Hot shooting not enough in Sixers second preseason loss to Celtics: Likes and dislikes
The Sixers (0-1) hosted the Boston Celtics (1-1) in their preseason home-opener. Some hot shooting from the Sixers' bench wasn't enough, as the team lost the first three quarters of the game en route to a 112-101 defeat.
Before we get to what I saw, some notes.
Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown were out for the Celtics.
Joe Mazzulla started Jrue Holiday, Derrick White, Sam Hauser, Al Horford, and Kristaps Porzingis.
The Sixers were without Joel Embiid, James Harden, Danuel House Jr., and Furkan Korkmaz (strained left leg).
Nick Nurse started Tyrese Maxey, Patrick Beverley, Tobias Harris, PJ Tucker, and Paul Reed.
Whereas Maxey dug into his scoring game in Sunday's preseason opener in Boston, he was much more concerned with being a playmaker for his teammates. It didn't necessarily show up in the 'assist' column on Wednesday night. But, he had his eyes open all night.
Maxey's passing game was particularly noticeable in transition, the young guard making a real effort to find open teammates on hit-ahead passes as Boston reeled to get back. He also emphasized the corners, ripping hard passes to teammates in shooting position in either pocket of the court.
Anything from Maxey in the passing and playmaking department is a welcomed addition. What I'm about to say shouldn't be looked at as poo-pooing any of the growth he's shown there. But, ultimately, the passes he's comfortable making over and over again right now aren't passes that are going to change the calculus on Philadelphia's outlook. The one's he needs to make consistently involve leveraging his more natural and developed gifts - speed, shooting, and scoring at any level of the floor - to create openings for others.
The more comfortable he gets with leveraging his own weapons to elevate his playmaking game, the more he will see things open on the second side of the court. Take this pass from the first preseason game as an example:
This is, by no means, a difficult pass to make. In fact, it's a simple pocket pass. But, it's an advanced level of playmaking because he's creating an advantage for a teammate to create the play.
It will be when he starts doing things like the above consistently that Maxey's playmaking game will really begin to change things for Philadelphia.
Second game in a row that the Sixers have come together to make a collective effort on the glass. And it's worked quite well in both games. Even if they don't nail the fundamentals and all box out in sync every time, they stay awake when the ball comes off the rim. Arms are flailing, they're all getting involved. The ball isn't secure even if the Celtics do everything right because the Sixers are just poking and poking, trying to force loose balls by tipping the rock away.
If they're not doing that, the Sixers are aggressively not giving up on plays. They're pursuing it no matter what, looking for a green jersey to catch it at an awkward angle so they can rip it free.
Jaden Springer might be one of the most encouraging storylines of preseason thus far. Look no further than his block on Tatum from the preseason opener as an example of his upside as a defensive playmaker. But, more than anything, he looks comfortable on offense, like he belongs.
The first game against the Celtics saw some bully ball, Springer holding strong against the likes of Brown and Tatum on offensive rebounds and finishing put-backs through fouls. On Wednesday, he took Horford on a switch and had his way with him in the paint.
As important as any of it, though, is that he looks extremely comfortable shooting from beyond the arc. We'll see how comfortable he is when the lights are brighter and the stakes are higher, but he looks the part of a competent shooter. That's probably all the Sixers can reasonably ask for in his first season as a real part of the rotation, assuming he makes the rotation.
One skill I certainly did not expect is glimpses of playmaking. He's not doing it with every touch, of course. But, he has some passing intuition in crowded spaces. Springer is a target to get stuck with the ball when he gets inside because he's not a strong or dynamic dribbler. So, defenses will try to get him to pick up his dribble and then trap him. If you cut around him, there's a chance he'll figure out a way to get the ball to you, whether it be by throwing a couple fakes and delivering a bounce pass or up-faking and side-arming a wrap-around pass on the dump-off.
I think the license to do more with the ball has unearthed Reed's weaknesses on offense. Namely, he looks lost when there isn't a direct course of action sitting right in front of him. This is where I think it would be extremely beneficial for him to find a player he wants to emulate and watch extensive film on that player.
Not necessarily because he needs someone after whom he can model his game. Rather, because he can't stall the offense as much as he does when there isn't an obvious attack or the rim, itself, right in front of him. He needs to develop a couple of decisions that he can go to when he catches the ball in space. Right now, he hesitates before levying an uncommitted, direction-less attack. As a result, many of his shots at the rim have missed the mark in this early segment of preseason.
The other byproduct of Reed not knowing what he wants to do with the ball in his hands is that it record-scratches the flow of the offense. The longer he takes to make a decision, the more cramped things become. It can be as simple as pivoting and dribbling into a DHO with someone else on the second side of the court. The one thing Reed cannot do is stand there and pause.
It has certainly been a preseason to forget for Mo Bamba. His jumper is not falling. To add insult to injury, he can't get dunks to go down, either. There was one or two that he just missed in the first preseason game. On Wednesday, he got fouled on at least one. But, he's getting blocked at the rim from time to time, too. Sometimes, it's fine to catch on the move, take a dribble to catch the defense reeling, and go up with more control and power.
The Sixers (0-2) will visit the Brooklyn Nets (0-1) on Monday. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m., Eastern time. You can watch the action on NBA TV.
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