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76ers 144, Guangzhou Loong-Lions 86: Observations from the Preseason Opener

By Matt Gregan, Sports Talk Philly Editor

The Philadelphia 76ers, as many would have predicted, easily defeated the Guangzhou Loong-Lions, 144-86, in the preseason opener at Wells Fargo Center. 

The game got out of hand relatively quickly, with the 76ers holding a 14-point lead after one quarter of play. Philadelphia opened up the second quarter on an 18-6 run, widening the lead to 26. The game was a blowout from there on out. 

While it is only the first preseason game, the 76ers looked impressive against Guangzhou. However, the Loong-Lions were several overmatched and this result was to be expected. With that being said, here are some of our observations from the 76ers' win in the preseason opener.

Ben Simmons' first 3-pointer of his NBA career

With only seconds remaining on the clock in the first half, Ben Simmons delighted the Philadelphia faithful when he pulled up for a 3-pointer and the ball went straight down the net. 

Simmons, as usual, was asked a lot during the team's media day and throughout training camp about if he will start to shoot jumpers. His response was simple, yet important: "If it's open, I'll take it." It did not take long for that quote to be proven right. 

Matisse Thybulle continues to impress

Most people did not expect to get much immediate production from rookie first-round pick Matisse Thybulle. He was a defensive specialist at Washington with a raw offensive game. 

Through training camp, the Blue x White Scrimmage and the preseason opener, Thybulle has vastly outperformed expectations and is well on his way to earning a big role in the 76ers' rotation to begin the season. 

Against the Loong-Lions, Thybulle finished with an impressive 10 points, three steals and two blocks in 16 minutes off the bench. 

76ers played an aggressive defense, used a lot of full-court press

Under new assistant coach Ime Udoka, the 76ers are going to utilize more traps on defense while playing more aggressively overall. Last season, Philadelphia finished 27th in the league in forced turnovers per game. Udoka's new defensive philosophy should help improve that number this season. 

"That's something we talk about, creating turnovers," Udoka said, via an article written by NBC Sports Philadelphia's Noah Levick. "We want to up our physicality on the ball. That should help there. And there are multiple things we can do out of timeouts to trap guys and make them more uncomfortable." 

Playing against an inferior team like the Guangzhou Loong-Lions, the coaching staff found it to be a good time to experiment implementing some of the team's new defensive strategy. The attacking, full-court press style of defense they played tonight worked to great success, resulting in the Loong-Lions committing 23 turnovers.

Notes regarding rotation battles after the 76ers' first preseason game

Matisse Thybulle and James Ennis III were the first two players off the bench for the 76ers. The combination of these two players off the bench, who both excel on the defensive end of the floor, presents a challenge for opposing teams who will not get a break from the dominating length and defense the 76ers possess. 

Trey Burke was the first point guard to come off the bench. One of the rotation battles to watch throughout the preseason is the battle for the backup point guard position between Burke and Raul Neto. Both players provide different things on the court: Burke provides scoring while struggling on defense while Neto provides passing and more of a defensive focus. The most likely scenario is that both players make the roster and the minutes get divided up based off the opponent. Against the Loong-Lions, Burke finished with 11 points and four assists in 14 minutes while Neto finished with two points and five assists in 10 minutes. 

Zhaire Smith underwhelmed in the preseason opener. He did not step onto the court until late in the second quarter and when on the court failed to impress. He finished with four points in 10 minutes of action. Heading into training camp, the battle between Smith and Thybulle was close. However, Thybulle has clearly earned an advantage with his excellent play both in practice and against the Loong-Lions. 

Important stats and extra things

  • Joel Embiid, who was only scheduled to play in the first half,  finished with 17 points and three rebounds in 13 first-half minutes. While struggling in terms of his shooting efficiency, he did drain all nine of his free-throw attempts. 
  • The 76ers dominated in all facets of the game, but especially in regards to ball control. The team tallied 35 assists to only eight turnovers. 
  • Marial Shayok impressed in his short stint in the second half, totaling 10 points in six minutes of action. With the 76ers having solid depth at every position, a stint in Delaware is likely in Shayok's future. However, if he continues to score the ball at a high clip, expect to see him in a 76ers uniform at some point later this season. 

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