The Sixers opened the season with a road game against the Wizards and wow! What a great game to watch.
Both teams have high hopes for this season. The Wizards are fast, with fantastic guards and they are very physical. The Sixers are just testing out their young talent with Embiid, Simmons, etc.
I have to give both teams a ton of credit. For an opening game after a shortened pre-season, both teams played with pace and executed well most of the time The Sixers could easily have won this game if they had converted in one of three of the last possessions – that is how close the game was.
The final score was high – any time you give up 120 points — as the Sixers did — you know you have to work on your defense. The Sixers did not block out well, and they did not handle interior defense well. Then again, part of that has to do with John Wall and Bradley Beale – an amazing guard tandem. who can finish and dish it off. They did both at a very high skill level.
On the Sixers side, Ben Simmons had an awesome debut. He showed that he can lead the team on offense and, even in his first NBA game, control the pace of the game at times. He drove, he dished off, he finished well, and he posted up. We did not see an outside shot from him and in this game, we did not need to. Embiid was very good, though it seemed to me that he got gassed. Fultz played well but we also did not see his outside shot. Covington was very hot. from 3 point land. His defense was less great. Dario was not a factor today. JJ Redick hit some 3’s and might have won the game with a 3. It was a good look that just missed.
So, ok, the Sixers lost their opener. BTW so did the Warriors. But I really, really liked what I saw from the Sixers. This is a fun team to watch, and they are playing better (more cohesively) than I thought they would at this early stage. Barring injury, when this team gels, the Sixers could be even better than some are speculating.
Onward to the Celtics on Friday! Did I mention that the first part of the Sixers schedule is brutal?
True, the Sixers are very young. True their star center, Joel Embiid is injury prone. True, their first round draft pick, Markelle Fultz is hurt and suffering from jump shot lostitis.
Having said all that Ben Simmons is proving to be an invaluable asset .He makes things happen whenever he touches the ball — and he does not turn it over. And he eats up guards for lunch in the low post. And he can find Redick, Bayless, and Covington for 3’s. Recick, btw, has been on a tear in the preseason. His 3 point percentage is mind boggling.
And Embiid changes the game when he is in there on both ends of the court. It may be enough if he just plays 15 minutes a game. Against the Heat, for example, he got Hassan Whiteside into foul trouble in the first 5 minutes of play! And he was not playing that well (he is still out of shape from his late start).
And the Sixers are deep, with Saric able to come in at the 4 or 5. And their reserve wings can run and shoot – TLC, Stauskas, Furkmaz, and Anderson.
And Bret Brown’s up tempo game style suits the team well.
Their main problem now — their defense sucks. But even now, they show flashes that they can do better. They are certainly athletic enough and Bret Brown will up their game here.
My best guess — the Sixers open the season with a very tough schedule that includes a grueling road trip. They will play around 500 for the first month or so. Then they will gel and will be a tough match up for any team in the league.
There is something special about watching Joel Embiid play basketball. He is very big and very talented and he does amazing things on the court. At least as important, though, is that he is obviously having fun playing the game.
He played last night against the Nets, and I can’t remember when I had more fun watching a pre-season game.
True, the Sixers delivered a stinker pre-season game on Monday. But several things are coming together that give me some confidence that this is just a blip on the radar screen. We will see blips like this again. But the main story will have a different look altogether.
Why? Simmons and Embiid will demand lots of attention on the offensive side. Given a bit of time, Fultz will as well. With some ball movement, that will leave open 3 point shooters. In the bad old days, the Sixers lacked reliable 3 point shooters. But now they have Redick, Bayless, Fultz, Stauskas, Covington., and Korkmaz. And btw, Embiid has been throwing up lots of 3’s in practice. Out of that group, we can expect a higher 3 point percentage than last year.
This gives the Sixers offensive balance (1) go for the high percentage 2 from the inside, or (2) if that is not there, go for the spot up 3. Simmons and Fultz can drive and finish if lanes open up from pick and roll set plays. Embiid can dominate the post and the elbow. If defenses start collapsing, go to the 3 ball. With Redick and Covington in the starting line up, the Sixers have 2 confident 3 ball shooters waiting for set ups.
BTW, as the above linked Liberty Ballers article points out, the 3 ball is a critical part of NBA strategy. these days The Sixers have known this. Now they have the talent to use it.
Let’s see if things play out this way. So even if there will be lots of blips on the radar screen (stinker games), I can’t wait for the season to start!
Full disclosure: I think the Sixers will make the playoffs this year.
At the same time, after watching them play on Monday’s pre-season game against the Celtics, I can see that there will be more than a few ups and downs this season.
The upside is very exciting — great talent doing amazing stuff. The downside will require some patience to get through. The Sixers have two rookie ball handlers running the offense. And the players have not yet developed a strong chemistry. We may not see that until December. So one minute they may look invincible and the next minute look like they would lose to a college team.
On Monday, they looked pretty weak. There were a few good plays (Fultz seemed to have woken up ) . But the game was pretty much over in the first quarter. Let’s hope that they get it together for tne Nets on Wednesday!
The Sixers play the Celtics again tonight in pre-season. Going into the game, some bad news. Richaun Holmes has a fractured wrist and is out for for 3 or 4 weeks. Not great, but not a cause for despair. He will be back, and in the interim, the Sixers can explore their options with Jah and Amir.
Meanwhile, what about RoCo? Robert Covington is poised to have a break out year. Liberty Ballers explains why. I agree and can’t want to see this really great guy get the adulation he has earned!
What a delight to see the Sixers in action! We got a peek at what to expect this season on Wednesday when the Sixers opened their pre-season schedule against the Grizzlies. They next play the Celtics on Friday.
This is just pre-season, so let’s forget the score and the outcome of the game. Neither are relevant. There are a few takeaways, however, that are relevant
- In the opening minutes, when the Sixers played their starting five (without Embiid) they showed flashes of brilliance. The unit clicked. That was awesome and a very good sign.
- The reason they clicked was Ben Simmons. Simmons dominated the flow of play in the early going. That is impressive for a rookie, That is also a glimpse of what to expect from him this season
- Fultz had an off night offensively. I think that can be explained. The dude is focusing on his defense. After he settles down, his shot will come back. Even without it, he showed good movement off the ball.
- Robert Covington is showing that he will have a strong year both defensively and offensively, shooting 3’s
- JJ Redick is already showing his value helping younger players and with his shooting.
- Jahlil Okafor has dropped some pounds which gives him some much needed quickness. Time will tell whether this upgrades his play enough to make him a factor.
So I was impressed. Simmons is likely to set defenders’ hair on fire for a while until they start playing off him. Then he will need to demonstrate whether he can shoot from the outside. No matter what, with his size, quickness, and passing and finishing abilities, he is hell on wheels in transition play. And heaven help teams that decide to defend him with a guard – he will devour them for lunch in the low post.