The 76ers hit the road for the first time this year, in Madison Square Garden against the New York Knicks.
Here are our quick takes from the 109-89 victory:
Simmons’ D on Barrett
R.J. Barrett, who had 26 points in the Knicks’ opening loss to Indiana, has been put in the role as go-to scorer on a team that isn’t overflowing with offensive talent.
The Sixers did an excellent job on Barrett. Ben Simmons opened on him, and Shake Milton played him as well. Simmons spent the bulk of the game on Barrett, who can hurt teams driving to the basket. Barrett is still at the stage where teams would rather give him the outside shot. The Sixers were preventing his drives but challenging his shots.
Illustrating this point, late in the first half, Simmons showed his great length by blocking a three-point attempt by Barrett, who missed his first nine shots and made just two of his 15 overall.
Usually teams have centers or power forward passing from the post out to an open guard at the three-point line. Simmons and Joel Embiid reversed that on this play. Simmons drove close to the basket against Marcus Bullock before finding Embiid at the three-point line.
On this play, Julius Randle, with Tobias Harris guarding him, got to the basket and scored thanks to an accidental pick by Simmons.
Picking their poison with Embiid
The Knicks had little success against Embiid. Mitchell Robinson opened the game against Embiid, and former Sixer Nerlens Noel also spent time, and neither could contain him. The best strategy against Embiid is to double-team him when he dribbles, but the Sixers’ spacing made it difficult.
If teams are going to just use on defender on Embiid, he will destroy them. In the first half he had 20 points.
Embiid has also done a better job of recognizing the double teams, of which the Knicks did more in the second half. An example of better court awareness by Embiid is that midway through the fourth quarter, he had not committed a turnover.
Maxey getting to the rim at will
During his pre-game press conference, coach Doc Rivers talked about the speed of rookie Tyrese Maxey, and then we saw it continually in the game. Maxey was able to drive freely to the basket, and what makes him tough to defend is that he was just as effective going to his left as he was to his right.
That was the case on this play on which the Knicks’ Dennis Smith Jr. ran out at Maxey, and he just blew by him for the layup.
Howard’s high motor
For the second straight game, the Sixers benefited greatly from the energy of Dwight Howard. What has made Howard so effective is that he doesn’t give up on any play, either on the offensive or defensive end.
He went after every ball. On offense, he doesn’t have much of an arsenal, but when he has the ball near the basket, he can score.
On this play, it wasn’t smooth, but Howard stayed with the play and eventually scored.