more liked on the team, and few play harder. His teammates were as happy for him after the game as he was for himself.