The Philadelphia 76ers start off 2-0 for the second straight season, after a 109-89 blowout of the New York Knicks.
Ben Simmons, despite a modest stat line of 15 points, 9 rebounds and 6 assists, was the star of the night. He was a menace defensively, not only putting RJ Barrett in handcuffs, but causing havoc on nearly every Knicks offensive possession.
“He was terrific. He used his size, length. His instincts are unbelievable,” Doc Rivers stated in response to Simmons’ night defensively.
Here are five takeaways from tonight’s game:
1. What’s wrong with Tobias Harris?
The $180 million dollar man is arguably the most hated player in Philadelphia (Quarterback Carson Wentz is a close second). You would think people would be a fan of a 19 point 9 rebound per night player, that is also a staple in the community. No, all people see are one hundred and eighty million dollars, also known as, the worst contract in basketball.
Looking at the box score tonight, Harris had a solid game – 17 points on 7-14 shooting – but he just looks lost. Whether it’s getting abused by Julius Randle on defense, or over dribbling into bad shots on offense, Tobias Harris just isn’t playing like a guy that would command that type of contract.
His best season (or half of a season) came under Doc Rivers, in Los Angeles, so there is still hope he can bring that version out of Tobias.
2. Slow Starting Sixers
For the second game in a row, fourth if you’re counting the two preseason games, the Sixers started off slowly, taking on an early, first quarter deficit.
Against the Wizards, it was Shake Milton, off the bench, that provided the spark. Today, it was Dwight Howard. Doc Rivers mentioned that the bench would be very important for the team this season, and they are holding up their end of the bargain so far.
While it’s nothing to necessarily stress over two games in, you have to wonder what the issue is with the starters early on in games.
3. Welcome to Philadelphia Seth Curry
On draft night, Daryl Morey shipped off Josh Richardson and a second round pick for sharpshooter, Seth Curry. The former Maverick is a career 44% 3 point shooter and Morey believed who better to pair up with elite passing Ben Simmons than Curry.
After a rough 1-4 from 3 start in game one, Curry went 3-4 from long distance in New York. He finished the night with 17 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists on 6-8 shooting.
The attention Curry commands is noticeable early on. Defenders have been reluctant to help, opening up the lane for Simmons or post ups for Joel Embiid.
Make or miss, his quick trigger is something we haven’t seen since JJ Redick, and if history is any indication, we will be seeing a lot more of these plays in the future.
4. Doc Rivers’ rotations
Initially, I thought it was Rivers just testing out lineups, in the preseason, to see what works and what doesn’t. However, it is clear that Rivers has a lot of trust in his bench.
In all of the preseason and regular season games, so far, Rivers has run his bench unit without staggering Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid – something former head coach Brett Brown would always do.
Personally, I’m not a fan of all bench lineups, but I can’t complain about the performances. Having ball handlers, shooters, and a legit back up center has clearly given Rivers the confidence to run them out there.
Averaging 35 points per game through two games, it looks like the bench mob is here to stay.
5. “We Got Shooters!!”
We weren’t able to witness Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, surrounded by shooters, long enough to appreciate how good they are. It is virtually impossible to defend Joel Embiid when you know there are 3-4 guys surrounding him that can shoot it.
After a rough shooting game vs Washington, where the starters combined for two 3 pointers on 14 attempts, the opposite happened tonight, as the starters combined for nine 3 pointers on 19 attempts. Four starters made at least two 3s and the Sixers looked exactly how we expected them to.
When shots are falling, the offense looks flawless with Embiid post ups, Simmons gliding to the basket and finding his teammates, and the supporting cast making teams pay for overhelping. Our two superstars have shooters again, and yes, it was only the Knicks, but getting used to these types of offensive nights are to be expected.
Looking to extend the win streak to 3, the Sixers head to Cleveland, tomorrow night, for a showdown with the Cavaliers. See you all then. #HereTheyCome