What a wild ride! The Sixers looked locked-in in all phases of the game and that may have been the best performance they’ve have had since the massive deal they made with Brooklyn to acquire James Harden. Here are some of my takeaways from the dominating Game 1 and preview of Game 2:
1. Tyrese Maxey has no fear
I think Tyrese might be Batman??? Just the sheer lack of fear is amazing to watch as us Sixers fans have dealt with way too many players who are simply too passive when it gets to these high pressure moments. Maxey instead likes to take the bull by the horns and really make his mark.
The most surprising improvement from Maxey is his shooting from beyond the arc. People knew he’d be a good shooter out of college, but THIS good THIS fast? Nobody foresaw this and it’s a testament to Maxey’s work that he puts in the summer.
It’s unfortunate that Maxey wasn’t able to score 40 because I’m not able to crown him greatest NBA player ever. I’ll just settle for top 5.
2. Good James Harden is still good.
I’m not completely giving up on James Harden’s old form returning but it doesn’t seem like he’ll be averaging 28 out of the gate next season. Yet, he’s still an amazing player to watch. His playmaking has completely changed the outlook of this team. Everyone agrees that the open looks they get have been the best of their career playing with Harden.
Maybe his scoring isn’t what it used to be, but to be quite frank, it doesn’t have to be.
With the way Embiid is dominating the league, the Sixers simply need a few stretches of scoring from Harden to keep afloat when Embiid is off the floor. That’s exactly what Harden did in Game 1, with stretches in the second and third quarter to extend the lead.
Honestly, a few adjustments when he’s driving to the basket and Harden will be just fine in my eyes.
3. The Sixers Won a Game Where Embiid Wasn’t…. Great
I genuinely cannot believe my eyes. The Sixers won a game against NICK NURSE, where Joel Embiid didn’t even crack 20 points!!! Some of it was Toronto’s innate desire to have three 6-foot-8 guys on the ball at all times, but some of it is also our guys just had it going!
People weren’t just looking to Jojo to set the tone. Guys like Tobias Harris, BBall Paul, and the aforementioned Tyrese Maxey competed with an energy that this Raptors squad wasn’t expecting. I think this speaks to the job the coaching staff has done in the past week. Everyone knew the gameplan and that allowed them to play free and have fun out there.
4. Tobias Harris deserves another max deal!
Tobias Harris’ game to game play is going to be really integral to this series. Starting off with 26 points and going 3/5 from deep is really impressive and hopefully can be a precursor to his run this postseason. This is easily the best we’ve seen him play all year. Him embracing the dirty work, clean up role while also becoming an unconscious shooter is genuinely the air I breathe.
I don’t expect him to shoot this well every game but his mentality combined with his rebounding and defense last night is a great sign. I believe in Tobias and so should you!
5. Mistake Free Basketball
The Sixers largely played mistake free basketball with just 3 turnovers. Toronto’s half court offense struggles mightily, so their counter is to be one of the best transition teams in basketball. When you don’t give them extra possessions and commit unnecessary turnovers, you get games like yesterday.
In the half-court, Toronto’s biggest threat is Pascal Siakam. So once you slow him down, it becomes tough for Toronto to consistently get good looks at the basket. Defensively, Philadelphia didn’t give Siakim the opportunity to carry his team in the half court and dominate.
Preview for Game 2!
The Sixers looked flat out dominant in game one, even with Joel Embiid having a below average game by his standards. One team looked like they belonged and the other didn’t. Philadelphia played with so much intensity that it seemingly shellshocked Toronto.
Philadelphia shot 51.2% from the field and also hit 50% of their threes. If they maintain their efficiency and intensity from game one, they’ll come out on top again.
Nick Nurse is a great coach so expect him to adjust to Maxey and Tobias’ scoring. I think the Toronto defense will be a bit tougher in game 2 but the Sixers will obtain a quick 2-0 lead.
Also to watch is the health of Scottie Barnes, you never want to see a young guy of his caliber go down in their first playoff game.
All in all, not too many negatives to provide off of a win like that. Game 2 is on Monday night in South Philly so I’ll see you there. Stay Icy Sixers fans!
Cover Image Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports