What To Watch: Sixers vs Pacers Preseason Game 2
What’s up everyone? My name is James Birrane and this is my debut article for The Liberty Line. You’ll be reading and hearing from me a lot this season so let’s get familiar with each other. I’m a junior at Temple University and a huge Sixers fan. I’ll tell you more later but for now, let’s jump into tonight’s 76ers game as they take on the Indiana Pacers in their second and final preseason game before the start of the season.
The game tips-off at 6pm and here’s what to keep an eye on tonight.
The Starting Five
The obvious choice here, but for good reason. Like many of the previous seasons, the 76ers are going into this year with a lot of moving parts from the year before. With a shortened offseason, camp, and preseason, it’s understandable that there were some things to iron out after playing just one preseason game together. I would look for the offensive pace to pick up as everyone gets more comfortable being ball handlers, and for the off-ball movement during Embiid’s post-ups to be more crisp.
My assumption is that the starting lineup will remain the same to form a little more of a flow with newcomers Seth Curry and Danny Green on the court. Ben Simmons stated that “we didn’t run a single play” during the preseason opener against Boston, so keep an eye out for a little more structure offensively and specific sets that play through guys like Ben, Joel, or Tobias.
Expect to see fewer turnovers and a higher three-point percentage team wide. Even in a win vs the Boston Celtics earlier this week, the Sixers racked up 16 turnovers and only shot 24.1% from three-point range. Those numbers are obviously going to have to get better for this team to win games but I have a hunch they’ll significantly improve as the new-look starting five play more minutes together.
Milton was fantastic against the Celtics, tallying 19 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists on 50% shooting from beyond the arc in just 23 minutes of action. Sugar Shake has clearly carved out a significant role on this team, and there is really no telling how much better he might get as he continues to progress throughout the season.
Shake has received the highest praise from both Doc Rivers and Daryl Morey, and believe it or not, is also one of the longer tenured players on this roster. With his length, shiftiness, and shooting ability, he is on a very short list of players with that skill set on the 76ers. Milton is also a budding playmaker in the second unit, and clearly has the confidence to play with or against anyone. I’d expect to see Shake get some extended minutes, but considering how important he is to this team’s success, I would bet he gets a very similar treatment as the starters, and will probably play 20-30 minutes tonight.
Furkan vs. Matisse
The ongoing battle between Furkan and Matisse for minutes is something we will probably see throughout this season unless one of the two of them starts to drastically improve on one side of the ball. We saw Furkan get the first minutes of the two of them, and had an extended stay, playing 19 minutes and scoring 8 points. Korkmaz is an interesting piece, the guy can shoot it, wheeling a 40% clip from last season, and showed flashes of playmaking ability as well. That being said, Korky is nothing short of a liability defensively but has shown slight improvements over the last few seasons.
On the other hand, Matisse looks like a deer in headlights on offense, only accruing 10 minutes of play on Tuesday, scoring 0 points and only grabbing 1 rebound. In order for the kid to get on the floor, he has to be at least some sort of a threat with the ball, and in this very short sample size he has not given me the impression that he has improved enough on that end. Albeit, Thybulle is a major factor on the defensive end, so if he could focus on shooting league average from 3, and attacking the rim on cuts off of post ups I do believe he has the ability to play a significant role on this team.
These are two guys to keep an eye on tonight and for the future, this minutes battle is something I see changing from game to game depending on what the team needs, but both Korkmaz and Thybulle have shown to be valuable on the court, so which one hurts you less.
Me and every other Sixers fan has been waiting for this game to see more minutes from Maxey, after his electric 4th quarter against the Celtics where he dropped 8 points and 3 assists. Maxey looked poised and in control. His ability to get to his spots on the floor even in just his first 12 minutes of live game action tells me that there is a lot more there to see. The flashes that were shown on Tuesday were enough for the fans to want more of him, so tonight I would expect Maxey to play upwards of 25 minutes just for Doc and the crew to see what he is all about, and I have a feeling they will not be disappointed.
I could go on and on, this roster is deep and fun which is something we haven’t been able to say about the Sixers in a long time. As they creep up to the start of the season, my expectations are controlled, but I do expect them to be an exciting team to watch once they find their rhythm, and if there is any one specific thing to watch for tonight, it is to just appreciate watching a more professional, cohesive, fun, basketball team again.
P.S. – They are not trading Simmons, nor should they.
Mandatory Credit: Charles Fox / Philadelphia Inquirer