One game down and one win is in the books for the 2021-2022 Sixers, after they pulled away in the second half to cruise to a 117-97 victory versus the Zion-less New Orleans Pelicans. As Philly's first night of the season turns into the next morning, here's the 3 most encouraging things I noticed and the standout performance from the Wednesday night showdown.
Joel Embiid is still really, really good
As it turns out, not having a deadweight that hampers space and causes offense to be a 4 on 5 affair helps everyone. It was especially noticeable for Joel Embiid, who showed his improved playmaking with 4 assists and 10 points in the first 7 minutes and looked comfortable from all over. Putting 4 players that have respectable NBA jump shots around a dominant big man is a noticeable improvement from years past and just clears out so much more space for things like this:
Is it simple? You bet. But things like this would have never been able to happen last year with a certain someone standing in the dunker spot.
Tyrese Maxey starts his sophomore season with a bang
The second year Kentucky product looks really, really improved handling lead guard duties. He had some rust to shake off deciding where and when to attack and take his shots early, but finished the game especially strong, making 6 of his last 8 attempts from the field. And it didn't hurt that he made all of his free throws and had the confidence late to take and make this shot.
Basketball is pretty fun with guards who have range.
The supporting cast continues to do exactly what's asked
Outside of just Embiid and Maxey, every other Sixer played pretty well tonight. Outside of some hiccups with the all bench lineup, they played like the team we know they can be and surged ahead for good in the second half. Isaiah Joe was able to use his scorching hot preseason to earn some early run, which was great to see. Seth Curry continued his excellent marksmanship, Tobias Harris continued to fill the stat sheet and do anything asked from him and two free agents stepped up. Georges Niang drilled 3 of his 4 long distance attempts, and might finally bring what Mike Scott was supposed to.
And while Andre Drummond's first game in the blue and white was a rollercoaster, it's clear he's an upgrade over Dwight Howard, and can serve as a more than capable backup when he isn't doing too much. Philadelphia still could use a secondary ballhandler off the bench (and the rotations need some tweaking) but the role players had as good of games as you could ask. I'm still hoping for less Point Drummond the next time out, though.(Even if it is wildly entertaining)
Standout Performance: Furkan Korkmaz
With just under 10 minutes in the 4th, Brandon Ingram had two straight buckets to cut the away team's lead down to 6. Then, Furkan Korkmaz decided to show New Orleans who he really is, scoring 14 points over the next three minutes to push the lead to an insurmountable 19, setting up some garbage time action for the Blue Coats. He ended tied with Embiid as the leading scorer for Philly, and slammed the door shut as a season full of possibility gets underway for the 76ers.
Next up for Doc Rivers Squad is their home opener on Friday against the 0-1 Brooklyn Nets, with the biggest storyline being the potential return of number #25 to his fans at the Wells Fargo Center. But for now, Philly is undefeated on the plane ride home.