Maxey and Springer stand out in Sixers’ preseason loss to Celtics: Likes and dislikes
The Sixers visited the Boston Celtics on Sunday for what was both teams' first preseason game. Tyrese Maxey scored 24 points and Jaden Springer scored 14 points and grabbed four offensive rebounds, but Payton Pritchard dazzled in the fourth quarter to send the Sixers to a 114-106 defeat.
Before we get to what I saw, some notes.
The Sixers were without Joel Embiid, James Harden, and De'Anthony Melton.
Furkan Korkmaz has a strained leg and was unavailable.
Nick Nurse started Tyrese Maxey, Patrick Beverley, Tobias Harris, PJ Tucker, and Paul Reed.
The Celtics were without Jay Scrubb, who will miss the season with a torn right ACL.
Joe Mazzulla started Derrick White, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Kristaps Porzingis, and Al Horford.
The pace on offense and activity on defense jumped out of the screen early for Philadelphia. They didn't need great ball movement to up the pace, though. Some of it came just by guys calling their own numbers early in the shot clock.
You could see the blue jerseys all navigating their own thought processes on the court. They were jammed somewhere between trying to ditch the tendencies they developed under Doc Rivers and trying to get themselves comfortable with what Nurse is preaching. The ball stuck to their hands here and there, devolving some promising possessions to awkward isolations. On other possessions, however, the Sixers made one or two passes quickly to spark the offense.
There was a real effort to break out of the identity that existed under the previous regime. You expect those habits to fade as the season progresses and players get more comfortable with what is being asked of them. The Sixers collectively displayed a willingness to be coachable in the very first preseason game. That's a good start to establishing a new culture.
The activity on defense fed the pace on offense. Philadelphia pressured the ball from the get-go, challenging the Celtics on the most basic tasks. Hands were up and active at all times, the Sixers turning the Celtics over by tipping the ball away or intercepting risky passes in the air.
Maxey even enacted the defensive principles he discussed in training camp, staying aggressive as a helper and stripping Tatum from the blind side early in the first quarter.
Even with Embiid unavailable (and likely a product of some preseason coasting by the Celtics), the Sixers did an admirable job of gang-rebounding. If no one could retrieve the rock on Boston's miss, the closest Sixer tipped it to where only he could reach it to secure the stop. If no one could get to it outright, all of the blue jerseys got involved in the tipping around.
I don't think you can reasonably expect that to work on a nightly basis for everyone on the team. But, the Sixers have a number of big bodies capable of naturally supporting that style of play. Even some of the smaller players, like Jaden Springer, have a knack for finding the ball off the rim. There's enough athleticism there to buy that this team can be a good rebounding group.
I suspect this will narrow down as the season goes on, but the Sixers played with a significant degree of ball-handling diversity in this game. It wasn't just Maxey, Harris, or another guard tasked with bringing the ball up or navigating pick-and-rolls. Danuel House Jr. and Kelly Oubre Jr. had the liberty to put the ball on the deck and run the show. At the very least, allowing all of those cooks in the kitchen will make for a more diverse offense over an 82-game regular season. It might even help the Sixers learn some things about themselves.
There were really two main stories in this game. First, who other than Maxey? He looked regular-season ready from the minute the game began. No. 0 beat everyone on both teams up and down the court all night long, getting to the rim for crafty finishes throughout the game because no one could keep up with him.
When Maxey wasn't getting to the rim, he was aggressive on the perimeter. He attempted nine triples in 29 minutes of play. Maxey drilled them off relocation and off the dribble when Boston went under ball screens.
He even showcased some creation skill, drilling one off the dribble after creating space for himself in isolation and finding Springer on a weak-side cut with a beautiful pocket pass.
Speaking of Springer, it looks like those two years of development have him ready to go. He has incredible prowess on the offensive glass, particularly for his size. He will fly in silently, emerging from nowhere to grab the ball off of his teammates' misses. He's then strong enough to go up strong with it. He absorbed contact from seasoned veterans on numerous possessions, getting himself to the line for the extra point. He also laced a couple of open looks from beyond the arc.
Rough go for Reed. He was great on the offensive glass, creating additional plays for Philadelphia on multiple possessions. But, he lost control whenever he tried to go through contact at the rim. The touch was nowhere close to being there.
Harris did eventually settle in on offense, but he also had quite the clunky start under this new regime. There were times in which he dribbled the possession into nothingness, settling for awkward shots out of the post. He also made some bad decisions with the ball in his hands, electing to take a contested baseline fadeaway out of the post and attacking the rim for a layup with three Celtics around him.
Again, a lot of new going on here. Naturally, it will take some guys some time to adapt. But, stalling the offense with dribbling, poor shot selection, and questionable decision-making are tendencies that have plagued Harris throughout his tenure in Philadelphia. I don't think I'm going to be convinced that those habits will go away.
The Sixers (0-1) will host the Celtics (1-0) on Wednesday in their second of four preseason games. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m., Eastern time. You can watch the action on NBA TV.
Where to watch Phillies Playoff games during Red October in Atlantic and Cape May Counties
Gallery Credit: Josh Hennig/Townsquare Media