Saric’s Big Night Overshadowed by Embiid’s Debut
There's no doubting that last night's preseason rout of the Nets was dominated by the debut and performance of one Joel Embiid. In his first game action since January of last season, Embiid scored 22 points, grabbed seven boards, tallied three assists and a block...in just under 15 minutes of game action. He got to the line 18 times and just provided the team with a spark of energy when he was out there. One guy who definitely fed off that energy was 2016-17 Rookie of the Year snub, Dario Saric.
After sitting out the Sixers' first three preseason games to rest, Dario debuted on Monday against Boston and looked a tad rusty. In 20 minutes of action, he finished with nine points on 4-for-10 shooting and was a -25 on a night where the Sixers as whole could not get anything to fall.
Last night was a different story. Saric came off the bench against the Nets on Wednesday and showed how important of a player he is to the success of the Sixers. Although he'd rather be starting, Dario will likely be the sixth man on this team and if last night was any indication of how he'll do in that role, well things will be just fine.
In 24 minutes off the bench, Dario scored 26 points on 10-for-14 shooting, which included an impressive 5-for-8 mark from three-point range. In addition to his scoring prowess in last night's game, Saric also grabbed nine boards and picked up three steals. He was a team high +25 in the box score.
With Richaun Holmes nursing a small wrist fracture, Brett Brown said that he was planning on potentially using Saric in the five spot. While it may have seemed crazy, it worked to perfection last night as Dario hit four of his six three's against Nets' big man Timofey Mozgov, a much slower athlete than the Sixers' Croatian sensation. Mozgov wasn't quick enough to defend well on the shot attempts, giving Saric the clear advantage in a match-up Dario seemed to enjoy.
“It’s easy, because I can drive, too, and he’s sometimes in a difficult position,” Saric told reporters after the game. “If he goes to step out on me a little bit more, I can drive. If he stays too low down there, I can shoot like I did tonight. I like having guys like that.”
Sure, Joel Embiid's performance made everyone feel much better about this team, but Dario's big game should have people feeling more confident about the Sixers' reserve unit, that will likely be led by Saric himself.
If you missed last night's game, here's a look at Dario's highlights:
Brandon Apter is a contributor to 97.3 ESPN and managing editor at SportsTalkPhilly.com. Follow him on Twitter @bapter23.