By Connor Thomas
Joel Embiid was inactive for the Sixers last night in Detroit, and so, it seemed, was the rest of the roster. The Pistons had won just 3 of their first 16 games heading into last night’s contest, placing them at dead last in the Eastern Conference. Actually, that was good for dead last in the ENTIRE NBA. Though Philadelphia was missing MVP candidate and reigning Eastern Conference Player of the Week Joel Embiid, the players they still had active were:
• Ben Simmons, a 3rd team all NBA and 1st team all defense selection last year
• Tobias Harris, an all-star candidate this year who won Eastern Conference Player of the Week earlier this season
• Seth Curry, owner of the 2nd best 3 point shooting percentage in NBA history
• Shake Milton, a 6th Man of the Year candidate
• Danny Green, a 3x NBA Champion
• Dwight Howard, a future Hall of Famer and former NBA Champion
With or without Joel Embiid, the Sixers were objectively the better team. Outside of 25 points from Tobias Harris, however, it would not be an unfair observation to say that the rest of Doc Rivers’ roster mailed in last night’s game. Matisse Thybulle played stellar defense on Blake Griffin for most of the night. Tyrese Maxey contributed a 17 point performance. But as a whole, Philadelphia came up extremely short in a game where it should be unacceptable to do so. The fact of the matter is that the Sixers are 0-4 without Joel Embiid this year, with those 4 games being lost by a combined 53 points. The combined records of the teams they lost to in those games? 29-35. Yes, Joel Embiid has been dominant this year in a way that few big men over the past decade have been dominant. But that cannot absolve a roster that seems to be unable to beat lesser teams with one player missing. Embiid’s health record is far from perfect, and if the Sixers do indeed want to be a championship contender in a strong Eastern Conference, it would help them to not lose every single game that he has to sit.
Delon Wright scored 28 last night for the Pistons. He is averaging 9.2 ppg on the year. Philly’s own Wayne Ellington had 20 for the Pistons. He averages 12.6. A good barometer of a team’s effort level is rebounds. Short of facing prime Shaq, the Sixers should be able to keep rebounds close when they play equal or lesser teams. Last night they were out rebounded 47-36 by a Pistons side led by Mason Plumlee. The bottom line is that Doc Rivers and his staff need to figure out how to win games without Joel Embiid, or else Daryl Morey may have to look into some moves to balance out the rest of the roster. The Sixers fell to 12-6 with the loss while the Pistons moved to 4-13. The Sixers will see their 1st place counterparts from the Western Conference on Wednesday as the Los Angeles Lakers travel to Philadelphia.