Sixers earn first victory of the season in Detroit

By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)

Philadelphia 97, Detroit 86 – Box Score

Sixers fans had waited years for the Process to finally come to fruition. Naturally, then, panic had set in following an 0-3 start to the season against three teams who had all reached the Eastern Conference semifinals a year ago. Monday night, facing a far easier foe, the panic turned to pandemonium with the Sixers logging a wire-to-wire win in Detroit.

It wasn’t the most complete team victory, but the Process was all about acquiring star players, and Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid proved that having the two best players on the court can be more than enough. Just four games into his rookie season, Simmons had the type of performance that makes the national audience sit up and take notice. The former LSU Tiger recorded a triple-double with 21 points on 8-11 shooting, 12 rebounds, and 10 assists. In doing so, Simmons became the third player in NBA history to record a triple-double within his first 4 NBA games, and first since 1967, joining Oscar Robertson and the wonderfully-named Hambone Williams. (Note: Williams received his nickname because someone yelled “hambone” in junior high and he turned around, proving middle school can forever haunt even the most talented among us.)

The Australian phenom looked completely at ease on the ease, using his size to get into the lane and finish high-percentage looks at the basket. He even hit a foul line jumper! Defensively, Simmons aptly defended a wide-range of Pistons, including 6’3″ Reggie Jackson on some key possessions late in the game. His passing ability was always described as his elite skill though, and Simmons flashed some plays that showed why he could one day be discussed among the pantheon of great distributors. The fact that he already has the LeBron-esque cross-court pass is incredible four games into his rookie season, here finding TJ McConnell for an open corner three (TJ canned it).

He also looked smooth as silk hitting Joel Embiid with a behind-the-back pass for JoJo’s first triple of the season.

Speaking of the big man from Cameroon, Embiid was outstanding as well, recording 30 points on 11-15 shooting, making that lone three-point attempt, and grabbing 9 rebounds. He needs to clean up the 7 turnovers, but his game-high plus/minus of +21 also showed how crucial his presence was on the defensive end. While he did not have any blocks on the evening (in fact, no Sixer did), Embiid completely deterred any Pistons from entering the painted area, cutting off the easy baskets that led to Detroit runs whenever he took a seat.

After taking and missing 10 three-pointers across his first two games, Embiid entered Monday with the goal of playing more down low. The Sixers definitely made a concerted effort to have him operate out of the low block rather than the top of the arc. Even when he did start out on the perimeter, Embiid ditched the awkward pump fake which had become somewhat of a crutch for him. Instead, he took it to the basket to great effect. Here, you can see one of the many occasions where he roasted Andre Drummond with a move on the interior.

Other Game Notes:

  • Aside from the dynamic duo of Simmons and Embiid, Robert Covington was the only other Sixer to score in double figures. RoCo knocked down 3 of 5 threes for 13 points, but contributed the most on the defensive end. He had 4 steals on the night and the entire complexion of the defense alters when he and Embiid are in the game.
  • More fun with Ben Simmons stats. The rookie became the first Sixer to shoot at least 70 percent from the field in a triple-double since Charles Barkley in February of 1987. While not as impressive as a triple-double, the game marks the fourth straight double-double to start his career, joining the illustrious company of Dikembe Mutombo, Shaquille O’Neal, David Robinson, and Ralph Sampson.

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