Pistons stay close but 76ers pull out victory in fourth quarter
Detroit — On paper, the Pistons looked to be overmatched in facing the Philadelphia 76ers, who have the best record in the Eastern Conference. As they’ve done all season, the Pistons have played up to their level of competition, and giving the Sixers a hard time in trying to put the game away.
The Pistons stayed close the entire game and took it down to the wire, before the Sixers pulled away in the final minutes for a 114-110 victory on Saturday night at Little Caesars Arena.
Wayne Ellington continued his strong play with 17 points, Svi Mykhailiuk added 15 points and Sekou Doumbouya 13 points for the Pistons (3-13), who have lost four straight games.
“You’re playing against one of the top teams in the East and our margin for error down the stretch and all around — coaching and playing — is very small,” Casey said. “We had a few chances down the stretch and we have to learn how to close it out.
“That’s the bottom line — we’re not there yet. I love the energy and the focus from the guys starting the game and off the bench.”
It was a pretty close game throughout for both teams, as the biggest lead was 11 points for each squad. The game never got away, but the Sixers had the experience and the savvy to put the game away in the final minutes.
In the fourth quarter, the Sixers (12-5) had a 107-105 lead with 2:30 left after Josh Jackson (11 points) scored on a drive and then made two free throws, but Joel Embiid (33 points and 14 rebounds) hit a basket in the paint and Ben Simmons (20 points, nine rebounds and seven assists) split a pair of free throws to extend the lead to five.
The Pistons stayed close with a 3-pointer from Jerami Grant (11 points and nine rebounds), who ended his streak of 14 straight games with 20-plus points. Grant finished 3-of-19 from the field and he was 3-of-4 from the free-throw line, but he seemed to struggle with the extra attention he was getting defensively from the Sixers.
With Blake Griffin (injury management) and Derrick Rose (knee soreness) sitting out, the Pistons had more minutes to distribute to their younger players — and they answered the call, with Saddiq Bey getting the start and scoring 10 points.
Off the bench, Mykhailiuk and Doumbouya shined and Isaiah Stewart (eight points and five rebounds) held his own against Embiid and Dwight Howard.
It’s a step for the young players to continue their growth.
“For the whole game, we did everything we could to stay in the game and potentially win the game,” Mykhailiuk said. “Every game, we’re close; we just need one little thing to win the game.”
Embiid and Simmons made their free throws in the final 22 seconds and the Pistons didn’t get any closer down the stretch.