Sixers 108, Pistons 103: Joel Embiid vs. Andre Drummond fails to live up to hype
Joel Embiid finishes with 25 points, 10 rebounds and six turnovers following a war of words between him and Pistons center Andre Drummond leading into the game.
The actual outcome of Saturday night's matchup between the 76ers and Detroit Pistons at Wells Fargo Center was a foot note.
The individual matchup between Joel Embiid and the Pistons' Andre Drummond was the actual story in the Sixers' 108-103 win.
The two centers had been in a war of words since Drummond started trash talking to Embiid in their Oct. 23 meeting in Detroit. They basically played to a standstill.
But the Sixers franchise player was still asked who won the head-to-head battle?
"The Sixers," Embiid answered. "We won the game. So this wasn't about any of us. It was about Sixers vs. Pistons, and we got the win."
Embiid finished with 25 points, 10 rebounds, one steals and six turnovers en route to his sixth straight double-double and 12th of the season. However, he made just seven of his 21 shots — including missing all three of his three-pointers. Fifteen of his points came in the first half when Drummond wasn't effective at all. But Drummond woke up in the fourth quarter, scoring six of his 14 points before Embiid fouled him out with 2 minutes, 35 seconds left. The Piston also had 11 rebounds, six assists and five steals.
The Sixers' big man waved goodbye to Drummond from the foul line before attempting his free throws.
"That was the goal going in," Embiid said. "Before this game, I told my teammates that he was going to foul out and he did.
"But it's all fun. At the end of the game, we hugged it out. … We are just having fun out there. I love having fun on social media. He does, too. So we are just young kids having fun out there."
Embiid went on to make both free throws to put his squad up, 100-95. Dario Saric followed with a three-pointer to extend the Sixers' lead to eight (103-95) with 1:40 to play.
After Detroit trimmed the lead to three, JJ Redick hit a pair of foul shots to give the Sixers a 108-103 advantage with 6.0 seconds remaining. The Pistons (14-8) turned the ball over on the ensuing possession. The Sixers (13-9) then ran the final seconds off the clock.
The Sixers blew an 18-point third-quarter lead and trailed, 84-82, after Drummond's dunk with 10:04 remaining. However, they regained the lead for good after a Saric three-pointer with 6:06 left.
"Overall, I thought the night was rough," Embiid said. "I felt I had a bad night. Ben [Simmons] had a bad night. I'm glad Cov [Robert Covington] is back. JJ made some tough shots."
Simmons finished with five points, 10 rebounds, six assists, two blocks and four turnovers. It was the first time in Simmons' short NBA career that he didn't score in double figures. Covington broke out of his shooting slump with 25 points, making 6 of 13 three-pointers. And Redick finished with 18 points and a game- and season-high seven assists.
Pistons forward Tobias Harris led all scorers with 27 points.
But the focus was on Embiid and Drummond.
After scoring 30 points in the first game, Embiid said he used Drummond's trash talking in that game as motivation.
"When we started the game, he was being aggressive and he was talking, too," Embiid said that night "… So what I was like [in my mind] 'You want to do that? I'm going to kick your ass then. So that's what I did."
Drummond responded to that comment the next morning with a tweet that read, 'See you Dec. 2nd..'
Then he had more to say after the Pistons' loss to the Washington Wizards in D.C. Friday night.
"I mean you can't really have a conversation with a man who can't play a back-to-back," he told Fox Sports Detroit of Embiid not being cleared to play on consecutive nights.
"I've been playing for six years and I've missed maybe 4-5 games," he added. "So when he can play a whole season without taking a rest, he can come talk to me."
Embiid tried to take the high road Saturday morning, not knowing what Drummond said the night before. However, he did acknowledge that Oct. 24 tweet proved he was in Drummond's head.
"For them to go on social media and just start talking … whatever, saying something or whatever, I think I already got them," Embiid said.
But Embiid wanted the attention to be on the matchup between the Sixers and the Pistons. It did for about 15 seconds. Then Embiid was asked how difficult it is to guard Drummond, who has played more from the elbow this season.
"No disrespect, but he can't shoot," he said. "So I just got to worry about the defensive coverages that we have as a team. They run a lot of back screens and backside action. He's also a roller. So he gets a lot of lobs and stuff."
That set the stage for what many thought would be an exciting head-to-head battle. Like Embiid, Drummond basically downplayed the back and forth. He said there wasn't any hard feelings.
"When was the last time you saw two real big men go at it?" he said. "It just was a great matchup. I look forward to playing them again, obviously. Helluva player. I have nothing negative to say about him.."
The team honored longtime executive advisor Sonny Hill with a surprise tribute in the first quarter. With Sixers legend and Hall of Famer Allen Iverson on hand, the Sixers celebrated Hill's nearly 60 years of contribution to hoops, the Philly community and the Sixers organization.