3 observations after Maxey exits early, Sixers notch their first preseason win


3 observations after Maxey exits early, Sixers notch their first preseason win originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

NEW YORK — A shorthanded Sixers team notched its first win of the preseason Monday night at Barclays Center.

Led by Kelly Oubre Jr. (21 points), Tobias Harris and Paul Reed (18 points apiece), the Sixers earned a 127-119 victory over the Nets and improved to 1-2 this exhibition season.

De’Anthony Melton shot just 6 for 17 from the floor but still had a stellar two-way game with 15 points, 10 assists, eight rebounds and four steals.

The Sixers were down five players to start in Joel Embiid, James Harden, PJ Tucker, Danuel House Jr. and Furkan Korkmaz.

Just before halftime, the team also ruled Tyrese Maxey out with back spasms. The 22-year-old had headed back to the locker room in the middle of the second quarter. He played 15 minutes and finished with eight points and three assists.

Sixers head coach Nick Nurse said after the game that the decision to remove Maxey was precautionary.

Embiid was “just under the weather,” Nurse said pregame. Harden has said he’s “ramping up” and targeting the Sixers’ last preseason game, which is Friday against the Hawks.

Tucker was a late scratch with right ankle soreness. House missed a second consecutive game because of left knee soreness. Korkmaz, who’s been sidelined by a left hamstring strain, worked out pregame and appears on track to return soon.

Mikal Bridges (rest) was among the key players out for the Nets. Brooklyn head coach Jacque Vaughn said he was sure Bridges, a Philadelphia native, would be keeping tabs on Game 1 of the NLCS between the Phillies and Diamondbacks. Bridges had a 2008 Phillies World Series hat on postgame.

Here are observations on the Sixers’ preseason win Monday over the Nets:

A jolt from the jump 

There was a lot to like from the Sixers in a game-opening 12-0 run.

The Sixers set up a side pick-and-roll with Maxey and Reed on their first play and Reed broke the ice with a baseline jumper. On the Sixers’ second possession, the same action got Harris an open jumper on the opposite wing. Clean, crisp half-court offense for a preseason game without a handful of usual rotation players.

In transition, the Sixers built a big advantage. They scored 10 of the evening’s first 12 fast-break points and did ample damage off of turnovers while avoiding any until the last minute of the first quarter. By that stage, Brooklyn had already committed seven turnovers and conceded 14 points off of those giveaways.

Ben Simmons had eight turnovers for the game. He also posted eight points on 4-for-8 shooting, nine assists, six rebounds and three steals.

Right after Maxey turned a first-quarter steal into a slam, Melton did the same.

Melton said at the Sixers’ media day that he felt “way better” and more athletic after playing through a back issue for almost all of last season. He sure looked explosive on that dunk and was strong in many areas Monday.

The backup bigs 

Following two early Reed fouls, Filip Petrušev entered over Mo Bamba.

Both Reed and Petrušev picked up four fouls in the first half. Though Petrušev had several nice moments as a rim protector, timing his leaps well to alter shots in the paint, he certainly looks below average strength-wise for an NBA big man. The 23-year-old is listed at 6-foot-11, 225 pounds and mainly played at power forward for KK Crvena Zvezda last season.

The longer look at Petrušev was understandable. His contract for this year is partially guaranteed, so it made sense to evaluate him over an extended stretch. Bamba had also struggled to begin the preseason, shooting 3 for 13 over the Sixers’ two exhibition losses to the Celtics.

Petrušev went 21 minutes and had seven points on 2-for-5 shooting (1 for 3 from three-point range), five rebounds and three assists.

“I just thought we needed to try it to see how he was,” Nurse said. “We hadn’t given him much of a look. He really played kind of (like) what he is. He’s a pretty intelligent player, he fights, he can shoot the three-ball.

“He knows what he’s doing out there as far as where to be on defense and when to screen, when to roll, when to pop. He’s got a pretty good feel for the game, so I think he did a decent job.”

Bamba only played six minutes, including the final four next to young, end-of-roster teammates. It will be interesting to see how Nurse handles the backup big situation in the Sixers’ preseason finale.

“I think there’s a lot of battles going on, but that’s certainly one of them and we wanted to at least see it,” Nurse said. “We need to give (Petrušev) more chances, more minutes to see what he could do. … He knows how to play and he’s a solid player. We’ve just got to see. We’ll see how it plays out.”

Making up for Maxey’s absence  

Oubre was not hesitant whatsoever to shoot.

He didn’t have an efficient outing (24 field-goal attempts for his 21 points), but we imagine the Sixers might appreciate his shot-first instincts both when they’re undermanned and when Oubre’s jumpers are falling. Oubre was active defensively as well in Brooklyn, recording two steals and two blocks, and Nurse noted he’s making progress in terms of playing “more solid” defense while retaining his aggression.

“Shout out to Coach,” Oubre said. “Learning his system has been fairly easy because he’s such a straightforward shooter. He says what he wants out of us, and it’s up to us to go do it. And that’s the way we get playing time. I’m definitely going to do every single thing he tells us to do, and do it to the best of my ability.”

Harris increased his aggression once Maxey exited, recognizing the shot creation void. He was good in his matchup against Simmons, playing smart, high-effort defense throughout the night.

Beverley started the third quarter in Maxey’s spot. He did not last the entire second half, though. From the Sixers’ bench, Beverley said something early in the fourth quarter that the officials deemed worthy of his second technical foul, which is an automatic ejection.

Nurse didn’t mind that Beverley was ejected sticking up for Petrušev. (On the prior play, Simmons fouled Petrušev hard, Petrušev objected, and both players received technicals.)

“There’s good camaraderie and teamwork there,” Nurse said.

Jaden Springer again featured in the Sixers’ rotation and continued to pressure the ball very well while chipping in nicely with some scoring (11 points on 5-for-9 shooting). In our view, he’s boosted his stock more than any other Sixer this preseason.

“I thought Jaden Springer had another good game, right? Geez, he’s really playing well,” Nurse said.



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