We can talk all day long about what went wrong Tuesday night in Boston. The lack of energy, the carelessness with the ball, the terrible spacing, etc. The best thing about the NBA is everyday presents a new challenge and allows you to leave the past in the past. We can hope the Sixers can put the shameful performance vs Boston in the rear view and turn the page to the Bucks, as a great team would.
For Milwaukee, they will open their season at the Wells Fargo Center, which the 76ers will have to take advantage of. Philadelphia has a pretty good gauge on how difficult it can be to start the season on the road vs an Eastern Conference rival. The Bucks also did not win a single preseason game, in fact, the looked pretty bad in the preseason. We can take that with a grain of salt, but they aren't necessarily riding high into their opener.
The Bucks are also dealing with a good amount of injuries to start this new season, so a good portion of their young guys will be getting more minutes than usual.
Giannis Antetokounmpo will still be on the court and he will be a force. There is a good chance the Sixers won't have an answer for him. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown saw virtually no defense from Philly on their route to both score 35 points. You would think the defense will tighten up when you face up against a player like Giannis, but I wouldn't set the expectations too high. The good news is that the Sixers still can win even if Giannis has a masterclass. With the injuries with the Bucks and them still having break off some rust, Antetokounmpo having a 34/13/5 stat line wouldn't be the end of the world for the 76ers.
Jordan Nwora, who impressed a lot of NBA pundits last year with a leap in production in his sophomore season, will probably get the lion's share of minutes in the guard/wing positions. Nwora, from what we have seen in the preseason, still has to find a balance between being more aggressive and not chucking up shots when he is attacking on offense.
Fans of the Bucks seem to have an infatuation with their rookie, Marjon Beauchamp. Every fan base has a honeymoon phase with their incoming rookie class, but Beauchamp could become the real deal. However, I don't believe he will get a bulk of minutes in his debut. Being a rookie, I doubt it will be the best idea for him to get a large scale of playing time in a ruckus environment in Philly. 2022 Second-round pick, Sandro Mamukelashvili, will also get some run tonight.
As of right now Sixers enter the game as a 4.5-point favorite on most sportsbooks. This shouldn't come as a surprise given the circumstances of the game. But, as we know, nothing is guaranteed for the 76ers. By no means is this a "must-win" game. There are 80 more games in the season once tonight's contest will conclude. There will be plenty of chances to get these wins back later on in the season, but there is a fine line between having a slow start and having to play catch-up for the rest of the season.
Neutralizing Jrue Holiday's defense
As I said in my week preview for the 76ers, James Harden will get tested early. In game one, he faced up against Marcus Smart, and he won the battle ...easily. Game two will present a greater challenge with Holiday, who I thought should've been considered for last season's DPOY. Holiday is a ferocious force on the perimeter, who can win any 1on1 vs a primary ball handler.
Like the Celtics, I expect the Bucks to switch 1-5 defensively. This means the keys will be given to James Harden on offense. In his 35-point outing vs Boston, he excelled in the pick & roll. Plenty of times he was able to get a switch onto Grant Williams and Al Horford which he was able to exploit the mis-match. With Holiday being the superior defender that he is, you can expect another abundance of pick & roll situations with Harden as the primary ball handler. A successful offensive possession will be when someone like Bobby Portis gets switched onto Harden. Maybe James will put him on skates, hopefully he makes the shot this time.
Sixers, please defend.
Absolutely zero defense was showcased by Philadelphia on Tuesday night. Even the guys we expect to be big time for this team on the defensive end, did not show up at all. For a team that had a lot of talk of being the number one defensive team in the league, that was a disgraceful performance. Even my prediction of them having a top seven team defense for the 2022-23 season is looking regrettable.
Joel Embiid did not have his usual motor and let up a lot of easy buckets around the rim, which were uncharacteristic. He seemed a step slow, as if he was second-guessing himself the entire night. I get that Embiid doesn't always start the season off tremendously well, but defense is all about effort. I want to see some damn effort tonight.
De'Anthoy Melton just looked lost last time out. His main matchup was Malcolm Brogdon and he did not fair well. I know Melton is still getting acclimated to his new team and will eventually turn on the gas, but it was hard watching Melton defend the other night, after expecting him to be great defensively.
We are obviously losing a defensive piece in Matisse Thybulle with him being absolutely unplayable on the other end of the court, but we should see him play for longer than 23 seconds tonight.
PJ Tucker can hold his own, but how often can we rely on an undersized big who is pushing 40, to give us great defense? I know he will show a lot of great plays using his IQ, but he is someone I don't want to count on night in and night out.