In perhaps a precursor to the 2021-22 season, we saw Monday that as long as the Sixers have Joel Embiid, they have a chance to win.
Down a slew of players, Embiid and the Sixers rode a hot start to a 115-104 win over the Brooklyn Nets at the Wells Fargo Center.
The Sixers were without Seth Curry (rest), Tobias Harris (right knee soreness), Shake Milton (right ankle sprain), Tyrese Maxey (left adductor tightness), and Matisse Thybulle (right shoulder soreness). Ben Simmons continues to hold out and has not reported to the team … yet.
Sixers All-Star Ben Simmons has arrived in Philadelphia and took a Covid-19 test -- as required by NBA protocol, sources tell ESPN.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) October 12, 2021
The Nets were most notably missing Kyrie Irving (not with team) and St. Joe’s product DeAndre’ Bembry (dental procedure).
Embiid dominated early and starting guards Furkan Korkmaz and Isaiah Joe both shined. Though the record is meaningless, the Sixers are now 2-1 in the preseason. They close out their exhibition slate Friday in Detroit against the Pistons.
Here are a few takeaways from Monday’s game.
Embiid looks ready
Joel Embiid looking like Joel Embiid in just his second preseason game is a great sign. The Nets were so consumed with trying to stop Embiid that it allowed the Sixers’ shooters to shake loose for several open looks.
Embiid hit a three, a midrange fadeaway, a circus and-one layup fighting through a double team, and a one-hand slam on a drive by veteran Paul Millsap.
Embiid’s welcoming of double teams has truly taken his game to the next level. As long as he was in the game, the Sixers dominated. He closed the first half with 14 points and three assists in just over eight minutes.
The All-Star center didn’t play in the second half. Doc Rivers had likely seen enough — Brooklyn probably felt the same.
Cup of Joe
Joe has without a doubt been the biggest story this preseason for the Sixers. Billed as a sharpshooter coming out of Arkansas, the 2020 second-round pick has looked like so much more through three exhibition games.
The biggest thing that’s stood out is Joe’s comfortability putting the ball on the floor. Not only has he been attacking overaggressive closeouts, but he’s been operating out of the pick-and-roll pretty successfully. He found a rolling Andre Drummond three times for easy buckets.
Then there’s a play like this:
Isaiah Joe has been awesome in preseason. Look at this! pic.twitter.com/ZrutZnupJS— Jackson Frank (@jackfrank_jjf) October 12, 2021
If Joe adds stuff like this to his repertoire, he becomes an even more intriguing prospect.
Defensively, he was tasked with defending James Harden. Just a 21-year-old guarding a former league MVP. No big deal. Joe held his own. As Rivers has pointed out to us, despite Joe’s slight frame, he plays with a physicality and does a good job fighting through screens. The fact that Joe is actually a plus on defense as a second-year player is huge.
Oh yeah, the sharpshooting is still very much there. He went 5 of 7 from three. He finished with 20 points, three assists and two steals.
When everyone is healthy, I’m not sure who loses minutes to allow Joe to play, but somebody is losing minutes.
A Furkan point guard
With the Sixers having nothing that resembled a point guard Monday, Rivers rolled with Korkmaz at the one — and the Turkish sharpshooter was excellent.
Korkmaz initiated the offense and that seemed to get him to play in attack mode. Korkmaz hadn’t been shooting the ball great through the first two games, but he got to the rim routinely against Brooklyn’s defense. That seemed to open up Kormaz’s entire game.
With the Nets mostly healthy, Korkmaz actually didn’t look out of place running the offense. He finished with a game-high 27 points on 11 of 19 and 4 of 10 from three. He also dished out four assists.
- The backup frontcourt tandem of Georges Niang and Andre Drummond continues to be very impressive. Niang had seven points, three rebounds, three assists, and three steals. Drummond added 16 points, six rebounds and six assists. Their ability as passers should open up a lot for the second unit.
- Shaquille Harrison is likely headed to Delaware to play for the Blue Coats, but the 28-year-old is hungry. He was everywhere defensively, picking up four steals. Harrison likely doesn’t have the offensive game to be an NBA contributor, but his defense stands out.