Last night, the Sixers opened their season in Indiana with a loss, 103-91. The Pacers were without Paul George, David West and others, but had no problem closing out the young Sixers in the end. Though the opener may not have gone the Sixers way, there were plenty of positives to take from last night's loss. Let's look at what Brett Brown thought about the game and then look at what went right for the Sixers.
"I have no idea how it is going to play out," Brown said. "I thought C.J. (Chris Johnson) had an excellent game from a defensive standpoint. He made some plays. Tony [Wroten] had some signs of athletic brilliance attacking the rim, but this year's team is a mystery in how we sub it and play it."
Nerlens Noel's Defensive Impact - While he may have only scored six points on 18% shooting and missed four of six free throws, the Sixers emerging big man made a splash on the defensive end, grabbing ten rebounds and blocking three shots. Though he may have succeeded on the defensive end, the young big man out of Kentucky wasn't necessarily pleased by his performance offensively. Head coach Brett Brown tried to keep things in perspective as it is only one game into the 82-game season.
"I didn't think it was a good performance for myself," Noel said. "I have to continue to rebound, I was decent on the rebounding effort. I missed too many shots, too many open shots and too many free throws. I have to keep working and keep my mind right and don't let it discourage me."
Noel was down on his effort, but Brown made sure to keep things in perspective.
"It is a work in progress," Brown said. "I feel a responsibility to take this environment that we are in and experiment how Joel Embiid and Nerlens Noel can coexist on the same court, playing together. (via CSNPhilly.com)
Tony Wroten shines in MCW's absence - Last year, we saw that Tony Wroten had plenty of raw talent when it came to the game, but had a lot to work on in terms of shot selection and decision making. To start the year, with reigning Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams on the mend, Wroten was given the job of starting at point guard and he had an encouraging opener. He shot just under 43% from the field, tallied a game-high 22 points to go along with eight rebounds, seven assists and three steals. Despite the loss, the second year Sixers guard was pleased with how the team performed.
"We have a lot to work on, but we played a good game today," Wroten said. "We didn't play a full 48 minutes, but we definitely saw signs of things to build off of and we will continue to push every day." (via CSNPhilly.com)
Alexy Shved shows ability off the bench - Backing up Tony Wroten was Alexey Shved, who was acquired in the deal that sent Thaddeus Young to Minnesota. He came off the bench and made five of his 11 shots for 18 points, five of six free throws and hit three out of six from beyond the arc. In addition to that, he dished out five assists. Brett Brown experimented with Wroten and Shved on the floor at the same time at points through the game, something the two weren't familiar with in practice.
"Not a lot," Wroten said when asked how often the tandem plays together in practice. "He is a really good player, so adapting was easy. (via CSNPhilly.com)
Chris Johnson surprisingly starts, turns in solid performance - Chris Johnson, who spent time with the Celtics and the Nets in 2013-4, started alongside Nerlens Noel at the small forward position and did pretty well for an unknown guy. As shown earlier, Brett Brown was satisfied with his defensive efforts and he turned in 12 points on 50% shooting from the field. He didn't play much in the preseason, but scored 15 points in the final game against the Pistons.
"He is more of a two," Brown said of his decision to start Johnson. "He has earned it with what he has done in preseason. We need shooters and we need to have a look at possible young players who can make our team with that ability. Those reasons ruled the day when we gave him that starting responsibility." (via CSNPhilly.com)
Final Thoughts: Overall, a solid opener for a Sixers team in the midst of a major rebuild process to acquire young talent through the draft and develop them into a team that can succeed in the future. At least that is the idea. Hopefully tomorrow night in Milwaukee, Nerlens Noel continues to show his defensive prowess with an improved offensive game. It is going to take some time, but it will be exciting to see him get better as the season progresses.
Brandon Apter is a writer for Sixerdelphia.com