Joel Embiid stood out on a night when the 76ers lost Jimmy Butler to an injury.
The swingman suffered a game-ending groin strain in the first quarter of Monday’s 116-102 victory over the Detroit Pistons.
The Sixers improved to 19-9 overall and 14-1 at the Wells Fargo Center with the win. This is the Sixers' best home record through 15 games since the 1966-67 season when they went 15-0. Embiid had 24 points, eight rebounds, two steals and two blocks after missing Friday’s game against the Pistons (13-12) to rest. Before that game, the All-Star center voiced his displeasure with his new role as a stretch five since the acquisition of Butler in a trade from the Minnesota Timberwolves on Nov. 12.
But on Monday, Butler left the game with 2 minutes, 20 seconds left in the first quarter and didn’t return. The four-time All-Star had four rebounds and two assists in 9:40 of action. He failed to score while missing all three of his shots.
It was obvious that something was wrong with Butler late in the first quarter. He grimaced while touching the left side of his torso during a break. The Sixers did not give an update on Butler’s injury following the game.
Sixers coach Brett Brown appeared to be evasive when asked about the 29-year-old.
“I have yet to sit with the medical staff,” he said. “I do not know. I don’t know the details of it. Nor do I know what’s going to happen in relation to the longevity, how long he’ll sit out. I’m sorry.”
Brown was also asked if he saw when Butler suffered the injury. He said he did not. “I’m not really helpful at the moment on Jimmy news,” he said.
Butler could be sidelined for some time depending on the severity of the injury.
According to the Summit Medical Group, a mild groin strain could heal within a few weeks. However, recovery time for a severe strain could take six weeks or longer. Butler is scheduled to have the injury examined on Tuesday.
Embiid proved to be Monday’s savior after Butler was hurt.
“You look at the team,” Brown said. “Jimmy is out and Joel is still out, you are probably in a fistfight. I think that Joel, just his presence and some of the plays he made late [were great.] I thought he was exceptional tonight."
Brown was not sure Embiid would play against the Pistons because the center was dealing with a migraine and diarrhea. He missed Sunday’s practice.
“He was sick,” Brown said. “We haven’t seen him for a while.”
Embiid looked uncomfortable early on, once again, because he was playing mainly on the perimeter on offense in the first quarter.
The 7-foot-2, 270-pounder had three shot attempts, with two of them being three-pointers, in the quarter. He made only one of them to finish with three points in the quarter. Meanwhile, Ben Simmons took his place in the post, scoring 11 of the Sixers’ first 23 points. The point guard’s baskets during that stretch came on two dunks, two driving layups, and a nine-foot hook shot.
“I just don’t think they were ready for me,” Simmons said of the Pistons. He went on to score seven points in the second half to finish with 18 to go with 10 rebounds and seven assists.
Embiid began posting up more in the second quarter and got more comfortable as the game wore on. Ten of his points came in the third quarter when he made 2 of 3 shots and all six of his foul shots.
His put-back dunk with 7:33 left to play gave the Sixers a 91-84 advantage. The home team extended its lead to 15 points (107-92) after Landry Shamet’s three-pointer with 3:55 to play. JJ Redick’s three-pointer gave the Sixers a commanding 113-92 advantage 44 seconds later.
After the game, Embiid backtracked on his initial comments about why he was frustrated. It seemed that the big man was in full damage-control mode.
“It’s just the frustration on playing [poorly],” he said. "I’ve never been in that situation. Usually if I’m in a slump, two or three games. But I feel like it’s been going on for ... like 10 games. But also because I hold myself to a certain standard.
“But it’s the past. We moved on and everything is great.”
Reserve guard Furkan Korkmaz finished with career highs of 18 points and seven rebounds.
Pistons forward Luke Kennard finished with a career-high 28 points. Two-time All-Star center Andre Drummond had 21 points, 17 rebounds and three blocks.