DETROIT — The 76ers are a different team on nights Joel Embiid doesn’t play.

They go from resembling an Eastern Conference contender to looking like a squad, at times, walking in quicksand.

That was the case Monday night as Embiid sat out against the Detroit Pistons with back tightness. The league’s last-place Pistons took full advantage, posting a 119-104 victory at Little Caesars Arena.

This was a bad loss for a Sixers team (12-6) that sits atop the conference. While they play hard, the Pistons (4-13) had lost six of their last seven games.

The Sixers dropped to 0-4 in games without Embiid. One of those losses without Embiid, a 12-point setback to the Denver Nuggets on Jan. 9, came when the Sixers only had seven available players. However, they lost this game and their contest against the Cleveland Cavaliers without him by an average of 19.5 points. The Sixers suffered a two-point loss to the Memphis Grizzlies minus Embiid on Jan. 19. The setbacks to Memphis, Cleveland and Detroit were all on the road.

Doc Rivers was asked about his level of concern with the Sixers not being all that competitive without Embiid.

“Not much,” he said. “Honestly to me, it’s what [18] games into the season. I don’t have a lot of panic concerns at this point of the season with all the of the guys that have been in and out. I really don’t worry about it that much.

“Obviously, you have to win games without Joel. But you have to get your team in order first.”

On this night, Embiid’s absence made it hard for the Sixers to open up the floor for their sharpshooters. Defensively, they were doomed by an inability to guard the Pistons.

Dwight Howard, who started in place of Embiid, had a game-worst minus-23. Danny Green (minus-19), Seth Curry (minus-16) and Tobias Harris (minus-11) were also getting schooled.

» READ MORE: Dwight Howard wants to play in the NBA at least five more years: ‘I still got a lot left in me’

Former Sixer Jerami Grant finished with 25 points while making 3-for-6 three-pointers. He also finished with eight rebounds and five assists. Delon Wright had 28 points while making 4 of 8 threes, and Wayne Ellington had 20 points while making 6 of 9 threes.

Detroit made 17 of 38 three-pointers on the night.

Tobias Harris paced the Sixers with 25 points. Tony Bradley had 12 points in a reserve role. Ben Simmons had 11 points. Seth Curry had an off night finishing with seven points on 2-for-10 shooting, including going 1-for-4 on threes.

Embiid was initially listed as questionable on Sunday, but his status changed before the 5:30 p.m. injury report for the 7 p.m. game. Embiid is expected to be available for Wednesday’s game against the Los Angeles Lakers at the Wells Fargo Center.

“Yes, his back is tight, and we want to get through the season with everyone healthy again,” Rivers said. “So it’s the right thing to do.”

The injury news is not surprising. He was listed as questionable before recording 33 points and 14 rebounds in Saturday’s game.

Embiid, who is the Eastern Conference player of the week, fell hard on his back during Friday’s victory over the Boston Celtics. He got up, grabbed his lower back, and grimaced in pain before quickly resuming play.

He missed one game this season with back tightness and two games with right knee pain. Tony Bradley started the second half at center in place of Howard.

“I just like Dwight with the second group,” Rivers said of making the switch. “I was kicking myself, because I wanted to do that, and then because Tony hasn’t played a lot, I didn’t do it to start the game. I really thought I should have done it to start the game, and I outthought myself for that.”

» READ MORE: Joel Embiid named Eastern Conference Player of the Week

Mike Scott (right knee swelling) and Vincent Poirier (health and safety protocols) remain sidelined. The Pistons were without Derrick Rose (left knee soreness) and Killian Hayes (right hip strain).

Grant showed the Sixers what they might have had if the team hadn’t given up on him.

The 26-year-old has come a long way since his tenure with the Sixers. Philly selected him with the 39th pick of the 2014 draft.

Grant averaged 8.1 points, 3.9 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in 114 games (with 63 starts) before being traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Nov. 1, 2016. The Thunder then traded him to the Denver Nuggets on July 8, 2019. Grant was known a solid defensive-minded role player before going to Detroit in a sign-and-trade. Not only did he ink a three-year, $60 million deal, he became the Pistons go-to scorer.

Grant was averaging career highs of 24.3 points and 6.3 rebounds heading into Monday’s game. Rivers found himself game-planning for him as a leading scorer compared to when Rivers was the Los Angeles Clippers coach facing the Nuggets in the Western Conference semifinals.

“I told him in the game the other day he should get me like 10% the way he performed against us in the bubble,” Rivers said. “But you have to take your hat off. It’s rare that you see a guy that goes from so far in his career being a role player to a featured player and handling it well.”

Early in Monday’s game, the Sixers looked like a team walking in quicksand. They trailed by 15 points (26-11) while missing eight of their first 12 shots and committing three turnovers. Philly pulled within five points twice in the second quarter. But the Pistons went on a 19-7 run to build a 17-point cushion (57-40) on Wayne Ellington’s three-pointer with 3 minutes, 8 seconds left in the half.

The Pistons led 64-50 at the break. Simmons only played seven minutes in the first half due to three fouls. He had four points on 2-for-2 shooting and zero rebounds, assists and steals. The Pistons maintained their 14-point margin heading into the fourth quarter.

There was a double-technical between Detroit’s Josh Jackson and Scott, who was on the bench, with 8:06 to play. Jackson was ejected after being called for a Flagrant Foul 1 on Simmons with 7:33 remaining. In addition to committing the foul, the refs called a technical on him.