THE NORMAL slow start at the defensive end wasn't there last night for the 76ers against the Detroit Pistons. Unlike Monday in Boston, the Sixers came out with defensive determination and toughness and it carried through for the rest of the evening as they pulled out a 94-83 win, handing Detroit its 11th loss in 12 games.
"We are 26th in the NBA in points per possession allowed in the first quarter," coach Brett Brown noted. "We are first, we are No. 1 in the NBA, in points per possession allowed in the second half of NBA games for the entire season. To me, what that speaks to is youth, erratic starting lineups, dealing with different things of that sort - different teams, all of that where there's not really a consistency or a familiarity with stuff. Then what it also speaks to is fitness, competitiveness. The ability with these guys where they can make adjustments, find a new life where they can claw back in games. In all my years coaching I haven't seen that fact, where you go from 26th in the first period to first.
"When you have facts that you can use as ammunition, motivation, call it what you want, when the facts say [what they say], we feel if we can zoom in and start games well, who knows what can happen. I thought defensively we locked in, we started the game well and really, with the exception of how we ended the third period, I've got no complaints throughout the course of the game."
The Sixers (16-52) jumped on Detroit right away last night, allowing the Pistons to score on just 10 of their 30 first-quarter possessions and held them scoreless on seven consecutive possessions at one point in the first quarter. The Pistons shot 8-for-23 in the first 12 minutes for just 21 points. With the win, the Sixers finished the four-game season series against Detroit 3-1.
Nerlens Noel, who scored 11 points, grabbed four rebounds and blocked three shots, left the game in the third quarter due to a right-foot contusion. Brown said that Noel could have returned, but that he was happy with the play of Furkan Aldemir, who played all of his 9 1/2 minutes in the fourth and collected four rebounds.
Brown also was happy with the play of point guard Ish Smith, who led the team with 15 points and eight assists. The shifty Smith is proving to be a valuable player at the point with both his scoring and ability to get other players open shots.
"My coaches and teammates have been doing a great job," said Smith. "Coach is putting me in good situations, good positions. I just come out and be aggressive. The end result for us is just to try to come out and get a win.
"I think I'm doing more than I expected. You just want to relish the opportunity. I've been blessed to be on four or five playoff teams and now I'm getting a chance to play. It's a good fit. It's not all me. The team is unbelievable. You can't tell that they've only won 16 games if you've been around the locker room."
Jason Richardson, who has been struggling of late with his shot, scored 14 points for the Sixers, while Thomas Robinson scored 12 and Jerami Grant 10.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope led the Pistons with 20 points, while Reggie Jackson got his first career triple-double with 11 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists.
Before the game, Quahmier Wilson, the 10-year-old son of slain Philadelphia Police Officer Robert Wilson, was a guest in the Sixers locker room. Wilson, 30, was shot March 5 during an armed robbery at a video-game store while buying a birthday present for his son. Quahmier got the royal treatment last night as Sixers players took turns talking with him and presenting him with some gifts, including a pair of signed Nerlens Noel sneakers.
"It was his first Sixers game and I told him that we would go out there and try to get the win for him," said Jason Richardson. "This is a night that he can remember and try to ease some pain for him.
"It was important to me. I was raised by a police officer, my uncle's a police officer. I know every day the job that they do and put their lives on the line. What Officer Wilson did was very heroic. He saved a lot of lives in that store. We just wanted to tell his family, and especially his son, that his dad was a hero and we thank him for that."