DETROIT – It was too much Blake Griffin for the undermanned 76ers.
The Detroit Pistons power forward scored a career-high 50 points in a 133-132 overtime victory over Philly Tuesday night at Little Caesars Arena.
The Sixers (2-2) looked as if they might pull out a win when JJ Redick hit a three-pointer while being fouled with 5.6 ticks left. He converted the four-point play to put the Sixers up, 132-130.
But on the ensuing possession, Griffin drove the lane, scored over Robert Covington, and was fouled with 1.8 seconds remaining. He made the three-point play to give Detroit (3-0) a 133-132 lead.
Following a timeout, Joel Embiid missed a three-pointer before the final buzzer sounded.
Griffin hit 20 of 35 shots and had 14 rebounds, six assists, and a block. Twenty-two of his points came in the second quarter. The five-time all-star buried five three-pointers during the game. At times, he maneuvered around the Sixers defense like an ankle-breaking guard on the AND1 Mixtape Tour.
"He was phenomenal tonight," said Redick, who was a teammate of Griffin's with Los Angeles Clippers from 2013 to 2017. "He did a little of everything, just ultra-aggressive…Maybe of any player I've been around in the NBA, I can't think of anybody that works harder than Blake."
Redick said the 6-foot-10, 251-pound Griffin takes his craft very seriously when it comes to his body and his game. He added that Griffin has improved since being selected first overall in the 2009 NBA draft.
"And he was pretty damn good when he got in the league," Redick said. "So you are seeing a culmination of years of [laboring at his] craft."
And what's a Sixers-Pistons game without an episode between Embiid and Detroit's Andre Drummond?
The two all-star centers have a history of trading trash talk. On Thursday, the two were very physical with each other, drawing a warning from the referees.
That led to Drummond receiving an early exit with 42 seconds remaining in regulation. Embiid had just scored to put the Sixers up, 120-118. His flop after the play caused Drummond to be ejected. Embiid acted as if Drummond had hit him in the face, and fell to the ground. It was Drummond's second technical foul.
"The whole game there were a lot of cheap shots taken," Embiid said of Drummond. "The next one [referee] Tyler [Ford] said he was going to get a technical foul."
Embiid said all he was doing was just talking and trying to win the game.
"Obviously, on the second [technical], you can see that he hit me and his hand actually touched my face," he said. "So that's his problem.
"Like I said, I feel like I own a lot of real estate in his head."
The Sixers were without Ben Simmons, who was hampered by lower-back tightness. Because of his absence, the team elected to go with an inexperienced starting backcourt of Markelle Fultz and Landry Shamet.
Fultz had his best game, shooting 6-for-9 from the field en route to matching a career-high 13 points. Nine of his points came in the first half on 4-for-5 shooting. However, T.J. McConnell played in place of Fultz in the final 10 minutes, 12 seconds of regulation and in overtime.
Fultz started at shooting guard in the previous three games, but was put in at point guard in Simmons' absence. Shamet was named the starting shooting guard at the last minute over Redick. Redick provided a spark off the bench during the first three games, so the Sixers didn't want to disrupt that against the Pistons.
Bringing the 13th-year veteran off the bench enabled Philly to stagger its go-to guys. It worked, as he had 30 points.
Embiid recovered from his early foul trouble and finished with a team-high 33 points to go with 11 rebounds, seven assists, and three blocks.
Robert Covington (16 points), Dario Saric (14), and McConnell (10) were the Sixers' other double-digit scorers.
Simmons was ruled out of the game hours before the tip-off after being listed as doubtful at the morning shootaround.
The point guard was asked if he'll play Wednesday night against the Bucks in Milwaukee. He responded that his injury is day-to-day.
"There's no point in rushing," Simmons said. "It's only the fourth game. Let's just see how it feels."
The Sixers will do just that Wednesday in determining Simmons' status against the Bucks (3-0).
"He didn't feel as comfortable as we would have wanted," Sixers coach Brett Brown said of Simmons missing Tuesday's game. "It's just one of those things with a back-to-back game, giving him the possible best chance to play tomorrow. We felt like it was wise for him to sit."
This marked just the second time he has missed a game because of an injury. He was sidelined Nov. 25, 2017 against the Orlando Magic with a left elbow injury.
Tuesday's matchup marked the Sixers debut of reserve post player Mike Muscala (five points). He missed the first three games with a sprained left ankle.
After Embiid gave the Sixers the 120-118 lead with 42 seconds left in regulation, Griffin knotted the score on the ensuing possession.
The Sixers had a chance to go ahead after calling a timeout with 9.5 seconds remaining. But Saric missed a three-pointer, forcing overtime.