At long last, the Philadelphia 76ers’ 2012-13 campaign got underway Thursday night in The Sunshine State. And even better (not really, the game didn’t count), they won by a score of 102-95 over the Nik Vucevic-led Orlando Magic.
I guess the main point to be taken from this game is not to take too much from it, or at the very least not to harp on what transpired at the Amway Center. It was only the first preseason contest, and the Sixers played without their newest acquisition and let’s be honest, focal point in Andrew Bynum.
But still, some stuff happened. Here’s what stood out:
Jrue-Watch: There’s no getting around the fact that Jrue Holiday was excellent against Orlando, the best player on the floor by a good bit. Jrue was under control all night and putting in pretty much everything he threw up, which resulted in one of those Quiet Assassin type of nights. Orlando’s radio announcers certainly were frustrated with how easily Jrue got his points.
But it’s not all good, because while Jrue’s 27 points came on 14 shots, he also didn’t attempt a free throw. By now I’m sure most have seen the article written by Tom Haberstroh and Beckley Mason on Jrue’s success being tied to following the Derrick Rose path of getting more trips to the free-throw line and taking more attempts from behind the arc. Zero trips to the line obviously isn’t helping in that category.
With that said, Jrue’s approach was still pretty good tonight. First, he took four threes, and happened to make three of them. More of that and less long twos, please. The zero free-throw attempts are a tad misleading, too, because Holiday did have success getting into the paint. Jrue got to the rim four times (made all four shots) and had nice finishes where he alas, didn’t draw contact. With the height advantage Jrue has over a guy like Jameer Nelson, he needs to try and get to the rim as often as he can. My biggest thing is that when watching Jrue Holiday’s scoring this season, it’s all about the process first to get progress second. And with 8 of 14 shots in the paint or from three, I’d say that’s a step in the right direction.
As for his assists, only three to one turnover, that’s something we can legitimately wait for Bynum in the lineup to judge.
A Tale of Two Wings: Nick Young won this game for the Sixers. Swaggy P was at his absolute Swaggiest down the stretch, and Young won the game with the one thing he does well, shooting. While Young didn’t contribute in other areas as usual, if he can continue make those spot-up threes and defend like he did for the Clippers in the playoffs, he will be a very useful rotation player for Doug Collins.
On the other hand, Evan Turner was pretty darn bad. ET cleaned the glass like he usually does, but that doesn’t come close to making up for the fact that he didn’t get to the line at all en route to his four points on 2-12 shooting. One play in particular was very discouraging: When the game was winding down and the Sixers were holding four, Turner’s decided to hardly make a move and pull-up for a 19-foot jumper that Armon Johnson cleanly blocked.
Not a good start for the Villain, and even though it was only one game, he needs to be much better than he was tonight if he wants any sort of significant minutes.
Out of Position: There’s been talk of Thaddeus Young moving to the three some this year, which I felt was misguided. In any talk of Thad playing small forward, it has to be mentioned that he really struggles with on-ball defense against threes, having a really hard time staying in front of them off the dribble. Hedo Turkoglu brought back some bad memories tonight by taking advantage of Thad’s awkward defensive stance and suspect lateral quickness when the two were matched up in the late 2nd Quarter.
But then again, Thad seems like an excellent complement to Bynum at the 4.
The Surprise? Just as he reportedly has been all preseason, Maalik Wayns was impressive, and I’d say if the season started today, the undrafted Philly product would get around 10 minutes a game at the backup point guard spot. Wayns provides one element the Sixers otherwise wouldn’t have at the position: speed.
The rookie seems to be at his most effective pushing the ball in transition off misses, where he really is a blur in the open court. In this game, Maalik was particularly effective finding shooters trailing him for three-pointers. I really liked the pressure he put on the defense, pushing the ball at will until someone stopped him, and then how he was able to find open shooters because of the confusion his speed continually caused defenders to have. A 6:1 Ast/TO ratio ain’t too shabby.
Wayns’ NBA future will be determined if he can be adequate when the game slows down while running the half-court offense and more importantly, on defense guarding NBA point guards. The jury is still out in those areas, but the rook definitely got off to an excellent start by accentuating his strengths.
Rebounding? The Sixers got beat on the glass tonight, and it seemed much worse than the final stats would indicate. Of all the big men, only Lavoy Allen rebounded at the level you would want. With the bad under-the-basket feed I was watching online, it was hard to see the problem exactly, but let’s just say it’s a good thing Andrew Bynum is scheduled to play for the Sixers this season.
That’s about what stood out to me. And remember, it was still only one absolutely meaningless game. The Sixers will next play the retooled Brooklyn Nets on Saturday in Atlantic City and try to be the Nucky Thompson to their Jimmy Darmody. Tip is at 7:00 p.m.