NBA preseason openers are meaningless, right?
That is, unless the game involves the 76ers. There’s been a lot of anticipation about this current Sixers group since the end of last season.
It all started when Ben Simmons was cleared to resume some basketball activities during the final week of the 2016-17 season. The excitement heightened when the Sixers selected Markelle Fultz first overall in June’s NBA draft. And then there was anticipation overload after the squad signed J.J. Redick and Amir Johnson in free agency in July.
So to 18,102 fans at the Wells Fargo Center on Wednesday night, this was the start of something they hope is special. If so, the team still has a ways to go based on this performance.
The Sixers had mixed results in a 110-89 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies.
Simmons put on a show early on, but did not do much in the second half. Redick’s shooting range was on display, while Fultz struggled mightily with his shooting. And the Sixers defense, at times, resembled a Grizzlies layup line: No resistance.
“I thought they were very good off the dribble,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said. “It reminded me of when we were in Memphis last year. We really had a hard time guarding individually.
“But some good things and things that clearly lots to work on.”
One has to expect that Joel Embiid will help to improve the defense once he returns from rehabilitating a torn meniscus in his left knee. But unless his teammates make drastic improvements, the Sixers are still going to struggle.
The Grizzlies, who were without Mike Conley, Marc Gasol, and Tyreke Evans, basically did whatever they wanted. They also outhustled the Sixers’ defenders to loose balls.
Memphis (2-0) shot 46.7 percent from the field and held a 54-40 rebounding advantage.
The Sixers (0-1) shot just 34.8 percent from the field. Simmons and Fultz were a combined 4 for 21.
Simmons looked good early, scoring all six of his points and seven of his nine assists in the first half. He had four points and five rebounds in the first quarter. Simmons shot 2 for 8 for the game.
He scored two baskets and had four assists on the Sixers’ first six baskets of the game.
“Oh my God. I don’t want to see that for the next 15 years,” Memphis coach David Fizdale said. “That kid, they are not talking about him enough.
“The way he moves with the ball, his ability to see the floor, the way he can get places on the floor. I think once he gets confidence in the shot, where you really have to close out on him to the three, wow, he is a big-time talent.”
However, Simmons’ wasn’t as effective in the second half. He missed all three of his shots and committed his only turnover after intermission.
Meanwhile, Redick had 11 points on 4-for-7 shooting. Fultz finished with four points on 2-for-13 shooting.
“Everybody has a night like that. It’s a long season,” Fultz said. “So there’s going to be time when your shot is not falling. That’s when you’ve got to figure out a new thing to do.”
The 19-year-old, who had three assists, two rebounds and one turnover, thought he did a good job of focusing on the defensive end and getting his teammates involved. He gave himself a C for his performance.
Robert Covington scored 13 points while making 4 of 10 three-pointers for the Sixers. Jahlil Okafor also scored 13 points, making 5 of 6 shots.
Center Brandon Wright finished with a game-high 16 points for the Grizzlies.
Most of the Sixers locked arms during the playing on the national anthem as part of team unity. In addition to Embiid, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot (knee), Amir Johnson (ankle) and Dario Saric (rest) missed the game.