Many of us, like myself, spent the last two days sulking. What does it all mean? Sixers basketball is officially back. Throw that season opener into the trash, and let’s never speak of it again. The 76ers and that team that shall not be named will see each other again on Christmas day. But it’s officially time to move on.
Happy home opener day, everyone! With all Sixers fans having a bad taste in their mouth, the Chicago Bulls making the trip to Philly is exactly what the doctor ordered. While Brook Lopez is primed to make his Bulls debut, Chicago’s stud power forward Lauri Markkanen is still recovering from injury. On September 28th, it was announced the Finnish sharpshooting big man would miss the next 6-8 weeks due to a high grade lateral elbow sprain. Lauri Markkannen averaged 15.2 points, 7.5 rebounds, and shot 36.2% from 3 on 5.9 attempts per game for the Bulls during his rookie season.
The Sixers bested Chicago 2 out of 3 games last season. Most importantly, Ben Simmons simply dominated the Chicago Bulls. In 3 games vs the Bulls, Ben Simmons averaged 23.3 points, 11.7 rebounds, and 11.7 assists per game. Similarly, the Homie put up some serious numbers against Chicago last season. In the three games, Dario Saric averaged 20.3 points and 8.7 rebounds per game. Saric also shot a staggering 57.1% from 3 point range on 14 attempts vs the Bulls.
Big man Bobby Portis will likely replace Lauri in the starting lineup. Recently, Portis and the Bulls were unable to reach an agreement on his rookie deal by the deadline on Monday, making him a restricted free agent this coming offseason. Bobby Portis averaged 13.2 points and 6.8 rebounds per game in just 22.5 minutes per game last season. Make no mistake, re-signing Portis is a top priority for the Chicago Bulls next summer.
The Bulls feature a healthy backcourt for the first time in what feels like an eternity. Kris Dunn, who played 52 contests a year ago, teams up with high flying Zach Lavine, who also only played 24 games last year. These are two very athletic guards who have the potential to give the Sixers headaches with their speed. Former Duke Blue Devil Jabari Parker will also make his Bulls debut coming off the bench tonight. He should get plenty of playing time and be one of the primary scoring options for Chicago.
Look for tons of high-low sets tonight with Ben Simmons attacking Zach Lavine in the low block. This is a major advantage for the Sixers going into tonight’s game. Also look for the Sixers to play tight on the Bulls’ shooters. The Team That Shall Not Be Named (TTTSNBN) exposed the blueprint to beating the Sixers. Defend the paint, play the passing lanes, play tight on the Sixers’ shooters, and make the others shoot jump shots. Do the Bulls have the personnel to get it done?
When: Thursday, October 18th at 8pm
Where: The Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
PG Ben Simmons
SG Markelle Fultz
SF Robert Covington
PF Dario Saric
C Joel Embiid
PG Kris Dunn
SG Zach Lavine
SF Justin Holiday
PF Bobby Portis
C Wendell Carter Jr.
What To Watch For
Can the Real Embiid Please Stand Up
What a terrible start to the season for Joel Embiid. It was publicly known that Joel Embiid spent the summer working on his handle and recognition of the double team. That didn’t show vs the C$#@^$$, as he sported a team leading 5 turnovers and a suspect 82 offensive rating. For a player with aspirations to be included in MVP voting, this is not good enough and Embiid knows it. Joel will be going up against Robin Lopez and Wendell Carter Jr. tonight, and this is a great matchup for Embiid to bounce back. Expect Joel to feast on the rookie center and get him into early foul trouble.
A More Aggressive Markelle Fultz
Markelle was a team worst -16 on the court and had a horrendous offensive rating of 52 vs TTTSNBN. Even worse, Fultz displayed a team leading 27.6 turnover percentage when on the court and had zero attempts from 16ft out or beyond. This is not good enough for the former number one pick. While a lot of the blame must be put on Markelle, Brett Brown must get Fultz more involved in the offense against the Chicago Bulls tonight. For the majority of the first half of Tuesday’s opener, Markelle could be seen sitting in the corner and cutting to the basket. This was very curious as Brett has been very public about wanting to put the ball in Fultz’ hands when on the court.
The Hurting of Sixers’ Depth
Newbie Sixers Mike Muscala and Wilson Chandler continue to be doubtful for the Sixers tonight. This is not good, as zero players from the Sixers bench were a positive on the court during the season opener. As expected, JJ Redick received the most playing time with 29:46 minutes off the bench. This is incredibly painful to put into words, but I’d like to see less TJ and more Landry Shamet tonight vs the Bulls. Landry Shamet shows excellent quickness and does something the Sixers need most: shooting. Aaaannnddd nice segway…
The Return of the Shooters
The Sixers shot a horrendous 5/26 from three point range in the season opener, good for 19.2%. While TTTSNBN is a great defensive team, our shooters had plenty of opportunities and got open shots. A great bulk of the Sixers’ offense depends on shooting, and the offense sputtered, evident by a horrendous team offense rating of 83.3 in the season opener. To make matters worse, the Sixers shot 14/24 from the free throw line, good for a pitiful 58.3%. To put it in perspective, that is 16.9 percentage points lower than the team average last season. Listen, you can’t take anything from just one game, but inconsistent shooting haunted the Sixers last season and fingers crossed the Sixers right the ship tonight.
The Rise of Ben
Ben Simmons was absolutely incredible in the season opener. Ben finished with 19 points, 15 rebounds, 8 assists, 4 steals, and 2 blocks. Ben had a jaw-dropping assist percentage of 34.4, and there is no doubt in my mind that Ben is projecting to become one of the best passers in the NBA. Yeah, Ben shot a terrible 45.5% from the free throw line, but I was very pleased with 11 attempts during the season opener. Keeping that FTA number between 9 and 11 is vital for Ben Simmons this season.
Just as TTTSNBN was a tough first game matchup for us, the 76ers are a very difficult matchup for the Bulls. The Sixers took a beatdown on Tuesday, and they look to return the favor to the Chicago Bulls tonight. I expect Ben Simmons to eat against the Bulls with his first triple double of the season and Markelle Fultz to please the home crowd with 14 points. The Center will be rocking, and the Sixers cruise to a victory.
Sixers beat the Bulls 102-85.
We will never forget the time…
Andre Iguodala hit 2 free throws to upset the 1 seed Chicago Bulls during the 2012 playoffs.