The Sixers (16-7) hosted the Detroit Pistons (2-22) on Friday. Philadelphia wanted to win its fifth game in a row. Detroit wanted to snap a 21-game losing streak. Joel Embiid scored 35 points in three quarters as the Sixers pounced on the lowly Pistons yet again, 124-92.

Before we get to what I saw, some notes.

Contextual Notes

The Pistons were without Jalen Duren, who has a sprained left ankle.

Monte Morris has a right quadriceps strain and was out. Marvin Bagley III has a sprained right low back and was not available.

Jared Rhoden, Stanley Umude, and Malcolm Cazalon are on two-way assignments with Detroit's G League affiliate and were out.

Monty Williams started Killian Hayes, Cade Cunningham, Ausar Thompson, Bojan Bogdanovic, and Isaiah Stewart.

The Sixers were without Terq Smith, Javonte Smart, and Ricky Council IV, who are on two-way G League assignments with the Delaware Blue Coats.

Nick Nurse started Tyrese Maxey, De'Anthony Melton, Nico Batum, Tobias Harris, and Embiid.


- Not ready to say it's been a redemptive few weeks for Marcus Morris Sr., as his defense is still a significant sore spot. But, the conversation about him may be changing a bit. He was 3-for-3 from beyond the arc in the first half, helping expand the lead to double-digits when the Sixers couldn't create comfortable space in the game's first few minutes before the bench stepped in. He finished the game 5-for-5 from distance. Morris is shooting 50 percent on threes since being traded to Philadelphia.

You could make a case that he's the Sixers' best catch-and-shoot option on threes; if not, he's certainly one of the two best on the team in that regard. Now, is there a real conversation to be had about keeping Morris if his matching salary helps you add a significant piece ahead of the deadline? No, obviously not. But, if it's between keeping him and fortifying your guard or big depth off the bench, I think there's some opportunity cost worth evaluating.

- As much as I wasn't happy with the box defenders backing Embiid when he went for plays at the rim (see below), the Sixers generally put forth an admirable effort on defense. I'll call it "admirable" because it would've been very easy to neglect the little things when matched up with the worst team in the league in back-to-back games.

But, the Sixers were very active, intercepting bad passes across the court and sliding into driving lanes to jar balls loose. They certainly didn't have a good shooting night, and, save for Embiid, their halfcourt offense was rather underwhelming. But, the Sixers did the work necessary on defense to score on the run.

Discount it because the Pistons are terrible if you want. But, effort plays against bad teams - especially on defense - are part of building good habits and a strong culture.

- Embiid laced his patented midrange jumper to cross the 30-point mark in the middle of the third quarter, matching a career-high 10 straight games of scoring at least 30 points. It was his third consecutive game scoring at least 34 points through three quarters.

There was nothing more than the usual cheer for Embiid's bucket to cross the 30-point threshold. That's not to imply that the fans in attendance were unappreciative of the feat. I don't expect them to be aware of those asides. But, it serves as perspective on just how incredible of a scorer Embiid is.

The expectation is that this guy scores at least 30 points every game, and that's because that's literally an average day at the office for him. Actually, to be technical, 30 points would be light work because he's averaging nearly 34 per game this season.

And yet, when he does it, you barely bat an eye. For a sport in which broadcasters will put some extra emphasis on a player scoring 30 points, what Embiid has become - at least as a regular-season player - is truly incredible. Perhaps scoring 30 in the NBA is no longer the lofty achievement it once was. Maybe we should raise that standard to 40 points.

But, Embiid is such a treasure to the basketball world that it seems unfair that a ring would be the achievement that validates what he's done as he's hit his prime. Unfortunately, that's the culture of the game.


- For me, a big indicator of a defense's focus and communication is what the weak-side box defender does when the rim-protector goes to make a play at the basket. If the crasher gets a free rebound and dunk on the second chance because no one was there to block out, it tells me there's a kink in the chain. If the defense seizes the rebound, congrats, you did your job. The Sixers didn't do their jobs in the first quarter.

There were a couple of possessions in the first quarter in which Embiid was in the right spots to make plays and helped cause misses. But, he couldn't possibly be there to get the rebounds, too. So, a teammate needed to come and seal the interior to complete the stops. No one was there in time, and the Pistons got a put-back and an offensive rebound and shot at the rim on the respective possessions.

It's one thing if you have a clear physical disadvantage or are being illegally prevented from getting there by the opposition. But, to make mistakes that allow those second chances is a slap in the face to Embiid, who is making the effort to deter easy scores inside.

- Speaking of annoying defensive things, this Detroit team is absolutely putrid on offense. There is no need to bail them out by fouling as they fling up low-percentage shots. Make a contest on the players who can actually hurt you, but don't sell your soul to try to challenge shots. They'll do plenty of missing on their own.

The Sixers (17-7) will visit the Charlotte Hornets (7-15) on Saturday. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m., Eastern time. You can catch the game on NBC Sports Philadelphia.

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Gallery Credit: Josh Hennig/Townsquare Media

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