There was a basketball game played at the Wells Fargo Center Friday night, but at times, it felt more like a party.
The Sixers' new juggernaut starting five got off to a strong start but had to hang on to beat the Nuggets, 117-110.
After leading by as many 16 in the first half, leaky defense allowed Denver to come back and make it a tight contest.
The win improves the Sixers to 22-6 at home and 35-20 overall.
Here are observations from the win.
• Well, Tobias Harris couldn’t have gotten off to a much better start.
He missed his first look, a bunny on a great look from Ben Simmons. But he buried his next chance, knocking down a transition three from the wing on a rope from Simmons. This is something we could be seeing a lot more of.
He nailed a huge fourth-quarter three on a similar play.
The common theory has been that Harris will fit in nicely because of his ability to shoot, but what stood out in his debut is that he’s just a damn good basketball player. He recorded 14 points in his Sixers debut.
• The biggest beneficiary of all the added star power might just be JJ Redick. Redick likely had the cleanest looks he’s had all season. His movement away from the ball is so good and he continued to just find the open spots all night.
With Redick scorching the nets all night, it helped loosen things up around the basket for everyone else.
This Ben Simmons dunk is a prime example, as he fakes the hand off to Redick and drives to the basket instead.
He finished with a season-high 34 points and hit 6 of 7 from three. It’s nice to have four star-caliber players, but it’s even better to have a guy like Redick to open things up.
• Joel Embiid, who was questionable with a stomach bug, gutted this one out, but struggled offensively. He didn't look like himself all night, but you have to give him credit, he played hard all night.
This block to end the third quarter was just pure hustle and effort.
The shooting numbers look ugly (4 of 17 from the field), but he still managed to record his league-leading 45th double-double with 15 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks.
• Nikola Jokic was a problem yet again for the Sixers. The All-Star center and guard Jamal Murray gave the Sixers' fits in running the pick-and-roll together. The pair finished with a combined 50 points.
• The Sixers’ defense is still very clearly a work in progress. They continue to struggle against the pick-and-roll and, with a bunch of new pieces, had a miscommunications that led to a few open looks.
With that said, you have to give Brand credit for the role players he picked up. A guy like James Ennis is a perfect example of the kind of guy this team needs. He defended a pick-and-roll better than I’ve seen any Sixers’ defender do it all season. If he can hit an open three every now and then — he hit two Friday — he could be a huge pickup.
• Speaking of the bench, it’s going to be interesting to see Brett Brown’s rotations going forward. He didn’t have his full complement of players with Jonathon Simmons, acquired from Orlando in the Markelle Fultz trade, not in uniform.
One intriguing thing was how Jimmy Butler worked in the pick-and-roll with Boban Marjanovic — who got a rousing ovation from the crowd. Their first play running it led to Marjanovic’s first basket as a Sixer.
Another rotational change that’ll probably benefit the Sixers going forward is the separation of Ben Simmons and T.J. McConnell. With both players unwilling to shoot from the outside, it just leads to poor offense.
It was nice to see Butler and Simmons get some run together again. They’ve had a connection pretty much since Butler arrived. Brown wanted to get Butler playing more with Embiid — for obvious reasons — but the chemistry between Butler and Simmons is undeniable.
Butler had an excellent all-around game, recording 22 points, seven rebounds, five assists and three steals. He did serious damage from the line, making 14 of 14.
• Simmons has to cut down on his turnovers. He had nine Friday night. When you're surrounded by so much offensive talent there's no excuse for it.
• Needless to say, Sixers fans are pretty delighted with the moves the team made. GM Elton Brand got the rockstar treatment, at one point getting a, “Thank you, Elton,” chant by a section of fans.
• The Sixers finally retired the late great Moses Malone's No. 2.
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