76ers Opening Night Win Reactions
The Philadelphia 76ers organization couldn’t be happier for an opportunity to put last season behind them. That feeling is true not only of their players, but also their two hot new hires in Daryl Morey as president of basketball operations and Doc Rivers as head coach.
They took the first step towards burying the memory of last season by downing the Washington Wizards 113-107 on opening night. While it’s silly to overreact based on a one game sample size, this contest was a good litmus test for the 76ers in the eastern conference. The Washington Wizards, with their explosive new backcourt featuring Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal, have their eyes set on playoff contention. The Wizards are the kind of team the 76ers need to beat. Find a game summary and other storylines below.
This opening night showdown was a back-and-forth affair, where the 76ers opened up a double-digit lead in the first quarter, only to squander that margin and find themselves trailing for most of the game. A 40 point explosion from the Sixers in the fourth quarter, coupled with them holding the Wizards to just 24 points, led to a Philadelphia victory. Despite the loss, the Wizards’ stars came to play, with Russell Westbrook posting a triple-double in his first game with the franchise and Bradely Beal dropping 31 points of his own. The Sixers looked to be the much deeper team and their bench play contributed to their success on opening night.
Strong Start for the Embiid/Simmons Pairing
The 76ers matched the Wizards’ starpower with some of their own. Ben Simmons was his usual do-a-little-bit-of-everything self and posted a well-rounded statline of 16 points (7-12 fg), 9 rebounds, 7 assists, 3 blocks, and two steals. While that number of blocks is anomalously high, the rest of those stats are near mirrors of his eclectic production last season.
Meanwhile, Joel Embiid went for 29 points (10-17 fg) and 14 rebounds while looking unguardable most of the night. His shooting stroke, in particular, was smooth and he showed no hesitation before launching shots on many occasions. Of course, for Embiid to both silence his critics and appease his fans, this sort of production will need to come on a consistent basis without taking nights off. This is a strong start for Embiid’s season, one that I think will be his best yet.
Shake Milton Carries the Bench
Shake Milton was by far the 76ers best contributor off the bench, pouring in 19 points (6-11 fg) and essentially playing starter’s minutes. Although Danny Green started the game, he only played 18 minutes compared to 30 minutes for Shake Milton off the bench. Milton displayed that his offensive firepower is well deserving of minutes and I think coach Rivers will opt for Milton when he needs more offense and Green when defense is more of a necessity.
Morey’s Changes Makes Sense so far
The major roster alteration that Daryl Morey undertook this offseason was replacing size with shooting. That roster change compliments, rather than complicates, the two stars of the Sixers who are most comfortable near the rim and should be surrounded by effective long-range shooters. So far, the changes seem to be working.
Seth Curry, one of the best shooters of all time, actually struggled from the three point line in his first game as a Sixer (1-5). That struggle from long-range shouldn’t last much longer and in the meantime the 76ers showed that they have other capable threats from deep in Korkmaz (3-6 from three) and Milton (2 for 4 from deep). The rest of the roster struggled shooting the long ball in this game, particularly Danny Green (0-4), who has been a specialist at that shot his entire career.
The important thing was that they shot the three ball at a high clip. The percentage of makes are bound to increase with the roster Morey has constructed.