The Philadelphia 76ers opened their preseason against old pal Ben Simmons and the Brooklyn Nets. The Sixers took the win by a score of 127-108.
Despite Joel Embiid, James Harden and P.J. Tucker sitting out due to rest (as well as Danuel House Jr. because of a stiff neck), the Sixers gave Simmons, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving a strong fight. They led 65-62 at halftime before both squads exhausted their bench options and let their key players rest.
Tyrese Maxey led all players with 20 points on 6-8 shooting to go along with three assists in 14 minutes. Furkan Korkmaz and Julian Champagnie had 15 points each off the bench while Paul Reed and Montrezl Harrell each contributed 10 points. For the Nets, Kevin Durant led the way with 13 points, Nic Claxton scored 12 points and made all six of his shots, Irving had nine points, four assists and three steals and Simmons tallied six points (on 3-6 shooting), five assists (which led all players) and four rebounds.
There aren’t many concrete takeaways from just the first preseason game. However, some Sixers players had performances that, should they continue, will make fans extremely happy. Here are four takeaways from Philadelphia’s preseason opener against the Nets, starting with the player whose performance headlined the evening.
4. Tyrese Maxey, All-Star in the making
Right out of the gate, Tyrese Maxey made it known that this was his game. He let it fly with no hesitation when he was open and navigated the defense with no fear. He had the Sixers’ first 10 points of the night, kicking it off with two pull-up triples.
20 PTS | 3 AST | 1 BLK
all in 14 minutes. @TyreseMaxey was in mid-season form tn.
🎥 presented by @PALottery pic.twitter.com/Hc2EvsdPsk
— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) October 4, 2022
Maxey creating offense for himself more often would make the Sixers very difficult to stop. If he increases his deep shooting volume and remains highly efficient, it’s curtains for opposing guards. Although the Nets got to Maxey in the second quarter with some more aggressive defense in the second quarter, he was able to find the hoop.
Maxey could be in the All-Star conversation if he continues to punish defenses like he did against the Nets without Embiid and Harden. With the aid of the two stars to fall back on, he is obviously a huge threat to the defense. But doing what he did tonight — taking command of the offense, looking to attack the defense but getting the ball to find the open man — will elevate him firmly into star status.
3. Isaiah Joe could be the ideal 3-and-D guy
Maxey was not the only 2020 draftee to stand out against the Nets. Isaiah Joe, drafted 28 spots after Maxey, had himself a solid performance as he looks to establish a more permanent rotation spot.
Joe shot the 3-ball with confidence, converting on three of his six tries from deep. On defense, Joe did a good job contesting shooters and sticking with Joe Harris as the Nets sharpshooter tried to free himself off the ball.
After adding some muscle to his frame this offseason, he seems more equipped to battle it out with opposing wings. He certainly gives full effort on defense but now he could be truly impactful. Given the chance, he could prove to be a valuable wing on a championship hopeful.
Another young Sixers wing, Julian Champagnie, also had a solid night. He isn’t gunning for a rotation spot since he is on a two-way deal, but he still had a strong showing, ending the night with 15 points on 5-10 shooting, seven rebounds, three assists and two steals.
2. Paul Reed and Montrezl Harrell are a great backup big duo
One key expectation regarding the Sixers rotation was that the duo of Paul Reed and Montrezl Harrell would be a strong bench duo behind Embiid. Both players put up very solid performances tonight.
Reed, who started the game in Embiid’s absence, was a force on defense and on the boards. He posted 10 points, five rebounds (three offensive), three steals and a block. Harrell also punished the Nets on the boards and showcased some great shooting touch on putback shots. He had 10 points on 3-5 shooting, drew two shooting fouls, made all four free throws and collected four offensive boards.
Doc Rivers’ preference for veterans makes Harrell seem like the likely backup to Embiid but Reed will still demand playing with his tremendous defense. Although both of them are undersized, they bring the physicality and energy that will make them effective against any bench.
1. The Sixers defense is going to be legit
Defense has been the clear priority for the Sixers heading into the season. Allowing 62 points in the first half may not show it, but the Philly defense had a ton of bright spots when their key players were in.
The Sixers switched a ton of ball screens and created problems for Ben Simmons and the Nets in the halfcourt. Reed, De’Anthony Melton and Matisse Thybulle all made some key plays. After the game, Rivers said that he was mostly happy with how they handled themselves in transition.
From Doc Rivers postgame:
-With a couple exceptions, pleased with how Sixers crashed for OREBs while staying solid in trans D.
-Glad to have a defender like De’Anthony Melton. Talked w/USC HC Andy Enfield, who told him Melton is the kind of player you always want on the floor.
— Noah Levick (@NoahLevick) October 4, 2022
The Nets’ offense benefited from not seeing Embiid and Tucker. Plugging those two in with the rest of the group will take the unit to a different level. Adding Tucker into the switching scheme and having Embiid lurking in the back will make for a nightmarish defense.