A win over the Boston Celtics left Sixers fans purring in the Wells Fargo Center. Could the season opener have gone any better? Well, it could’ve maybe been a little more efficient from a shooting perspective, but outside of that, not really. Here are five things we learned about the team in the win:
Ben Simmons came to play
Ben Simmons came into the season stating that he’d found his love for the game again. It’s understandable, given the scrutiny he’s been under the past few years. But, the fans are dying for him to take a three-pointer and it didn’t happen in the opener.
What did happen though, is that Simmons showed off an aggressive side that we, in Philadelphia, have rarely seen from the third-year point guard. His final stat line of twenty-four points, eight rebounds and nine assists was just shy of another triple-double, yet it’s the way Simmons played that should excite the fans and strike some fear into opponents.
He attacked the basket, using both hands, as well as moving well without the ball. His 11-16 shooting from the field was the best on the team amongst the starters. I’m sure that the crowd wanted him to fire up a three-pointer, as they’ve been waiting three years for one, but that time will come. Right now, the Simmons that showed up on opening night should be loved in the city but feared throughout the league as he had his way with the Celtics all night.
Embiid had an “off” night
Joel Embiid has come into the season looking to win a title and be named ‘Defensive player of the Year’. Lofty goals on their own yet, coupled together seem to be pretty tough, given the level of competition in the league right now.
What can be said is that, even an “off night” for the big man, isn’t really that bad. Embiid finished with fifteen points, thirteen rebounds and three blocks on the night. His shooting, just 5-14 was bad, but then again, so was the whole team for the night.
Embiid took an elbow to the face in the third quarter, leaving blood gushing for a few moments. He came back into the game and it didn’t seem to affect him, but he still sat the fourth quarter and the Sixers were in full control, so it was good to give him some rest.
If he can get the shooting under control, Embiid will be in line for another monster year and coupled with Simmons, may form an unstoppable duo as the year goes on.
Matisse Thybulle may be a wizard.
Thybulle didn’t have a huge statistical night, finishing with three points, one rebound, and one assist, but he also had two steals and two blocks. He was all over the court in his twenty-two minutes on the floor. He was jumping the passing lanes, defending his man well, and recovering very well for someone playing in his first professional game.
He didn’t look out of place at all and even hit his first professional basket, a sideline three-pointer, falling down. He’s already looked to have moved up in the rotation and should be one of the first two players off the bench moving forward. If he can continue to build on a solid first night, the Sixers may just have found a gem in the draft this year.
Josh Richardson will make people forget about…
Richardson came over in the trade for the guy that couldn’t play in his team opener. He’s showed the type of aggressive defense and offense that had Elton Brand coveting him this past off-season. Richardson, like the rest of the team, didn’t shoot very well but, he finished with seventeen points on the strength of going 9-9 from the free-throw line. He added six rebounds and two blocks and his energy and emotion showed the fans that they won’t really be missing the head case that everyone has quickly forgotten.
Coach Brett Brown had raved all pre-season about Richardson and when it came time for the regular season, J-Rich didn’t disappoint anyone. While he’s not going to be counted on for seventeen points a night, it’s not out of the question for him to be close to that for the season. The Sixers seem like a dangerous team and he’s a very valuable weapon.
Tobias Harris had himself a quiet night.
Harris, as he has throughout his career, just seems to play basketball very well. When the team needs shooting, he can provide it. When they need rebounding, he can do that. When they need someone to step up on defense, he’s there. Quietly, Harris had fifteen points and fifteen rebounds to go along with four assists on just 6-11 shooting. Max-contract status brings lofty expectations and you can’t say that Harris let anyone down. He was all over the floor and did everything needed of him and then some.
The Sixers have talked about becoming the best defensive team in the league and this lineup in the opener showed that they may be close. If they can continue to play as they did against the Celtics, this team will be a big problem for anyone that go up against. I didn’t even talk about Al Horford and his sixteen points, Korkmaz getting on the floor and while not scoring showed good movement on defense which will get Brett Brown’s attention.
The team, while shooting poorly, except for Simmons and Harris, got themselves under control later in the second quarter and after that, there was nothing that the Celtics could do to stop them. This season is shaping up to be a very good one for basketball in Philadelphia.
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports