The Philadelphia 76ers moved to 2-0 this preseason with a 100-87 win over the Charlotte Hornets Friday night at Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
Don't let the final score fool you, this game was not close at all. The 76ers held a comfortable 20-plus point lead throughout most of the contest before bringing in the end of the bench players for most of the fourth quarter.
After getting off to a slow start, Philadelphia ended the first quarter on a 22-4 run, building up a lead they would never lose. Here are some observations on tonight's win over Charlotte.
Matisse Thybulle continues to impress on the defensive end of the floor
Matisse Thybulle showed why Joel Embiid said earlier in the week that he reminded him of former-76er Robert Covington. Thybulle once again wrecked havoc on an opposing offense, especially in the first quarter when he totaled three steals and a block.
“I don’t know why no one is talking about him,” Embiid said, via an article written by NBC Sports Philadelphia's Noah Levick. “He gets his hands on everything. He reminds me of [Robert Covington] when Cov was here. He’s only going to get better. I love playing with him. Defensively, he’s going to help us a lot.”
Even on nights when he does not produce on offense, Thybulle's defensive ability allows him to still be a net positive on the floor. He took only two shots against Charlotte, but was impressive on defense and in the passing game (finished with two assists and no turnovers).
Nothing fancy on this play, but beating closeouts with simple drives/kick-out passes will really help Thybulle's offensive value.— Tom West (@TomWestNBA) October 12, 2019
Confident drive and kick to Scott for 3 here: pic.twitter.com/CkbkBya6Yf
No Embiid, no problem
On the first night this season that had Joel Embiid resting for load management, the 76ers took it in stride. Al Horford slid from power forward to center and did not miss a beat. He totaled 11 points, nine rebounds and three assists while continuing to play the good, smart defensive basketball that head coach Brett Brown wants to see out of the Sixers. Tobias Harris started at power forward and finished the game with 16 points and eight rebounds.
One of the reasons general manager Elton Brand was so interested in signing Horford in free agency was his ability to slide to center on nights when Embiid is out. Tonight, even though it was a preseason game, was a good example of how the team is better equipped to handle being without Embiid than they were in previous seasons.
Shake Milton, Raul Neto fail to take advantage of opportunity
With Embiid resting due to load management, an extra spot opened up in the starting lineup. Brown chose to give Shake Milton an opportunity to get some playing time while starting at shooting guard. Despite the opportunity to impress the coaching staff, Milton failed to stand out from the crowd of young players on the bottom of the 76ers' roster. He scored four points on 2 of 5 shooting from the field in 17 minutes.
Brown also made the decision pre-game to have Raul Neto receive the majority of minutes as the first point guard off the bench. Neto arguably had a worse game than Milton. He struggled on the defensive end of the floor and committed three turnovers, both things that were supposedly the strengths of his game. If Neto has a few more games like tonight, Trey Burke will likely be able to move ahead of him in the rotation.
Josh Richardson quietly has become the 76ers' glue guy on offense
When the 76ers lost Jimmy Butler in a sign-and-trade with the Miami Heat, many fans were concerned with the loss of one of the team's best players from last season. However, Philadelphia received the often underrated Josh Richardson back in the trade.
Richardson has always been a hard worker, a guy who quietly gets things done. Through two preseason games, he has continued to perform while quietly becoming one of the Sixers' most important players. Against Charlotte, he put up 18 points (7 of 14 shooting) and dished out four assists while helping to improve Philadelphia's wing defense, totaling one steal and three blocks. He won't be the first name that comes up when people think of the 76ers, but he is often one of the most important players, quietly chipping in production on both ends of the court.
Important stats and extra things
- The "quiet tournament" between Matisse Thybulle and Zhaire Smith has come to its conclusion. Thybulle has earned the role of being one of the first players off the bench for the Sixers after lighting it up in both training camp and the first two preseason games. Smith will most likely begin the season down in Delaware, where he can get consistent minutes and continue to develop.
- Ben Simmons began the game on fire, totaling nine points, three rebounds and three assists in the first quarter. He also continued to show a small willingness to shoot jumpers, making a smooth, fadeaway mid-range jumper in the first couple minutes of the game. He finished with 15 points, five rebounds, four assists, two steals and one block.
The 76ers head down to Orlando to battle the Magic and our old friend Markelle Fultz on Sunday at 6 p.m. EST. The game will not be televised by NBC Sports Philadelphia.