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76ers host Pistons on heels of spirited Embiid effort

After stumbling most of December, the Philadelphia 76ers appear to have regained their footing.

Joel Embiid is, as always, leading the parade.

The Sixers (18-19), who weathered a 1-9 stretch last month, have won three straight and four of five heading into Friday night's home game against the Detroit Pistons. Their latest victory was a 112-106 escape Wednesday night against the short-handed San Antonio Spurs.

Embiid was not expected to play because of a sprained right hand. After testing the hand during on-court drills shortly before the game, though, the second-year center decided to give it a go.

He wound up supplementing Ben Simmons' 26-point effort with 21 points, 11 rebounds, four assists and four blocked shots, as the Sixers snapped a 12-game losing streak to the Spurs.

"I love having him out there," Simmons said. "It makes it easier on everybody."

Coach Brett Brown said Embiid's availability was "completely unexpected." The decision to play, Embiid said, was his.

"I love my team," he said. "I want to be right there with them. I don't want to quit on them. I also wanted to give coach his first win against his former team, and we did that for him."

Brown, a one-time Spurs assistant, had been 0-8 against San Antonio in his first four seasons in Philadelphia. While Gregg Popovich, his former boss, held out five players Wednesday because they were resting or recovering from injuries, Brown said the Spurs remained a "hell of a team" that offered a considerable challenge.

"The system is exceptional," he said. "They really have a solid system and we needed all of that (effort) to find a win."

Philadelphia has beaten Detroit twice this season, 97-86 on Oct. 23 and 108-103 on Dec. 2. The latter was part of a seven-game losing streak by the Pistons (20-16). They have since won six of nine, although they fell Wednesday night in Miami 111-104.

Tobias Harris led Detroit with 19 points. Reggie Bullock, who has been filling in at point guard while Reggie Jackson recovers from an ankle sprain, added 17. Avery Bradley also returned after missing the previous seven games with a groin injury, and scored 15 points despite 6-of-19 shooting.

Boban Marjanovic also had 15 points and nine rebounds while starting at center in place of Andre Drummond, who sat out the game with bruised ribs. The injury does not appear to be serious, coach Stan Van Gundy told the Detroit Free Press afterward.

"It's just a pain-tolerance thing," he said. "There's no doctor telling me he has to sit out. It's whatever he can tolerate."

The Sixers continue to be without rookie guard Markelle Fultz, the top pick in the 2017 draft. He has missed all but four games this season because of a shoulder injury, though the team issued a news release earlier this week saying he is drawing closer to a return.

Guard/forward Justin Anderson has also been out since mid-November with shin splints.

Updated January 4, 2018

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