Andre Drummond talks about the Pistons' loss to the Philadelphia 76ers. Rod Beard, The Detroit News
Philadelphia — In many cases, one-on-one matchups don’t end up living up to expectations.
With plenty of pregame play on social media and in comments about each other, Pistons center Andre Drummond and 76ers big man Joel Embiid built up their second meeting of the season to be something of a marquee matchup.
It lived up to the hype.
The big men have different roles for their teams — and each did it well — but outside of the individual matchup, the team success was the goal.
And Round 2 goes to Embiid.
Embiid had the better first half, but Drummond came through down the stretch, helping the Pistons overcome an 18-point deficit in the third quarter. But Drummond fouled out with 2:35 left, and the 76ers took advantage, pulling out a 108-103 victory on Saturday night at Wells Fargo Arena.
Drummond finished with 14 points, 11 rebounds, six assists and five steals, while Embiid had the bigger numbers — with 25 points and 10 rebounds — and most importantly, got the win.
“When was the last time you saw two real big men go at it? It was a great matchup and I look forward to playing him again,” Drummond said. “He’s a hell of a player and I have nothing negative to say about him. I can’t say the same thing for him — I don’t know what he’s going to say.
“It’s a great win for them. We have to learn from this and move forward to San Antonio.”
Rod Beard breaks down the Pistons loss to the Philadelphia 76ers. Rod Beard, The Detroit News
After Drummond fouled out, Embiid waved goodbye and motioned to the sellout crowd to come to their feet. Embiid hit both free throws, pushing the 76ers’ lead to five, putting the fans into a frenzy.
That was part of the strategy for Embiid: to push the Pistons to have to defend and take them out of their comfort zone in trying to guard him.
“That was the goal going out,” Embiid said. “Before this game, I told my teammates that he was going to foul out — and he did.”
The Pistons (14-8) made a mad dash and cut the lead to three in the final minute, but couldn’t get any closer. It’s their second straight loss, along with Friday’s loss at Washington. It doesn’t get any easier, as they continue their four-game road trip on Monday at San Antonio and finish the trip Wednesday at Milwaukee.
“I give them credit, our guys came back and fought, but, you’ve got to be real about this, four out of our last five games, we’ve played one half — one half in four out of the last five games — and only the Boston game did we play in both halves,” coach Stan Van Gundy said. “We’ve done it several times: we just don’t play two halves of games now and it’s just not going to get it done.
“I’m not just talking about the score; I’m talking about our energy, our intensity and everything else. I like the way that we came and kept fighting but I’m disappointed we are not getting a consistent effort throughout the game.”
The 76ers (13-9) led, 63-47, at halftime and looked to put it away after a bank shot by Embiid, but the Pistons surged.
Stanley Johnson and Reggie Jackson hit back-to-back 3-pointers and after Embiid got a basket on a goaltend, Jackson hit another 3-pointer and a pair of free throws. Tobias Harris (27 points) added two pairs of free throws — with a 3-pointer by Robert Covington (25 points and eight rebounds) in between — and Jackson scored on a drive, pulling the Pistons within 70-64.
Covington, who went 6-of-13 from beyond the arc, hit another 3-pointer, but the Pistons had a 9-3 run, with a three-point play by Harris, to trim the lead to three.
The Pistons outscored the 76ers 33-17 in the third quarter, punctuated by a 3-pointer from rookie Luke Kennard (nine points) to tie it at 80 heading into the fourth.
The Pistons led, 89-86, with 7:37 left, after Drummond had a tip-in and added two free throws — he went 6-of-8 from the line — and Johnson split a pair of free throws after a flagrant foul on Ben Simmons.
Covington helped save the 76ers, making three free throws after a foul to tie the score at 89.
The 76ers went on a 9-2 run, taking a 98-93 lead with 3:14 left, and never trailed again.
Sixers coach Brett Brown was happy to come out with a win over the Pistons, who have played well against some of the top teams in the league this season.
“That’s a good team; they beat the Celtics, they beat Golden State and we felt all that,” Brown said. “But there’s still so much to learn from this game for us.”