The Sixers kicked off their 2022-2023 campaign with a 9-points loss in Boston. Harden was fantastic in the first half and Maxey had an hot streak in the second, but a subpar outing from Embiid, a handful of turnovers and struggles on both sides of the ball prevented the Sixers from rivaling with the Celtics. Here’s what to remember from the first game of a season full of hope and expectations for our Sixers.

The first encouraging sign of this new season was Tobias Harris’ start. We mentioned how his role will eventually change this year while simultaneously having a critical importance, and last night’s first half was a perfect example of what a decisive Tobias is. He had 14 points at the half by attacking right off the catch, making his open shots and he even splashed a big one in Jaylen Brown’s face. Proof of how aggressive and efficient he was: the power forward registered a 0.419 points per touch ratio, last year he was at 0.270 points per touch. Tobias will have so much open looks and space to attack all season long. It’s up to him to always make the most out of it.

Secondly, James Harden looked like his old self again, draining ridiculous threes, getting effortlessly to the line and most importantly, using his burst again to get by his defender. He finished the game with 35 points on 9/14 shooting along with 7 assists. His heliocentric nature and his ability to perfectly leverage his scoring threat generated many good looks for he and his teammates throughout the night.

To continue with former Houstonians, PJ Tucker is truly the perfect facilitator for us (and for any team, really). the 2021 NBA champ’ is tirelessly doing something to help the offense, whether it’s by spotting up in the corners, by crashing the glass to extend the possession or by setting sneaky back-screens to an unadvised defender to free up a teammate.

It’s the first real game for this remodeled-group, so it’s totally normal that the offense wasn’t orchestrated to perfection. We also knew that the well-organized Celtic defense would be a though first test for the Sixers. Nevertheless, the offense relied way too many times on simply giving the ball to Embiid for a post-up or a face-up, without any off-ball movements or opposite-side actions afterwards. The team, as well as Joel, unsurprisingly didn’t find any success there and we basically didn’t put enough pressure on Boston’s rim. Embiid having 13 post-up touches last night for only 3 paint touches showcases it perfectly.

The Sixers adjusted in the second half, privileging Maxey or Harden pick-and-rolls with Embiid as the roll-man and like that, the offense was less static and predictable. In all of the first half, there was only six Harden-Embiid pick-and-rolls while in the third quarter alone, we saw seven of those, directly generating 9 points in total.

Turnovers were a problem, undoubtedly linked to the stagnant and redundant offense we stated earlier, but Joel in particular needs to fix his reads and awareness issues if we want to have a real shot this year.

Those careless possessions led to another staggering matter: our borderline non-existent transition defense. The Celtics completely exposed us, scoring 30 points in transition (Sixers only scored 6) and most of them were basically lay-ups because the team didn’t get back on-time (or didn’t try to). We already said too many times that this bad trend needs to be addressed.

The half-court defense wasn’t impressive either. The team showed some nice rotation sequences, Maxey upped his effort there and Melton showed the pesky impact he can have with his length but all of that won’t matter if Embiid looks as disengaged defensively as he did yesterday. Gladly, Joel won’t always be this passive and everybody won’t be as unfazed by Tucker’s defense as Tatum was. Doc playing Niang and Harrell over Reed and Thybulle when you desperately needed to stop the scorching-hot opposing wings is certainly a choice (I would probably not recommend).

It’s only the first of an 82 games season and even if it’s in the fan’s nature to overreact, we should at least wait until the home-opener against the Bucks on Thursday before taking out the #FireDocRivers signs (just kidding. For now). More seriously, despite this painful but not-that-significant loss, there’s a lot of promising things surrounding this squad and I definitely think that they won’t take long before being reaaally scary.

…and by the way, Go Phillies!

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