The Philadelphia 76ers defeated the Boston Celtics 108-99 in their first preseason game. Our Steve Lipman has you covered on instant recap and Sean Kennedy wrote up six observations he had from the game. Below are three aspects of the Sixers’ performance that stood out to me.
Joel Embiid and Seth Curry: two-man game
In a surprise to absolutely no one, Joel Embiid and Seth Curry look to be building chemistry in the two-man game. I can recall at least three instances of the new teammates dialing up screen action for quality looks. Below, a miss sandwiched between two makes:
For fans that have followed the team over the last four seasons, that action looks very familiar. Embiid ran the same routine with JJ Redick with high efficiency when the sharpshooter was in Philadelphia. I’m not sure we’ve seen a player serve as a better complement to Embiid than Redick through Embiid’s young career. That Curry and Embiid already seem to be establishing continuity signals great things ahead for the Sixers’ offense.
Tyrese Maxey not wasting any time
Sixers first round draft pick Tyrese Maxey made the most of his limited run against the Celtics. He did not enter the game until late in the 2nd half, but he was ready when he got the call. Maxey’s scoring repertoire included euro steps, runners and floaters on his way to 8 points in just 12 minutes.
Maxey also added 3 assists to his line.
What really stuck out about Maxey was that he controlled the pace of play when he was in the game. Doc Rivers put the rookie on the floor without other creators to really let Maxey cook with fire. Maxey responded by prodding the Celtics’ defense for openings and then leveraging his quick burst to get downhill. The rookie himself took notice:
#Sixers rookie Tyrese Maxey: 'The main takeaway is I can play at my own pace. I dictate the pace, offensively.'— Tom Moore (@TomMoorePhilly) December 16, 2020
Dwight How— no, Dwight Hustle
Dwight Howard was refreshing and impressive in his first game as backup center for the Sixers. His play was selfless, constantly setting screens to spring teammates loose both on- and off-ball. He crashed the boards hard, coming away with two offensive rebounds that led to 2nd chance points. And he provided a reliable defensive presence in the front court in non-Embiid minutes.
I was particularly impressed with the following defensive play by Howard in the pick-and-roll, negating a lob threat in Robert Williams and ultimately stripping the ball from Jayson Tatum.
It’s a long season, but if Dwight consistently plays the way he did last night, any concerns folks may have had about his attitude will end up looking silly.
We touched on the Embiid-Curry two-man game earlier, but it’s not the only guard-center combo working off each other for points. Howard and Shake Milton utilized pick-and-rolls, hand-offs and screens with success Tuesday evening.
In recent history, we’re not used to seeing many pick-and-rolls from the Sixers’ offense. Now we may see a successful Sixers PnR duo... off the bench!? Love it.