Fultz surge not enough for Sixers to pull out the win

By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)

Jazz 100, Sixers 94 – Box Score

Facing the stiffest test of his young professional career (which now spans all of two games), Markelle Fultz came away with passing grades, nearly pulling the Summer Sixers out of a huge, 24-point hole against the Jazz. Fultz finished with a team-high 23 points on 9-16 shooting, scoring 13 points in the fourth quarter alone as his team came within a single point of tying the game in the closing moments. Ultimately, Fultz couldn’t single-handedly overcome the tagteam Utah backcourt of Dante Exum (26 points, 10 assists) and Donovan Mitchell (15 points, 3 steals), who terrorized the Sixers all evening. Their play was neatly summarized by this sequence where Mitchell stole a lazy Furkan Korkmaz pass and made a perfect behind-the-back pass to Exum for an uncontested flush.

https://twitter.com/utahjazz/status/882785761975648256

Matched up against Exum, who is entering his 4th year in the league (albeit with one entirely lost to an ACL injury), Fultz struggled at times defensively to contain the more experienced guard. Not losing focus on the defensive end is definitely going to be something head coach Brett Brown harps on Fultz about this season. It was also the first overall pick’s first time as the lead guard in summer league, as Korkmaz’s arrival pushed he and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot to the wings with Fultz at the point. While Fultz made some errors leading to 6 turnovers, he has probably never faced a defender of Exum’s caliber and he still generally acquitted himself well. His 5 assists could have been a much higher number with some more help from his teammates.

Even still, scoring the ball is something that already looks so easy for the former Washington Husky. Fultz drained 4 of 8 from behind the arc, showing no signs of needing to adjust to the longer three-point line. The way he keeps himself under control and smoothly pulls up to drain these shots is a sight for sore eyes after what we’ve been forced to watch from the guard position in recent years.

He once again showed off his spin move, which when he combines that with a stepback jumper (jimbo, if you’re a real baller like Kevin Durant), is basically unstoppable. Dante Exum is about as long a defender as Fultz is ever going to face and he can’t prevent this bucket from going down.

I also enjoy how Fultz doesn’t try to do too much when he’s driving the lane, showing an ability to knock down a variety of floaters and tough-angle shots rather than trying to finish through people. Maybe it’s a product of never having the uber-athleticism you might expect from a top prospect, but Fultz’s offensive game seems more polished than your normal rookie, which should serve him well against better competition once the fall rolls around.

The other guy who continues to jump off the screen for the Sixers in Utah is Jonah Bolden. While he’s a bit of a chucker offensively (5 points on 2-9 shooting, 1-5 from three), Bolden is simply every on the defensive end. He ended the night with 3 steals and 3 blocks, rotating effectively and covering a huge amount of ground with his fluid, 6’10” frame. His skillset was on full display during this two-play sequence. Bolden did a nice job helping off the ball to cut off a driver and still a pass attempt to the corner (somehow staying in-bounds to keep possession). Then, after a Sixers turnover, Bolden sprinted down court for an outstanding chasedown block.

I’d really like to see the Sixers sign Bolden to one of the new, two-way player contracts. He needs regular playing time, which he would get in Delaware, but I’d also want to see what he can do with the big club. A big man with his ability to guard in space and protect the rim has a place in this league.

After signing with the team this week, former first round pick Furkan Korkmaz’s was a big dud. Korkmaz missed all his field goal attempts and finished with just 3 points, going 3-5 from the line. He also looked to need an adjustment period to the speed of the game this side of the Atlantic, evident in the turnover I detailed at the top. Hopefully, it was more of a situation where he was tired from traveling and unfamiliar with his teammates and we’ll see that sweet shooting stroke in short order.

Having struggled with his shot the other night against Boston, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot found the range against the Jazz, hitting 3 of his 4 threes for 12 points. As he should be, TLC has been more aggressive in summer league hunting for his own shots and driving to the hole. With the main club though, he’s mostly going to need to knock down open outside shots, so good to see him doing that Wednesday night.

The Summer Sixers will be right back at it, looking for their first win tonight against the Spurs.


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