Despite an overtime loss after a bench collapse, the Philadelphia 76ers offered more reasons to be optimistic about the season restart in their final scrimmage
The Philadelphia 76ers wrapped up their final warm-up scrimmage, a 118-115 loss to the Dallas Mavericks, with a whimper — in an overtime period that neither team wanted to play, the deep benches emptied and Alec Burks and Antonius Cleveland traded clutch shots. However, the three quarters of real basketball gave Sixers fans a lot to be excited about: Tobias Harris looked brilliant offensively in his final few minutes of play, and the team’s defense continues to stifle opponents and force turnovers.
The team opened the game ice cold, making just five of their first 30 shots, and went into halftime shooting a freezing 21 percent from inside the 3-point line. However, a shooting storm from Tobias Harris and Al Horford to open the third quarter brought the Sixers back into the game. Even with no Joel Embiid and limited minutes for Ben Simmons, the team managed to claw its way to a five-point lead before emptying the bench late in the third quarter.
After two quarters of bricks up and down the roster, Harris and Horford caught fire — the two oft-maligned Sixers combined to score 19 of the team’s first 23 points in a massive 41-point third quarter. With Matisse Thybulle starting the half in place of Simmons, who Brett Brown decided to rest, the team’s defense locked down and pulled off an impressive comeback against a healthy and talented Mavericks roster spearheaded by Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis.
The team deliberately slowed down the game in the first quarter, electing to run through their halfcourt sets instead of push the ball in transition. This out-of-character move wasn’t especially effective, but Brett Brown got to see the offensive reps he wanted; however, it’s clear that aggressive defense led by Simmons and Embiid and quick transition play will be the status quo for this team once they begin real games.
The deep bench once again struggled to find a flow offensively, which allowed for another late comeback by a Sixers opponent. In a back-and-forth overtime period, they couldn’t match Dallas’s hot shooting. Despite the sour-note ending, though, the scrimmage offered just a few more reasons to be optimistic and excited for Philly’s return to real competitive basketball in four days.
Harris settled for a few too many jump shots offensively, and it certainly didn’t help that he was ice cold in the first quarter. However, Harris heated up as the game went on, and made a few tough defensive hustle plays. There’s also something to be said for Harris’s ability to create and score when the rest of the offense looks stagnant — he carried the team through a few stretches without effective playmakers on the court, and was scorching hot as the primary offensive option in the third quarter.
In a game where the Sixers focused on their half-court offense in lieu of their typical transition style, Simmons was somewhat neutered offensively. He spent most of his time in the corner watching his teammates miss jump shots, and he couldn’t get many of his hooks and layups to fall. When they pushed the pace, though, he was fine; defensively, Simmons also looked as good as ever, shutting down Mavericks stud Luka Doncic when matched up with him man-to-man. Also, Simmons continues to play harder and make more hustle plays than anyone else on the court — a promising sign for playoff hoops.
In his second game as Joel Embiid’s replacement, Horford fell back down to earth after going 4-5 from three last game. He did look good as a stretch big and knocked down a few tough looks, but didn’t move the ball as well as he usually does. Horford also continues to look slow and unimpressive as a rim protector, an issue that’ll be less visible once Embiid returns to the offense and eats up the lion’s share of center minutes but still needs to be addressed come playoff time.
Thybulle’s ability to make defensive plays off the bench shone through, even though he really struggled to guard Luka Doncic man-to-man (after all, who doesn’t?). He forced quick steals whenever he entered the game, and also threw down a few impressive dunks as a spot starter for Ben Simmons in the second half. Matisse is just a rookie, and he certainly made a few rookie mistakes guarding Doncic, but his ability to immediately create highlights on both sides of the floor even in sporadic minutes is veteran-esque.
For a fourth-string center, O’Quinn looked surprisingly in control of the game during his late-game minutes. His rim protection isn’t quite as flashy as athletic phenom Norvel Pelle‘s, but the team dominated the paint with O’Quinn in the game. While an ugly, ugly two-big Pelle-O’Quinn lineup dragged down his plus-minus, KOQ looked comfortable at center on both sides of the ball, and even threw a few nice passes in the half-court.
Josh Richardson looked good defensively, especially when paired with fellow intensity dynamo Matisse Thybulle, but struggled to find his shot, finishing just 1-for-7.
Shake Milton again struggled to find his groove — the absence of Embiid, who he has a reliable two-man game with, really puts him in a difficult spot offensively.
Furkan Korkmaz returned to form after a horrid performance in his last game against Oklahoma City, knocking down a few shots and finishing a nifty and-one layup through contact.
Norvel Pelle added a few of his trademarked blocks off the bench, but struggled to find the basket offensively and had a hard time sticking with the Mavericks’ assortment of stretch bigs.
Alec Burks knocked down a few difficult shots in the OT period, but his inability to facilitate early in the fourth quarter was the main reason the Sixers didn’t win in regulation.
Mike Scott continued to struggle shooting the ball, going just 3-for-11 in 23 bench minutes. With Simmons moving to power forward, there probably won’t be many minutes for Scott once the season resumes.
For the Mavericks, Kristaps Porzingis started the game on fire but struggled to stay in rhythm later in the game. Both Porzingis and Doncic sat out the fourth quarter and overtime.
Embiid sat out his second straight scrimmage with right calf tightness, but Brett Brown expects him to play in Saturday’s opener against the Pacers. Glenn Robinson III (hip) and Raul Neto (back) both sat out the scrimmage as well, and both injuries are day-to-day.
The Philadelphia 76ers will play their first of eight seeding games against the Indiana Pacers Saturday, Aug. 1 at 7:00 p.m. ET. The game will be televised on NBC Sports Philadelphia.