With three starters out of the Pistons’ lineup, there was little intrigue in the result of Tuesday’s rematch against the Philadelphia 76ers, and more so on how Detroit’s brand new starting lineup and rotations would operate.
The Pistons were short-handed more than usual due to injuries to Bojan Bogdanovic (right calf soreness, Jalen Duren (right ankle soreness) and Isaiah Stewart, who was a late scratch due to left shoulder soreness.
As a result, Pistons coach Dwane Casey inserted Nerlens Noel and Kevin Knox into the first unit for the first time this season, alongside Killian Hayes, Jaden Ivey and Saddiq Bey.
Without their best scorer and two interior defenders available, a loss was foreseeable and the final score reflected that as the Sixers (25-15) dealt the Pistons (11-33) a 147-116 loss, their third straight defeat to the Sixers and third consecutive loss overall.
A 3-pointer by Rodney McGruder brought the Pistons within four points at the 9:35 mark of the second quarter, but Detroit missed nine straight shots thereafter while Philadelphia went on a 14-0 scoring run, which created the separation needed for the 76ers to cruise the rest of the way.
Noel was the only Pistons big man available, and he couldn’t afford to get into foul trouble. He made a few notable plays early on. Noel swiped the ball away from Sixers center Joel Embiid in the first quarter, which led to a 3-pointer by Jaden Ivey on the other end. He also drew a charge on Embiid. Lastly, he knocked down a 15-footer to show some versatility on the offensive end.
It was Noel’s first start of the season in the city that drafted him with the sixth overall pick in 2013. Noel also made his first 3-pointer of the season (third of his career) on Tuesday, and cracked a smile once he got back on defense. He finished with five points, three rebounds, one steal and one block in his homecoming in Philadelphia.
All five starters scored within the first seven minutes of the game. Casey went to Alec Burks and Hamidou Diallo late in the first quarter and Diallo got on the board quickly as he took the ball coast to coast for a layup.
Once Embiid checked out of the game late in the first quarter, Casey subbed Noel out to give him a few minutes to catch a breather. From there, the Pistons were severely undersized with Diallo at center. On the defensive end, Sixers backup center Montrezl Harrell took advantage of his matchups and scored a couple of easy baskets against the Pistons’ guards.
When Embiid returned in the second quarter, Noel was back off the bench as well. Embiid began to attack Noel, starting with an and-one jumper on the baseline. The Sixers superstar, in his first game back after missing three games due to a foot injury, dominated the Pistons with a performance of 36 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks in three quarters of action on Tuesday. He checked out with 3:50 remaining in the third quarter and rested through the fourth.
James Harden, who tallied his second triple-double of the season on Sunday, picked up where he left off early in the game. He had five points, five rebounds and five assists before the first quarter ended, well on his way to a second consecutive triple-double. He accomplished the feat with a little over eight minutes left in the third quarter. Harden has had four of the last five triple-doubles against the Pistons. He joined Harden on the bench late in the third quarter and did not return to the game.
The Pistons were led by Saddiq Bey, Jaden Ivey and Rodney McGruder, who scored 17 points each. Alec Burks added 16 points, while Hamidou Diallo had 14 points and seven rebounds off the bench. Pistons two-way guard Jared Rhoden, who was called up for Tuesday’s game made his NBA debut and scored two points as he received the bulk of his playing time in the fourth quarter.
The Pistons will return to Detroit for the back-end of their 10th back-to-back when the Minnesota Timberwolves visit Little Caesars Arena on Wednesday.