Joel Embiid talks openly about wanting to become the NBA's MVP.
The performance by the 76ers center in Saturday's 109-99 victory over the Detroit Pistons at the Wells Fargo Center showed he deserves serious consideration. Embiid dominated two-time All-Star center Andre Drummond and everyone else the Pistons used to defend him.
He finished with 39 points and game highs of 17 rebounds and two blocks playing what the Sixers (6-4) call "Bully Ball."
The Sixers, who are 6-0 at home, hope "Bully Ball" — getting the ball in the paint and attacking the rim — will lead to more free-throw attempts for their All-Star center. Embiid got that Saturday, making 18 of 23 foul shots, both career highs.
Embiid did most of his damage in the first half. He scored 32 of his points and made 15 of 17 foul shots. The points were the most by a player in the first half at the Wells Fargo, and his 15 made free throws are the most by an NBA player in a half this season. Portland point guard Damian Lillard had the previous high of 11.
It's not surprising that Embiid came out fired up against Drummond. The two have a history of going back and forth with each other. So much so that the Sixers standout said "I feel like I own a lot of real estate in his head" after frustrating Drummond in the Pistons' 133-132 overtime victory on Oct. 23 at Little Caesars Arena.
"I knew that after the trash talk I had last game, I knew that he was going to be excited," Embiid said of Saturday's game. "That's why I get all those guys that guard me, because I know they are going into a matchup so excited. I'm going to take advantage of that."
Hyped up by Embiid's trash talk, opposing centers are often overly aggressive with him at the start. Like on Saturday, he often turns that aggression against them.
"I knew that from the start," Embiid said of realizing when he would dominate Drummond. "I saw the look on his face, and he was scared."
Drummond had a different version.
>> PHOTO GALLERY: Sixers 109, Pistons 99
The Pistons' two centers and reserve power forward/center, Jon Leuer, all had a tough time guarding Embiid in the first half.
Drummond only played 4 minutes, 22 seconds of the half due to three fouls. His backup, Zaza Pachulia, was pulled after picking up his fourth foul. He saw 9:40 of action. With both of them in foul trouble, Leuer was left to defend Embiid for the final 8:09 of the half, collecting two fouls.
The Pistons centers both finished with five fouls.
Drummond thinks his being in foul trouble was more to do with how referees are calling games than Embiid's dominance.
"A lot of fouls called," Drummond said of the game where the teams combined to attempt 92 free throws.
"It's like you have to play with your hands behind your back, you can't really touch nobody," Drummond added. "That's the way they're calling the game right now. I have to figure a way to adjust. It's hard to play like that."
Embiid was told about Drummond saying he had to playing with his hand behind his back. "That's what he got to do," responded Embiid.
"You got to make a choice because I got the sweep-through move that I use," said Embiid, who is averaging 29.6 points and 12.4 rebounds. "A lot of guys when they try to play that game, I always end up winning that."
Embiid added that defenders have to pick their poison. He said he thought Drummond and Pachulia tried to flop a lot, especially when he was backing them down.
"At the end of the day, I kicked both of their [butts] ," Embiid said. "So whoever was guarding me, we got the win."
After shooting 8-for-9 from the field in the first half, Embiid missed all three of his attempts in the third quarter. He added seven points in the fourth quarter.
Reserves JJ Redick (16 points), Mike Muscala (14) and Landry Shamet (11) were the Sixers' other double-digit scorers.
Blake Griffin paced the Pistons (4-4) with 38 points. The power forward had 50 points in the teams' first meeting.
This time, Embiid dominated shortly after tip off. He scored the Sixers' first seven points using a driving dunk, a three-point play on a reverse layup, and an alley oop off a Ben Simmons half-court pass. All the while, Embiid was talking trash to Drummond, who has become one of his main rivals.
Drummond finished with eight points on 3-for-8 shooting to go with nine rebounds. He didn't score his first basket until converting a three-point play 1:13 into the second half.
After the game, Embiid took a shot at Drummond on social media while on his way to New York for Sunday's game against the Brooklyn Nets at the Barclays Center. He tweeted "I own a lot of real estate in @Andredummondd head and I'm on my way to build more #Bum #TheProcess"