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Philadelphia 76ers: 3 observations from win vs. Pelicans in season opener

Sixers, Joel Embiid, Tobias Harris, Ben Simmons

Despite all the drama surrounding the team, the Philadelphia 76ers managed to start their season on a high note. They visited the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday and picked up the victory in a rather convincing fashion. Behind the stellar play of multiple players, the Sixers won by a final score of 117-97

Here are three observations from the Sixers’ season-opening win.

3. Joel Embiid, leaders set the tone 

Heading into the regular season, Joel Embiid and Tobias Harris were called on to be leaders more than ever. After all, they need to keep the team focused to avoid giving in to off-court distractions.

The duo both had incredible runs in the regular season in 2020-21, and it looks like they picked things up where they left off this 2021-22. 

Embiid came out and wasted little time reminding everyone he was arguably the most dominant player in the league last season. The MVP runner-up was doing it all for the Sixers on both ends of the court. In one sequence, Embiid grabbed a rebound, walked the ball up the floor, and then proceeded to casually step into a three. He ended the night with 22 points, six rebounds and five assists in just 25 minutes of action.

Harris got off to a bit of a slow start but managed to put together a solid performance when all was said and done. In 28 minutes, he racked up 20 points and 12 rebounds while shooting 50 percent from the field. 

It’s up to this duo to set the tone for the rest of the team, and they did just that. They showed whether Ben Simmons is on the floor or not, they are a strong enough pairing to keep the Sixers playing at a high level. 

2. Sixers’ bench carries strong play into the regular season 

The play of the second unit was one of the biggest takeaways from the Sixers in the preseason, and the same can be said for the season opener. Doc Rivers used the all-bench lineup almost to a fault last season and gave the group heavy minutes against the Pelicans. 

After a slow start, the bench unit turned it up a notch to keep New Orleans at bay for good. One of the biggest standouts from the second unit was Furkan Korkmaz, who erupted for 18 points in the fourth quarter to bust the game wide open. 

The Sixers’ new additions also had solid performances in their debuts. Georges Niang shot 3-of-4 from beyond the arc en route to 11 points, while Andre Drummond grabbed 17 rebounds and blocked two shots in his 19 minutes of work. Through one game, they have already shown they will be massive upgrades for Rivers’ bench. 

Multiple players will need to step up to help fill the void in Simmons’ absence. If the second unit can continue this impressive play, the Sixers are going to be very tough to beat. 

1. Tyrese Maxey shines in an expanded role 

With Shake Milton sidelined due to a sprained ankle, Tyrese Maxey got the first crack at sliding into the starting lineup. Similar to his entire career, the young guard made the most of the opportunity put in front of him. 

Maxey did it all for the Sixers in their win on Wednesday, tallying 20 points, seven rebounds and five assists. He even stepped out and knocked down a pair of shots from beyond the arc. If having to fill the hole in the starting lineup fazed Maxey, he had a funny way of showing it. 

Many circled the 20-year-old as an X-factor for the Sixers this season, and a performance like this is why. There is no denying he has the potential to be a very good player in this league for years to come. He still needs to develop the point guard nature of his game, but his showing against the Pelicans proved he is willing and able to take on more in his second season.