Embiid, Covington help carry 76ers past Pistons
PHILADELPHIA — It’s debatable as to whether Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid won his duel with Detroit counterpart Andre Drummond on Saturday night.
Embiid’s team managed to pull through anyway.
Embiid had, by his own description, “a bad night,” despite matching the 25 points of teammate Robert Covington in the Sixers’ 108-103 victory.
Embiid shot just 7 of 21 from the floor, however, and committed six turnovers.
Drummond, who fouled out with 2:35 left, finished with 14 points, 11 rebounds, six assists and five steals.
“I think I played him well,” he said of Embiid.
J.J. Redick scored 18 points for Philadelphia, including the clinching free throws with six seconds left, and Dario Saric finished with 17. He nailed two critical 3-pointers in a pivotal 18-6 run late in the game.
The Sixers (13-9) also outrebounded Detroit 47-36, including 17-7 on the offensive glass. They enjoyed a 17-7 advantage on second-chance points to win for the second time in three games.
“We won the game, so this wasn’t about any of us — (Drummond) or me,” Embiid said. “It was about Sixers against Pistons, and we got the win. And I’m happy about it.”
Earlier in the day, Embiid told reporters that Drummond “can’t shoot,” and Drummond responded by telling reporters that you “can’t really have a conversation with a man who can’t play a back-to-back.” That was a reference to the Sixers’ policy of resting Embiid when the team plays on consecutive days.
Embiid said after the game there was nothing personal between him and Drummond.
“I’ve said it so many times: (the chatter) just elevates my game,” he said. “That just brings another part of my game. I know that if I’m not having fun I’m just being lazy out there.”
Nor did Drummond take any offense.
“It’s never hard feelings,” he said. “When was the last time you saw two real big men go at it? It just was a great matchup. I look forward to playing them again, obviously. Helluva player. I have nothing negative to say about him.”
Detroit coach Stan Van Gundy dismissed the byplay between the two centers as “just noise” before the game, and went one step further afterward.
“Again,” he said, “I don’t give a (hoot) about any of that. I don’t think that has anything to do with anything. (Drummond) played him well. ... In relation to tweets and all that, that’s a bunch of NBA crap.”
Saric’s 3-pointer with 6:06 left put the Sixers ahead to stay at 92-91. It came amid a flurry that erased an 89-86 deficit and gave the Sixers a 104-95 cushion with 1:25 remaining.
The Pistons later closed to 106-103 on a 3-pointer by Langston Galloway with eight seconds to play, but Redick connected twice at the line to ice it.
Detroit (14-8) dropped its second straight, despite 27 points from Tobias Harris and 25 from Reggie Jackson.
The Sixers erased an early eight-point deficit by reeling off 15 straight points, six each by Covington and backup center Amir Johnson, and led 32-25 after a quarter.
They extended that to 63-47 at halftime, at which point Embiid had 15 points and Covington had 14.
Harris led the Pistons with 10 points.
Jackson rallied Detroit by scoring 12 points in the third quarter, including two 3-pointers. The Pistons also forced nine Philadelphia turnovers while outscoring the Sixers 33-17 in the quarter, forging an 80-80 tie entering the fourth quarter.
The Pistons took their first lead since the opening quarter at 84-82 on Drummond’s dunk with 10:04 left in the game, and later went up 89-86.
Covington then dropped in three free throws after being fouled on a 3-point attempt with 7:04 remaining, triggering the Sixers’ game-ending flurry.
NOTES: Sixers rookie G Ben Simmons finished with a season-low five points, on 2-of-6 shooting. He did have 10 rebounds, six assists and two blocked shots, however. ... Philadelphia coach Brett Brown said before the game that C Joel Embiid’s chatter is his way of getting himself motivated to face another top-notch center. “He loves it,” Brown said. “Has he tweeted about it yet? He loves it, and it’s part of his gamesmanship. ... He just loves a challenge. He winds it up. He doesn’t hide from any of it.” ... The Sixers were without PG T.J. McConnell (shoulder sprain) for the second straight game. “You miss a bite,” Brown said. “There’s a bite he gives us. There’s a sting to everything, and there’s a pace to everything.” ... Philadelphia G/F Justin Anderson (shin splints) missed his eighth straight game. .... Pistons F Jon Leuer (ankle sprain) sat out his 14th straight.