After finishing up pool play in the MGM Resorts NBA Summer League earlier this week, the Sixers opened the tournament portion of their slate on Thursday still looking for their first win in Las Vegas.
They won't have to wait any longer as the 30th-seeded Sixers battled back in the second half for an 88-86 win over the third-seeded Phoenix Suns at the Thomas & Mack Center. The Sixers (1-3) will next play on Saturday at 8:30 p.m. when they face the No. 14 seed Milwaukee Bucks, who knocked off the No. 19 seed San Antonio Spurs in overtime.
The Suns, who suffered their first defeat after winning their first three matchups, will play a consolation game before wrapping things up for the summer.
Now let’s dive into some observations from Thursday’s action:
1. Zhaire Smith and Mikal Bridges will likely be linked together for the rest of their NBA careers and the pair shared a court for the first time as professionals in this one.
Of course, Villanova product Bridges was drafted by the Sixers with the 10th overall pick in the 2018 draft before being dealt a short time later to the Suns for No. 16 selection Smith and Miami’s unprotected 2021 first-rounder.
The Sixers made the move knowing Bridges was the better player at the moment but with an eye toward Smith’s immense potential. However, both players looked every bit the part of rookie on Thursday with some bright spots and some negatives.
In 21 minutes of play, Smith had eight points on 2 of 5 shooting to go along with two assists. That included this one three-pointer right in Bridges' face.
Bridges contributed seven points and was also 2 of 5 from the field in addition to four steals and two blocks in 27 minutes. The thing that may stick with the former Wildcat is he couldn't get a handle on the ball under the rim in the final seconds for a potential game-tying shot.
2. Isaiah Miles has never received serious attention for an NBA roster to this point in his career but that should change in the near future.
The former St. Joe’s standout is a prototypical stretch four in today’s game and he showed exactly why against the Suns.
Miles poured in a team-high 20 points on 7 of 10 shooting, including 6 of 8 from three-point range. He also battled inside to pull down six rebounds and put his body on the line to take a charge in the second half when the Sixers were making their push.
“We started 0-3. We had a 30 next to our name as a seed, and we kind of took that as disrespect,” Miles said, per the Sixers' website. “We had to make a stamp on this tournament, so we wanted to come out and show that, and work hard. I’m proud of these guys. We worked hard against a really good Phoenix Suns team. We live to fight another day.”
The 24-year-old has played in France and Turkey since leaving Hawk Hill, but his skill set says he deserves a shot back in the United States.
3. Jonah Bolden made some pretty bold claims about being determined to come from overseas and join the Sixers for the 2018-19 season. His performance in Sin City has suggested otherwise, but that doesn’t mean things have been all bad for the big man.
Bolden has played some solid defense throughout the Sixers' summer league stint and the Australian took things up a notch in Thursday’s victory as he locked down No. 1 overall pick Deandre Ayton.
Ayton entered the contest averaging 16.0 points (67.0 percent shooting) and 11.0 rebounds. Bolden limited the center to 10 points on 4 for 10 shooting and nine boards with six turnovers.
Bolden’s own offense was nothing to write home about as he was held scoreless and had four turnovers. However, he should still be able to put on the tape and feel pretty good about his effort.
4. Things are so much easier for summer league teams just thrown together with random guys when they have strong play from their lead guards. Thankfully for the Sixers, both Furkan Korkmaz and Demetrius Jackson finally found a rhythm on the same night.
Korkmaz, who had been virtually nonexistent since his 40-point explosion in the opener, bounced back with 18 points, five rebounds and three assists in 28 minutes.
Jackson was a main reason the Sixers battled back after intermission. He found his way to the rim consistently as he contributed 10 points, five dimes and three boards.
5. Nevada product Cameron Oliver has felt right at home during the Sixers’ MGM Resorts NBA Summer League run in Las Vegas.
The forward has made some good plays and even better celebrations. He continued that trend on Thursday.
Oliver came off the bench to finish with 10 points and four boards. Reserve guard Askia Booker also tacked on 11 points and six assists for the Sixers.
Shaquille Harrison led the Suns with 17 points while New Jersey native Davon Reed put up 16.
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