Monday’s Sixers/Mavericks game, the second between the two teams on their preseason trip to China, ended with the Sixers taking their first loss of the preseason, falling 115-112 to Dallas.
It was a game that was slightly more watchable than the Friday version, with the Sixers giving extended minutes to some of their starters as they get prepared for the regular season. That’s right — this was the last preseason game. It’s a long wait until next Tuesday for the regular season to kick off against the Celtics, but we have our four games out of the way early. Players can rest. Decisions about the starting lineup can be made. We can all go dissect all the Markelle Fultz shots.
Here are some takeaways from Monday’s game.
- More like Markelle Foultz.
It was a topsy-turvy day for Markelle Fultz, who picked up four fouls in the first half. Fultz eventually fouled out, but not before scoring six points on 3-for-7 shooting. Did we have a made jumper for Fultz? Oh yeah!
Look, Markelle Fultz made a jumper! pic.twitter.com/ViYzbs7nEe— Justin Carter (@juscarts) October 8, 2018
But wait, did we have another made jumper from Fultz? Yes!
Look, Markelle Fultz made another jumper! pic.twitter.com/fXMVJMIYKJ— Justin Carter (@juscarts) October 8, 2018
The first half foul trouble kept us from getting to see a final preseason glimpse of Fultz in the lineups we wanted to see him in, but his overall play this preseason has been encouraging. There were a lot of questions about Brett Brown’s decision to start Fultz — and it still remains to be seen if he’ll start in the regular season — but he’s played well, with some of the questions about his shooting answered.
- With Dario Saric unavailable on Monday, the Sixers started Mike Muscala at the four. It wasn’t the greatest game for Muscala, who finished 1-for-5 from the field for three points. He added five rebounds as well. Muscala’s presence on the court helps stretch out the defense, but I wonder how Brett Brown would handle minutes if Saric or Covington miss regular season games. Starting Muscala leaves you with just one big off the bench that you feel confident in giving meaningful minutes, Amir Johnson.
- The three point shot was not falling. Philly started 0-for-9 from deep and ended the
nightmorning 9-for-34, but even that number hides how bad it truly was, as Furkan Korkmaz and Jonah Bolden were a combined 3-for-5 from downtown in the fourth. Joel Embiid was especially frustrating with the deep ball, missing all six of his attempts. It’s just the preseason, but I think this does speak to some concerns about the outside shooting in Philadelphia this year.
- Speaking of Embiid, he missed a dunk and then soon after came back down the floor and did this:
EMBIID MISSED ONE DUNK BUT HE DID NOT MISS THIS DUNK pic.twitter.com/K1Z1svyYWO— Justin Carter (@juscarts) October 8, 2018
Embiid was 11-for-16 on two-point field goals in this one, finishing with 29 points, seven rebounds, four assists, and a pair of steals. Embiid was a huge presence inside for the Sixers in this one, even if his outside shooting was barely there.
- Robert Covington recorded six steals. He struggled with his three point shooting, but RoCo continues to show why he’s a very good player. I know there are Covington haters and that those haters have some valid points, but Covington is one of the top 3-and-D guys in the NBA.
I’d also like to point out that this was our most faved Tweet during the game:
Nice three from Robert Covington, who is a good basketball player.— Liberty Ballers (@Liberty_Ballers) October 8, 2018
- Another player who gave some good minutes in this one — T.J. McConnell. He made all four of his shots, made some good passes, and finished with a team-high plus/minus. McConnell looked like a guy who was told he had to fight for playing time and responded by giving that fight everything he has. While the should Markelle Fultz start question looms large over the next week, I’ll be interested to see how the entire guard rotation shakes out. Aside from Simmons at the point and JJ Redick playing heavy minutes in whatever role the team ultimately decides on, the rest feels up for grabs.
- One of the guys battling for those minutes is Landry Shamet. Today wasn’t Shamet’s day as he finished with just three points, a rebound, and an assist, but he’s looked impressive this preseason. Philadelphia has to balance winning now (i.e. playing guys like McConnell and Jerryd Bayless in the regular season because we know what they bring, even if what they bring has a cap on it) with giving younger players a chance to make the rotation. What will be Shamet’s role?
- Good day for those of us on the Liberty Ballers staff who are fans of Jonah Bolden and Furkan Korkmaz, by the way. Sure, it was fourth quarter minutes in a preseason game against other backups, also known as the worst time to try evaluating players, but both guys looked engaged. Bolden even had a fun “get a block on one end and then drain a three on the other” moment.
With the preseason over, Philadelphia can set it sights on October 16th’s season-opening meeting with the Boston Celtics. All the basketball that barely matters is over — the next time you see Embiid and Simmons on a basketball court, the game counts.