Sixers Host Bulls In Home Opener
The Philadelphia 76ers (0-1) look to bounce back after their season opening loss to Boston as they host the Chicago Bulls (0-0) at the Wells Fargo Center Thursday night. The game is set to tip-off at 8:00 p.m. on TNT.
Previous Game Rewind: In what was supposed to be an opening game between two Eastern Conference powerhouses, the Sixers stayed close in a game that never really felt too close. The two teams ended up tied at the end of the first quarter and Boston took a five-point lead into the half and continued to pad the lead in the third. Boston outscored Philadelphia 58-45 in the second half. The Sixers could never find an offensive rhythm. They shot just under 40 percent overall and were an atrocious 5-for-26 from beyond the arc. In addition, they missed 10 free throws and turned the ball over 16 times. Ben Simmons had a strong opening game, finishing with 19 points, 15 rebounds, eight assists and four steals. Joel Embiid struggled against the Boston duo of Al Horford and Aron Baynes, but still ended up with a 23-point, 10-rebound effort.
What to watch for against the Bulls:
Markelle Fultz's usage: This is the hottest topic coming out of the Boston game. Going into the season, head coach Brett Brown said that he planned to start Markelle Fultz in the first half and have him come off the bench as a point guard in the second half. The former top pick played 24 minutes total, just three in the second half, finishing with just five points on 2-for-7 shooting. He was a team-worst -16 on the floor. The enviornment was hostile from the start, but after putting in so much work this summer, it looked like Fultz was still semi-confused out there. Whether or not specific plays were called for him off-the-ball, he wasn't too active without the ball in his hands with regard to cutting and trying to get open. Tonight, in front of the home crowd, hopefully we see Fultz get more comfortable, take more shots and create more opportunities for himself and his teammates on offense.
Dario Saric Needs A Bounce Back Game: Dario Saric had a rough go at it in the preseason and that rolled over to the opener on Tuesday. The Homie was caught in early foul trouble and was ineffective on the court on both ends, finishing with just six points on 3-for-8 shooting. Dario's play will be a large part in determining the success of this team. Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid can't do it all. They need guys to pass to that can hit shots and Dario needs to be that guy, especially without Wilson Chandler and Mike Muscala available off the bench.
Three-Point Shooting Needs To Improve: The first game wasn't pretty by any means, but it was just one game against a team that is heavily favored to run away with the Eastern Conference. The Sixers had opportunities to keep things close and even go ahead in this one, but the shots weren't falling. It looked like the open shots and the tough ones weren't going in and it is worth mentioning that that trend is not going to continue. It cannot continue. The team was a combined 5-for-26 from beyond with Robert Covington and JJ Redick each hitting two. Dario was 0-for-4, Shamet was 0-for-2 and Fultz didn't attempt one. This team thrives on shooting off picks and finding guys in the corner. None of that worked against Boston and ideally that changes tonight.
Bench Improvement: Aside from JJ Redick, the Sixers bench was awful on Tuesday. They combined to score just nine points on 3-for-10 shooting. T.J. McConnell was useful from time-to-time, but Amir Johnson got handled during his minutes on the floor, rookie Landry Shamet was likely dealing with jitters and beyond that, there's not too much help. Until Chandler and Muscala return, this team's depth is going to be very hard to watch. Playing in front of the home crowd will hopefully give them a boost against Chicago.
Bulls Notes: The Bulls are without young forward Lauri Markkanen until November with an elbow injury, but they did sign Jabari Parker in the offseason. Parker, a former No. 2 overall pick from 2014, will come off the Bench from the Bulls as they decide to give Bobby Portis the start after head coach Fred Hoiberg liked what he saw from the starting five in preseason play. Chicago is coming off of a 27-win season, their worst record in 14 years.
Injuries: Mike Muscala (ankle) is doubtful for the Sixers. Jerryd Bayless (knee), Wilson Chandler (hamstring) and Zhaire Smith (foot) are out.
For the Bulls, Cristiano Felicio (ankle), Denzel Valentine (ankle), Omer Asik (arthritis) and Lauri Markkanen (elbow) are out.
Sixers: Ben Simmons, Markelle Fultz, Robert Covington, Dario Saric, Joel Embiid
Bulls: Dennis Smith Jr., Zach LaVine, Justin Holiday, Bobby Portis, Wendell Carter