For a while, it seemed as though the Cleveland Cavaliers were going to cruise past the Philadelphia 76ers, even without the services of LeBron James, J.R. Smith, and Timofey Mozgov. However, the Sixers reserve unit was able to close the gap late, and pull out a gritty 115-14 victory.
Some observations from tonight.
- Scottie Wilbekin, who scored 5 points in 24 minutes Tuesday, only played the final three minutes of action, but really made the most of his time on the floor. Philadelphia was able to close the lead to two points with just over eight seconds, and Wilbekin was given the final shot. With just over a second left on the clock, Wilbekin buried a straight away three, giving Philadelphia the victory. That was his only shot of the evening. Very hard to tell who has the upper hand in the third guard battle thus far.
- He got off to a slow start, but Nerlens Noel finished the evening with solid numbers. In 27 minutes, he scored 10 points and yanked down 15 rebounds. Noel wasn't able to get a ton of touches in the flow of play, but was typically able to draw contact and get to the line. The only issue was he was 6-12 from the line. Defensively, he's still making a large contributions on the boards despite playing further out towards the perimeter. That's a really good sign that things might be able to work between him and Okafor. Noel does seem to have a little trouble defending outside, specifically closing out on shots, but nothing he can't pick up on as he gets more comfortable.
- Tuesday went a whole lot better for Jahlil Okafor than tonight did, finishing with 12 points on 4-12 shooting, and grabbing just three rebounds. He showed some flashes (like a really nice drop step finish on Sasha Kaun early in the game), but for the most part really struggled. At times he tried to do too much with the ball with his hands, partially because he's had some issues establishing position lower to the basket. If there are any positives to take away from this game, it's that he was a perfect 3-3 from the line. Yay for progress.
- Isaiah Canaan followed up a solid preseason debut with a quality showing against the Cavaliers. He was second amongst Sixers scorers with 16, including 3-8 from beyond the arc. I don't feel great about Isaiah Canaan the starting point guard, but I am getting more comfortable with Isaiah Canaan the off ball guard. He looked a whole lot more comfortable catching and shooting than facilitating, and I was also pleasantly surprised to see him finish through contact around the rim.
- T.J. McConnell was the first (and only other) point guard off the bench tonight, and he looked much better than I anticipated. He was calm and composed in moving the ball, resulting in a final tally of 4 assists. He wasn't a real factor shooting the ball, but his role with the Sixers is supposed to be pass first. I also thought he showed good hustle on the defensive end.
- Jerami Grant looked really solid all over the floor, eventually finding his three-point stroke late in the game. He had 19 points on 6-10 shooting, and was 2-5 from three-point range. Furkan Aldemir is really, really bad at anything that doesn't involve rebounding. Aldemir may be able to develop some sort of offensive skill set down the line, but he fouls so much that he may never be able to play key bench minutes. In just 13 minutes, he racked up five fouls. Hard to get any playing time that way.
- Former actual, not figurative Sixer Jared Cunningham played like he had a vendetta against his team of several hours. Cunningham had a whopping 31 points on 8-10 shots, including a quality 13-16 shooting from the line. He left his mark on the evening by throwing home a monster dunk on Nerlens Noel.