76ers

Sixers-Celtics preseason observations: Markelle Fultz solid in return

BOX SCORE

BOSTON — The Sixers’ first preseason road game ended in a 113-96 loss to the Celtics at TD Garden on Monday night. 

The shorthanded Celtics, playing without Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward and Al Horford, easily defeated the Sixers, who trailed by 17 in the first quarter. 

• The Sixers wanted to see Markelle Fultz in different situations other than just at starting shooting guard. Fultz came off the bench in his second game (he missed Friday because of right shoulder soreness). Brett Brown played him at point guard with and without Ben Simmons.

Fultz said while his shoulder soreness is “on and on,” he is not using it as an excuse nor did it hold him back from shooting threes.

• Both Fultz and Simmons attacked the rim instead of taking jumpers. Simmons (6 for 12 from the field, 3 for 10 from the line) scored all of his field goals at the basket, as displayed on the NBA.com shot chart. Fultz (5 for 11 from the field) knocked down a shot just outside the paint. 

Brown is encouraging both players to drive to the basket.

“I like them attacking people and putting pressure on the defense, and hopefully getting to the line and maybe shooting a little bit better than we did tonight,” Brown said.

It remains to be seen how long that shot selection continues during the season. Players like JJ Redick could benefit from their kick-outs, but the team will also need its backcourt duo to mix up the offense and take outside shots before it becomes repetitious and opponents can game plan for that attack. 

• Jahlil Okafor got the start at center. He’s made the most of his opportunities so far in preseason. Okafor grabbed five rebounds (and six each the previous two games) after averaging 4.8 last season and hit 3 of 4 from the field for six points.

“I’m just trying to find my rhythm,” Okafor said.

• Dario Saric made his preseason debut after sitting out the first two games. He had been playing and practicing internationally up until a week before training camp and the Sixers wanted him to rest ahead of the regular season. He got the chance to shake off rust by playing 20 minutes (nine points, seven rebounds). Saric, who was disappointed to miss the 82-game mark last season, said this rest was beneficial for him. 

• Richaun Holmes does not expect to require surgery on his fractured left wrist. He described the fracture as “small” and believes it will heal on its own. Holmes is aiming to return sooner than the three-week re-evaluation mark. He fell on his wrist during a foul in Friday’s loss to the Celtics.