NBA wrap: 76ers extends win streak to four games

After losing 10 of 12 games, the 76ers has won four in a row and look like the playoff-caliber team many people expected this year.

Ben Simmons scored 19 points and delivered nine assists ibn the 76ers 114-78 win over the Pistons on Friday.   -  AP

Friday night, the 76ers played the way many people thought it would this season — like an NBA playoff team.

The Philadelphia 76ers crushed a good Detroit Pistons team, 114-78, in a game that was a laugher from the start. Joel Embiid had 23 points and nine rebounds, while Ben Simmons (19 points and nine assists) and J. J. Redick (21 points) also came up big.

Philadelphia (19-19) has now won four in a row, and is once again looking like the team many thought could make the playoffs in the relatively weak Eastern Conference.

That would be a huge feat for a franchise that has won fewer than 20 games four of the last five seasons. Still, this is a young team, one that just weathered a streak of 10 losses in 12 games that left some people wondering, "Are the 76ers really a playoff team?"

Why not? The young duo of Embiid and Simmons, the No. 1 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft who missed last season to an injury, is the envy of teams around the league. Veteran guard Redick, 33, is scoring a career-high 17.2 points per game. Forward Robert Covington can carry the team when he is knocking down 3s.

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Also, the 76ers expects Markelle Fultz, the No. 1 pick in this year's draft, to return soon from a shoulder injury which sidelined him after only four games.

Sure, there are causes for concern. This team is not nearly as scary with Embiid out, and the 7-0 center has missed 62 games in his first two seasons due to injury. Simmons is a spectacular athlete who makes highlight-video dunks and steals but is still developing his overall game. Fultz is an unproven commodity. Covington sometimes goes through frustrating slumps from long range.

Those are called growing pains. Don't be surprised to see the 76ers endures more of them this season. But don't be surprised to see the side make the playoffs as a No. 7 or 8 seed. If everything goes right, it could scare one of the Eastern powers in the first round of the postseason.

Stud of the Night

Karl-Anthony Towns scored 25 points and pulled down 23 rebounds in the T-Wolves' 91-84 loss to the Celtics.

Dud of the Night

Avery Bradley scored only four points (2-of-8 shooting) and turned the ball over twice in Detroit's loss to the 76ers.

Highlights

Dennis Smith Jr. takes his man on the drive and dishes for the assist.

Jayson Tatum starts to take the trey, but since the Timberwolves leave the entire lane undefended, he'd rather have a dunk.

What's Next

Bucks (20-17) at Wizards (23-16)  — It's No. 4 vs. No. 5 in the Eastern Conference in a match-up that could happen in the first round of the playoffs. Giannis Antetokounmpo is doing typical "Greek Freak" things and has turned into one of the top attendance draws in the league. The Wizards has won eight of 11 games since John Wall's return from a knee injury, after struggling with him sidelined.