Philadelphia — In the Pistons’ first meeting against the Philadelphia 76ers this season, Blake Griffin had a 50-point masterpiece.
By halftime in the rematch, Sixers center Joel Embiid looked like he was going to surpass it.
Embiid dominated, scoring 32 of his 39 points in the first half but after building a 24-point margin in the first half, the Sixers had to hold on in the final minutes for a 109-99 victory over the Pistons on Saturday afternoon at Wells Fargo Center.
It’s the fourth straight loss for the Pistons (4-4).
It’s the fourth straight loss for the Pistons (4-4), who have been stung by bad starts to games and digging double-digit deficits.
“Our starts have been atrocious; our approach to start the game has to be there,” coach Dwane Casey said. “If we came out in the first half the way we came out in the second half, we’re a pretty good team.”
Griffin had another strong outing, with 38 points, 13 rebounds and six assists, but the Pistons’ shooting woes continued, as they hit just 40 percent from the field and only 17 percent on 3-pointers.
In the first quarter, the Pistons had more fouls (11) than field goals (six) and the Sixers (6-4) began their parade to the free-throw line, where they shot 44-of-51 in a game littered with 63 total fouls called and 92 combined free throws.
“It felt like for a stretch in the first quarter that every time down, they were at the free-throw line,” Griffin said. “Part of that is on us; we have to sit down and defend. There’s some, where I don’t think we’re used to that style of officiating.”
From the start, the Sixers pounded, with Embiid scoring their first seven points. He shined in the first half, going 8-of-9 from the field and 15-of-17 from the free-throw line. He dominated Andre Drummond again in the paint and got the Pistons’ big men in foul trouble early, including two on Drummond in the first four minutes.
The Sixers had a 69-47 halftime lead, but the Pistons responded, opening the third quarter with a 13-0 run, including seven points from Griffin and five from Drummond, to pull within nine at the 8:17 mark.
The Sixers pushed the lead back to 85-67 but the Pistons scored the last five points of the period to stay close. They continued to whittle away and got within 92-87 on a steal and lay-in by Ish Smith with 4:48 remaining in the game.
The Pistons’ defense allowed them to get back in the game in the second half, but they couldn’t make the shots to solidify the comeback.
“We held them in 27 percent in the second half, which is a hell of an effort for us defensively,” Casey said. “The most important team is we had 83 shots to their 69 — it’s knocking down open shots.
“We can’t depend on Blake to get 38 points every night and carry us. I said it when we were 4-0; we’re not a finished product; there’s a lot of good stuff.”
The Sixers answered the run with a lay-in by Embiid and a 3-pointer by J.J. Redick (16 points), which started a 9-2 spurt, getting the lead back to double digits.
The Pistons never got closer than eight the rest of the way.
“We came out slow in the first and it bit us in the ass,” Drummond said. “Plain and simple, that first half spoke for itself, they got off to an early start and jumped on it quick.”