After a crippling Eagles defeat at the hands of the Dallas Cowboys, the city of Philadelphia needed a win: Enter 76ers. The NBA season could not have arrived at a better time. For one night, the city forgot about the Eagles mishaps and remembered Philadelphia’s best sports team.
The 76ers grabbed a 107-93 victory over the Boston Celtics in their season opener, validating the hype fans brought into the season. While the fans did not get the Ben Simmons three-point attempt they wanted, the team’s performance was impressive enough to draw several positive observations from.
BEN SIMMONS’ AGGRESSION
The biggest story this offseason for the 76ers was the development of Ben Simmons’ jump shot. After two seasons of relentless jokes, Simmons made shooting the focal point of his offseason training. Videos of Simmons draining 3’s in the gym quickly circled the internet, and people were so excited to see him pull up for a jumper that a New Jersey bar even offered to give out free beer when he does. However, the flaw Ben Simmons perfected in the season opener was not what we thought it would be. Despite his physical strength, Simmons tended to be paint-shy during many games last season. Wednesday night was not one of these cases. Simmons attacked the paint all night, and the Celtics had no answers for his 24 point, 8 rebound, and 9 assist performance. Even without a jump shot, Simmons is still putting up imposing stat lines. Imagine how dominant he could be as a three-dimensional scorer.
CLOSING OUT THE GAME
The 76ers have been unable to generate late-game offense for seasons now. Even after building double-digit leads heading into the fourth quarter, fans found themselves struggling to trust the team to finish the game. While it makes for some fun endings and buzzer beaters, I’m sure fans would prefer normal blood pressures and stress-free wins every once and a while. The stress started to build for fans as the 76ers entered the last quarter of play with a 77-68 point lead. But this time around, fans did not even have to sweat as the team posted a productive 30-points in the fourth quarter to swiftly close out the game.
ROOKIE CURSE IS BROKEN?
For the past four seasons, the 76ers found themselves in a seemingly endless cycle with their rookies. At least one of their first-round picks in each of those four years faced some kind of injury or health issue that sidelined them for most or all of the NBA season. Patience was running out, and fans were ready to give up on the draft and rely on free-agency acquisitions. But right as the last petal started to fall, the 76ers most recent first-round pick, Matisse Thybulle, broke the curse. Known for his shut-down defense, all eyes were on Thybulle as he matched up against veteran Kemba Walker. And he delivered. Thybulle limited the three-time All-star to just 12 points as well as tallying 4 deflections, 2 steals, and 2 blocks on the night. While the rookie has areas for growth after shooting only 1-of-5 in the opener, fans have boarded the Thybulle hype train and do not plan on getting off any time soon.
Though the season is new, the 76ers have the markings of an eastern conference contender. The offseason additions of Al Horford and Josh Richardson have transformed the defense. And if defense wins championships, they are well on the way. The team’s roster now features athletic players with the length to span the perimeter. Only time will tell if they can build chemistry and stay healthy enough to become a feared unit in the NBA.