And… Breathe out.
We made it to the first win of the year, and it feels good. The bell is being rung, brotha. The cats are being raised. The panic of the Celtics loss is far behind us. The Sixers opened up shop in South Philly and are open for business. Embiid dominated, Simmons was everywhere, Fultz was letting it fly, and Bobby Portis obliterated the Sixers’ defense early. (Can’t win ’em all.)
This one started off weirdly. There was no defense to be found anywhere on either side, ending up 41-38 in the Bulls’ favor. Bobby Portis went ballistic (as always) and couldn’t be stopped. Dario couldn’t quite find his shot, but Embiid started off strong and kept the Sixers in range of the Bulls’ explosive start. While the first quarter didn’t bring defensive stability or consistent hustle, it did bring some highlights. Ben Simmons started off with energy, including a gorgeous takewaway on a rebound and dish to Covington for the transition finish.
Embiid’s offensive versatility kept the Sixers afloat, peaking with this early Eurostep that had Julius Randle fans in flashback mode. Who does this?
Simmons demonstrated the aggression that fans were begging for last year and got to the bucket for some dunks. Most impressive was this splitting of the double to rip the rim.
The second quarter was an entirely different showing from the Sixers. After allowing 41 points in the first quarter, the Sixers locked it down and allowed only 17 in the second. Bobby “Literally Michael Jordan” Portis finally slowed down, and the Sixers showed up to take a seven point lead into the break. Shamet got in for a spell and did well, hitting some shots and playing very solid defense. The turning point was somewhere in the second quarter, when the Sixers starting looking more like the team we saw last year. Early on, Fultz did this:
Not the prettiest thing in the world, but it went in, and the crowd LOVED IT. Fultz had a little bit of extra sauce after this shot. It’s nice to see that the crowd is pushing him and he’s responding to it well.
The team had a spectacular defensive quarter, especially Simmons – he blocked a perimeter jumper from behind, and showed quick hands/reactions all quarter, dishing here to Landry Sham3t.
The third was more of the second from Philly. The Sixers came out of the break with the same intensity and ability they ended the first half with. They conceded 18 points (more in the first quarter than the 2nd and 3rd combined!). They maintained and managed to get the lead as high as 25. The Sixers did what great teams do against bad ones – they pulled out of range in the third. Really good quarter from Philadelphia. Some exciting moments:
Philly had a lot of success with duck-ins for Simmons and Embiid. Here, Simmons is the beneficiary as Embiid pops it to the dunker’s position, and Ben has the dexterity to switch to his right and finish.
A bit later, Ben Simmons cemented his first triple-double of the year on this…assist to Robert Covington. Not exactly a Steve Nash assist, but Ben will certainly take it.
The Bulls put up a good fight. They played hard, but the Sixers kept them out of reach to win the game 127-108.
But it’s hard to feel like that matters.
Because this happened:
Watch that again. And Again. And again and again and again. I know I will. Markelle rolled up ready for the pull-up 3 and he made no mistake. That’s a great sign. I know we all want to see Markelle knock down 4 a game already, but two games in, we can be happy that he took a bunch of tries and nailed this one. This shot will be huge for Markelle’s confidence going forward, as will the home crowd. Fultz got some other parts of his game going too – here’s a nice transition dish to Cov for the rip.
I don’t know what Amir has been eating lately, but he managed to pull off his second poster in as many games. Old guy still has something left in the tank. (Although it didn’t really look like it defensively tonight.)
Fultz Needs More Time
Fultz hitting that pull-up three was huge, but it’s pretty clear he isn’t the player we drafted yet. I believe Fultz will be able to recover an approximation of that player, but he wasn’t that tonight. He didn’t look comfortable at all in the first half and struggled defensively, though he did defend some pick and rolls well. The Sixers had a dominating run with their starting lineup from last year, and Redick may want to play his way back into the starting lineup the way Dario did last year. The Fultz experiement must continue, but we’re still in the weeds.
Embiid Will Son Any And All Rookie Centers
Poor Wendell Carter Jr. had to begin his career against Joel Embiid. Carter Jr. finished with only 8/4/3, and two of his buckets came when Embiid was off the court. On the flip side, Embiid finished with 30/12/3/1/4blk and didn’t look particularly worried about Carter, Robin Lopez, or Bobby Portis. He flew around the court, and finished 12-14 from the line. Excellent performance to get back on track.
Your Favorite Player Is Scared Of Ben Simmons
Ben had a very strong followup to his opening night. He was smothering defensively, finished well offensively, and dished all over. He continues to be a terror in transition on both sides of the ball and is NOT missing the All-Star game this year.
Landry had a great game, offering some much-needed shooting off the bench with 3 of the first 4 bench options hurt. He finished 4-7 from deep while playing suprisingly stout defense. Hard to walk away feeling like Shamet won’t play rotation minutes. A steal at 26.
The Sixers turned the ball over only 13 times, coming down from a stagerring 20 in Game 1. Embiid only had 2, an above-1 AST/TO ratio. Simmons had 3 with 11 assists. The ball didn’t seem likely to fly out at any time like it often is, with only one stretch in the 3rd quarter where they had multiple turnovers in quick succession.
Player of the Game: Joel Embiid
Joel Embiid – 30/12/3/1/4 – A+
Dario Saric – 13/10/3, 2-6 3PT – C
Robert Covington 20/5/2/2/1, 4-11 3PT – B
Markelle Fultz – 12/4/5/2, 5-15 FG – C+
Ben Simmons – 13/13/11/1/2 – A+
JJ Redick – 10/3/1/1, 4-11 FG – C
Landry Shamet – 12/4/1/2/1, 4-7 3PT – A
TJ McConnell – 4/0/3 – C
Amir Johnson – 13/3/1 ., 6-8 FG – C+
Furkan Korkmaz – Incomplete
Jonah Bolden – Incomplete
I think everyone needed that one. A good win and the Sixers are back to .500 and ready to head into the season. Time to go to work. #OTTNO