The Sixers opened their 72-game NBA schedule against the Washington Wizards on Wednesday night, with the first game at the Wells Fargo Center since March 11, the day the NBA suspended the 2019-2020 season.
Here are some quick takes from the victory.
Going to Embiid
Trailing by 10 points entering the fourth quarter, the Sixers began to feed Joel Embiid, who was operating closer to the basket. When Embiid is in the blocks he is unstoppable, and Washington predictably struggled.
The Sixers should have gone to this strategy earlier.
The Sixers went nearly half the third quarter before scoring their first points of the second half before Ben Simmons hit from inside to cut the deficit to 70-60. It didn’t take deep analysis to explain the Sixers troubles. They were turning the ball over, not making threes, and playing tepid defense.
Washington was getting too many wide open shots, such as this three from first-round draft choice Deni Avdija. Notice that Embiid didn’t make much of an effort to contest the shot.
The fact that Washington couldn’t pull away by more while the Sixers struggled showed that the Wizards had their issues also. The Sixers had to feel fortunate to be down by 10 entering the final quarter, especially after committing nine turnovers in the quarter.
Rough debut for Green
In his Sixers debut, Danny Green looked uncomfortable. If Green isn’t hitting from the outside, he is of little use on offense. On defense, Green often saw Bradley Beal blow by him.
The second team
Coach Doc Rivers said during the preseason that he wanted to go with a 10-man rotation, and true to his word the Sixers had 10 players enter the game in the first quarter.
The second unit considered of Shake Milton and Tyrese Maxey, Dwight Howard, Mike Scott and Furkan Korkmaz.
In this unit, Milton is the main scorer, and he didn’t disappoint. Where Milton has improved is creating his own shot off the dribble. He is equally dangerous as a stand-still shooter. Howard plays with great energy, and in Rivers’ offense will be setting a lot of picks, something he is capable of doing. Korkmaz needs to score to stay in games because he doesn’t offer much on the defensive end.
The unit is still a work in progress, but it provided the Sixers with some early energy that the starters weren’t able to maintain when they returned later in the second quarter.
Unlike last year, when the Sixers tried to keep at least one starter on the court at all times, Rivers went with all five reserves together for a long time in the first half.
The reserves weren’t as effective in the second half, although Milton and Korkmaz hit some key baskets.
Sterling first half for Maxey
Maxey, the Sixers’ first-round pick from Kentucky, was aggressive getting to the basket in the two preseason games, and it continued in the regular season opener. When Maxey entered the game late in the first quarter, he was paired in the backcourt with Milton.
Maxey served as the point guard and Milton the shooting guard, his better position. On this play, Maxey had no problem challenging 7-foot Robin Lopez and scoring over the Wizards’ center.
From the start, Maxey was aggressive driving to the basket. He also moved well without the ball and was the beneficiary of a great backdoor pass from Howard that he converted into a layup.
In the second half, he wasn’t as effective as the Wizards consciously made an effort to deny him driving to the basket.
One of the interesting matchups had all-stars Simmons and Russell Westbrook guard each other. On defense, both played each other the same way. That meant playing back on defense and daring the other to shoot from the outside.
Westbrook hit a few jumpers early, but that isn’t really his game, and he reverted to his bad form from the outside. He is effective driving to the basket even against more than one defender. This play illustrates it as Westbrook drives by both Simmons and Embiid.
That is why Westbrook is a nine-time all-star and why teams will give him the outside shot, to prevent him driving to the hoop.
Everybody does the same with Simmons.
It was great to see Marc Zumoff back at the microphone of the TV broadcast. Zumoff missed the two preseason games while recovering from back surgery.
While Tom McGuinnis did a great job filling in, it was good to know that Zumoff was doing well enough health-wise to return to the action. “For the first time in 287 days I am going to see live basketball,” Zumoff said before tipoff.
We also enjoyed some of the classic Zumoff calls, such as “Embiid turning garbage into gold,” and “Down it goes.”