DETROIT — The 76ers and the Pistons both had lofty expectations in the preseason. Thus far, both squads haven’t quite lived up to the hype.
The Sixers, however, still have a chance to turn things around. Detroit, meanwhile, has a lot more work to do.
That was obvious in the Sixers’ 125-109 victory over the Pistons on Monday night at Little Caesars Arena.
Tobias Harris finished with a season-high 35 points on 14-of-21 shots. The power forward made 4-of-7 three-pointers.
Harris almost got into a little scuffle with a seemingly frustrated Blake Griffin, who struggled guarding the Sixer and on offense. The two had to be separated with 5 minutes, 21 seconds remaining and received double-technical fouls.
“I thought it was, on the rebound, it was a little dirty play, where our arms got tangled,” Harris said, explaining the altercation. “I just let him know. We just had a little argument. That was it, if that’s what you would call it.”
Harris wasn’t the only Sixer who lit up Detroit.
Ben Simmons posted his second triple-double of the season with 16 points, a career-high 17 assists, 13 rebounds and four turnovers. It was his 24th triple-double in his first three seasons, tying him with Grant Hill for the third-most over that time. Hall of Famers Oscar Robertson (87) and Magic Johnson (31) are the only players that had more.
Simmons was asked if this was the best game he’s played.
“It was alright,” he said. “I should have had more assists.”
But his biggest assist came after the game. That’s when he signed his jersey and gave it to a young Sixers fan who was seated behind the team’s bench.
“He had a sign that said his Christmas wish was to meet me,” Simmons said. “That means a lot to me, your wish is to come to a game and meet me. It’s a blessing to be in that position.”
Meanwhile, Furkan Korkmaz scored 21 points off the bench, and Joel Embiid had 20 points, 8 rebounds and 2 blocks hours after being listed as questionable with an illness.
The Sixers (22-10) have won two straight after losing their previous three games. On this night, they attacked a lot against an opponent’s zone defense.
The Sixers shot 54.7% from the field and made 12 of 30 (40%) three-pointers. They struggled to make shots against the zone in losses to Miami (Wednesday) and Dallas (Friday).
For Detroit, which extended its losing streak to five games, it was hard to find a rhythm with all of its injuries.
On this night, the team that was projected to make the playoffs had five players — Jordan Bone (left knee soreness), Bruce Brown (bilateral calf soreness), Reggie Jackson (lumbar spine stress reaction), Luke Kennard (bilateral knee soreness) and Khyri Thomas (right foot surgery) — out with injuries.
Three others — Griffin (flu), Derrick Rose (left knee soreness), Christian Wood (left knee bone bruise) — played despite being listed on the injury report earlier in the day.
Meanwhile, the Sixers were without reserve guard Matisse Thybulle, who will be sidelined at least two weeks with a right knee sprain and bone bruise.
Embiid looked sluggish at the start, but quickly found his groove. He made his first five shots en route to shooting 7 of 9. He made all four of his first-half field-goal attempts, and converted his first shot — a three-pointer — in the third quarter. Embiid went on to miss an 18-foot jumper on the Sixers’ next possession
His matchup against Andre Drummond didn’t disappoint.
The Pistons center finished with 27 points on 13-for-16 to go with 9 rebounds. He came off the bench due to missing Monday morning’s shootaround.
Griffin struggled after missing the Pistons’ last two games. The All-Star power forward had 8 points while missing 12-of-14 shots.