If the Sixers win a game, and nobody saw it, did it really happen?
The Sixers played the Orlando Magic in a non-televised game from Allentown's long-awaited, brand new PPL Center.
Unless you were one of the 5,764 (listed) in attendance, you very likely missed one of the more entertaining quarters of basketball that the Sixers will play this season.
The Sixers, who were without starters Nerlens Noel (upper respiratory infection) and Tony Wroten (personal reasons), sprinted out to a 37-23 first quarter lead, a quarter which saw them get to the line 11 times. Drew Gordon would score 11 in the quarter, ultimately drawing four and-1 opportunities in the game.
"I get in there and try to mix it up as much as possible," Gordon said after the game. "Some games I get a lot of and-1's, and some games I get beat to a pulp."
"Fortunately, today I got a few and-1's and was able to make the most of them."
"I see a lot more every day," Brett Brown said about Gordon, who went undrafted in the 2012 NBA draft after playing for UCLA and New Mexico in his college career. "He was sort of known as a serviceable, journeyman type, blue collar worker. And he is that, and more. There is a skill package there, along with those workman like qualities, that has surprised me."
This would mark the first time that Drew Gordon and Aaron Gordon, his younger brother who was the 4th pick in the 2014 draft by the Magic, would play in a formal setting. That excitement was dampened a little bit, as Aaron Gordon was limited to only 5 minutes of playing time because the Magic were on the second half of a back-to-back where Gordon had played 33 minutes the night before.
The Sixers lead would balloon to 24 at the half, where they led 62-38. For the Sixers, it was a significantly better played first half than their previous game against the Celtics, as they committed only 8 turnovers, shot 49% from the field, got to the line 18 times (making 16 of them), and held the Magic to only 5 offensive rebounds on 24 missed field goals.
"I think we were tired of losing," rookie K.J. McDaniels said. "We all came out here with a chip on our shoulder, and everybody played with confidence."
Besides Gordon, who finished the half with 14 points on 5 attempts, K.J. McDaniels chipped in 11 points on 4-8 shooting, and Henry Sims and Elliot Williams each contributed 8 points on 5 field goal attempts.
"That's a very unusual amount of points for our team," head coach Brett Brown said about the early surge. "I think that we [lifted our defensive effort] and it led to those transition points."
Things unraveled a little bit in the third quarter, as many of the same problems that have plagued the Sixers during the preseason (and last season as well) cropped up. Brett Brown elected to go with Malcolm Lee at point guard to start the 2nd half, as Casper Ware had shot only 1-5 for his two points in the first half, finishing 2-11 on the night. Lee, however, would leave the game only 3 minutes into the third quarter after suffering a sprained left ankle, and would not return.
The Sixers ended up committing 10 turnovers in the third quarter, while also going 0-3 from three point range and only getting to the free throw line twice, and gave up 9 offensive rebounds to the Magic. All that led to the Magic outscoring the Sixers 23-15 in the frame, despite only shooting 39% from the field themselves. Former Sixer Dewayne Dedmon had 4 of those 9 third-quarter offensive rebounds.
Despite struggling to find their shot in the 4th quarter, the Sixers stopped shooting themselves in the foot, committing only 4 turnovers and giving up only 3 offensive rebounds in the quarter, and were able to hold on for a 95-84 victory. Casper Ware, who only shot 1-5 from the field in the final frame, did make 4 big free throws down the stretch, and JaKarr Sampson added in 5 points as well in the 4th quarter, including a big three pointer.
For the Sixers, Nerlensl Noel (upper respiratory infection), Tony Wroten (personal reasons), and Luc Mbah a Moute (lower back strain) sat the game out. They were joined by Ronald Roberts Jr (left quad strain), Jerami Grant (right ankle sprain), and Michael Carter-Williams (right shoulder injury), who all continue to work their way back from injuries.
For the Magic, Channing Frye and Victor Oladpio missed the game, due to left and right MCL sprains, respectively. Nikola Vucevic, Tobias Harris, Ben Gordon, and Luke Ridnour all didn't play due to coaching decisions, as the Magic had just played the night before, and coach Jacque Vaughn was looking to manage their minutes.
Other Odds and Ends
- While Drew Gordon and K.J. McDaniels were the starts of the game, I thought Arnett Moultrie played well. Moultrie shot only 3-8 from the field, missing three long range two point jump shots. That being said, he did score a couple of baskets down low on aggressive finishes in the paint, and, more importantly, I thought he really played well defensively. Moultrie finished the night with 8 rebounds, 2 steals, and 2 blocked shots, and really rotated well and cut off driving angles defensively. If somebody could just get him to improve his shot selection, and he continues to give this effort on the defensive side of the court, he could find a spot in the rotation.
- Alexey Shved played well as well. Shved finished with 10 points on 3-5 shooting. He even hit a pull-up jump shot, which is noteworthy considering he shot 16% on jump shots off the dribble last season. He has been able to get into the lane with regularity this preseason due to his length and quickness, although he has struggled to finish when contested around the hoop. He did had two really bad cross-court passes, both of which were picked off and turned into transition opportunities for the Magic.
- JaKarr Sampson continues to play well. He had 9 points and 5 rebounds on the night, and made one of only three Sixers three pointers (the other two being Hollis Thompson and Elliot Williams. His hustle, defense, and ability to find a way to contribute offensively could earn him minutes once the real season starts.
- Henry Sims had a little bit better of a game, scoring 9 points (3-6) to go along with 6 rebounds in 30 minutes of action. His shot selection was more what you want out of Sims, although he still struggled with turnover problems, committing 4 in the game.
- Brandon Davies had another tough game as a starter, finishing with 4 points (1-4), 4 rebounds, and 5 personal fouls. He's struggled the last few games after a strong, consistent start to the preseason.
- Hollis Thompson continued his disappointing preseason. In his second game back since returning from an eye injury, Thompson scored only 3 points in 20 minutes going 1-4 from the field, 1-3 from three point range. He also committed 6 fouls and 2 turnovers during the span.
- Elliot Williams had a second strong game in a row, scoring 13 points (5-9, 1-2 from three) to go along with 3 rebounds, 5 assists, and 3 steals. Williams has played well of late, after not getting much playing time early on in the preseason, and looks much more confident in his jumper, which would be a key for him. "I think he's been very professional. I see him getting better. He's an NBA player, there is no doubt about that," Brown said about Williams before the game.
The Sixers have two more preseason games, against the Nets on Monday and the Pistons on Thursday, both on the road. They will open up the 2014 regular season at Indiana to play the Pacers on October 29th. Their home opener is on November 1st against the Miami Heat.