5 observations from Sixers' summer league opener: Bolden joins Fultz with strong debut

5 observations from Sixers' summer league opener: Bolden joins Fultz with strong debut

SALT LAKE CITY – It went down to the final seconds, but the Sixers were unable to top the Celtics in Markelle Fultz's debut. The Sixers fell, 89-88, Monday night at the Huntsman Center on the University of Utah campus despite 17 points from Fultz and 16 points from second-year wing Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot.

Promising play from the Sixers' youthful draft picks has fans of the team feeling excited about greater things ahead after having been told to “Trust the Process” for the past few seasons. At one point in the first quarter, a few Sixers fans in attendance triumphantly chanted the phrase after their team scored a basket.

Here are five more observations from Monday's game:

1. Fultz tallied only one assist, but the box score doesn't do justice to his offensive impact (see game recap). Fultz made several critical shots and also enabled others to unfold through crisp passing that got the ball moving until it found the open man. Sixers summer league coach Billy Lange praised Fultz's unselfishness after the game and said that his teammates see him as humble and willing to give up the ball whenever it helps the team. He also made a couple highlight reel defensive plays (see story).

2. Luwawu-Cabarrot still has some work to do on his outside shot. The second-year wing shot just 1 of 9 from distance in 32 minutes. Those misfires left a blemish on an otherwise strong all-around performance.

3. Jonah Bolden offered instant energy off the bench on both ends of the court. Bolden totaled nine points, four rebounds and four blocked shots in 22 minutes. The Australian forward had enough hops on defense to carve himself out a bigger role as summer league progresses.

4. Boxing out on the glass needs to be a bigger emphasis for the Sixers. The Celtics finished with a 12-4 advantage in second-chance points on seven offensive rebounds. Overall, Boston had a 44-39 edge on the boards.

5. Who says summer league games can't be fun? The Sixers and Celtics combined for 11 lead changes and 10 ties. At one point in the third quarter, the Sixers led by 15 points while the Celtics led by as much as 10 in the first half.

Back-to-backs still not part of the plan for Joel Embiid … just yet

USA Today Images

Back-to-backs still not part of the plan for Joel Embiid … just yet

Joel Embiid does not expect to play in the Sixers’ first back-to-back Saturday. 

“I’m not playing tomorrow. No back-to-backs yet,” he said before Friday’s game. “I don’t think so. I’ve got to check on that again. But there’s a plan in place and that’s what I’m going to follow.”

The Sixers faced the Celtics on Friday in their home opener and then will travel to Toronto Saturday night to take on the Raptors. It is their first of 14 pairs of back-to-back matchups this season. He projects he will eventually be cleared for them. 

“This year, there’s not a lot of back-to-backs,” Embiid said. “I feel like I’ll miss some but I’m not sure when. But I’ll definitely play some back-to-backs this year.”

Embiid has yet to be cleared for consecutive games in his injury-hampered career. It is important for him for reach that checkmark.

“I just want to feel like an NBA player,” Embiid said. 

Sitting out Saturday will not bump up his minutes Friday, Embiid said. He played 26:57 in the season opener Wednesday and is eyeing somewhere around 20 against the Celtics. Brett Brown is managing his playing time within a range, not a specific restriction like last season. 

The key to being cleared for more minutes and back-to-backs? Staying away from injuries. 

“I’ve got to balance it out because I’m ultra-competitive so I want to get out there, jump in the stands, dive for every loose ball,” Embiid said. “But at the same time, I’ve to find a balance in between staying healthy and doing all that.”