Four Takeaways from the Sixers Preseason Victory over the Raptors

Philadelphia 76ers
LOS ANGELES, CA – MARCH 01: Philadelphia 76ers Guard Shake Milton (18) looks on during a NBA game between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Los Angeles Clippers on March 1, 2020 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, CA. (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire)

The Sixers rebounded from a disappointing first preseason loss and showed much more life in game two. Cruising to a 125-113 victory, the Sixers showed a new spark on offense and knocked down 48.6% (18-37) of the team’s three-pointers. Building a lead as large as 23, the Sixers held control throughout nearly the whole game, and the young guys were able to finish it off.

If Joel Embiid is Active the Sixers have a Chance

It should be no surprise, but the Sixers proved to be a significantly better team with Joel Embiid and Tobias Harris in the lineup. He didn’t look particularly sharp on the offensive end, but Joel Embiid ended with 10 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 turnovers in 20 minutes of play. It is worth noting that Embiid made several impactful plays on the defensive end and ended with a steal and a block.

During his media day availability, Tobias Harris discussed that he may have to take on more of a playmaking role in the absence of Ben Simmons. Harris showed evidence of this and seemed to have a noticeable focus on pushing the pace, just as is needed. Tobias ended with 14 points, 4 assists, and 4 rebounds in 24 minutes of action. Having both of these guys back on the court was a needed reminder that the Sixers can still be competitive this year even without the roster fully solidified.

Emphasis on Three-Point Shooting

One of the largest concerns with the absence of Ben Simmons is the up-tempo threat and creation ability that he brings. Tobias Harris certainly made a positive impact on this, but the willing trigger that was shown by several different Sixers was extremely exciting to see. Not firing enough three-pointers has been a consistent problem the past couple of years, and the team ranked 27th in the NBA last season with 29.9 attempts per game.

As a team, the Sixers launched a total of 37 three-pointers tonight after putting up 34 attempts in the first preseason game. Seth Curry has continued to build off the success he had to end last season and has actively sought out his shot in a more aggressive fashion. The 31-year-old went 4-8 from deep tonight and was utilized with a variety of screens and cuts. Georges Niang (4-7), Danny Green (3-6), and Isaiah Joe (3-4) also did a great job of freeing themselves up from beyond the arc.

Shake Milton Gets the Start over Tyrese Maxey

In his postgame media availability, Doc Rivers preached about how the starting point guard job is still up for competition. As proof of this, he gave Shake Milton the start over Tyrese Maxey in this matchup. Milton played a team-high 25 minutes and tallied 5 points, 4 assists, 2 rebounds, a steal, and two turnovers. While the numbers weren’t off the charts, Shake made several impressive passes and did a solid job running the offense.

Tyrese Maxey looked much more comfortable in his second preseason matchup on the heels of a somewhat disappointing performance in game one. Maxey played 21 minutes and put up 14 points and 5 assists along with a team-high +22 rating. The pace and change in direction he flashes are game-changing, and Maxey looked confident attacking the basket. While it was disappointing not to see him get the start and play alongside the regular starters, there was a ton of positives to take from Maxey’s performance.

Second Unit Improvements are Notable

It might be disappointing to think back and realize the only notable roster changes this offseason were upgrades over Mike Scott and Dwight Howard, but these may prove to be a bigger deal than one might think. There were consistent concerns with the bench’s production last season, and the second unit looked much more impressive tonight.

While he was loved for his personality, Mike Scott was simply not good enough to play minutes on a high-level NBA team. Georges Niang is a significant improvement on the offensive end and put on a shooting clinic tonight. “The Minivan” ended with 16 points, 3 assists, 2 rebounds, and shot 4 of 7 from beyond the arc. He is a step slow defensively at times, but Niang’s shooting ability will be an asset off the bench this season.

On the heels of his impressive Sixers debut, Andre Drummond once again made a positive impact. The big man played 20 minutes and put up 10 points and 7 rebounds. It was nice to see him come off the bench in what will be his long-term role with the team. There will still certainly be times where he tries to do too much on the court, but tonight was a solid performance where Drummond played the role the team needed him.

There are two remaining preseason games for the Sixers before the regular season tips off. They will return for another home game on Monday against the Nets before heading to Detroit for the finale against the Pistons next Friday. It was nice to see some more life in the offense tonight, and the victory is certainly a result the team can build off.