Sixers end preseason on a high note

By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)

Philadelphia 119, Miami 95 – Box Score

As far as preseason finales go, aside from Markelle Fultz sitting out with knee soreness, the Sixers couldn’t have asked for a better final tune-up than what transpired Friday night against Miami. Philadelphia dominated the Heat from basically start to finish, particularly while the starters were in the game with that opening 5 all finishing with double-digit plus-minuses.

In his second game of the preseason and playing in Kansas City, close to his college stomping grounds at Kansas University, Joel Embiid was the main attraction. While he didn’t have the same type of dominant outing as Wednesday night against Brooklyn, shooting just 1-7 from the field, Embiid still flashed that game-changing ability to caused him to get paid earlier this week.

On the defensive end, Embiid quickly showed Hassan Whiteside that there would be no easy buckets around the rim.

Meanwhile, the big man’s propensity for drawing fouls continued. In less than 3 minutes, Embiid drew 3 fouls on Whiteside, triggering a fantastic sequence where Embiid pointed to the Heat bench and told them they needed to get Whiteside out of the game (you might recall Embiid and Whiteside had a bit of a twitter rift around the All-Star voting last year, making this exchange even better).

Embiid’s final line was 5 points, 7 rebounds, and 1 block in 15 minutes. There was also the requisite play where he fell awkwardly and might have slightly sprained his ankle, but indications are he should be fine. All in all, it’s ridiculous that we consider this to be an off night for the franchise center.

A guy who in no way had an off night was Ben Simmons, who finished with 19 points on 9-11 shooting, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, and 0 turnovers in 18 minutes. While Simmons’ only jumper was an ugly shot that somehow banked in, he still proved he can score without the outside shot as a threat. Whenever he gets a smaller guy on him, Simmons goes down and puts him in the torture chamber down low. This is 6’7″ Justice Winslow looking like a freshman having to fill in as an extra body in a varsity scrimmage.

Simmons also got out and ran the floor, showing good chemistry with Jerryd Bayless on a couple occasions.

With the newfound depth of the Sixers roster, Brett Brown is now capable of putting four shooters around Simmons with either Embiid or Dario Saric at the 5. In those situations, the floor is spread well and Simmons has plenty of room to navigate the lane and attack the rim. Based on what we saw here against Miami, that’s bad news for opposing defenses.

J.J. Redick is out to prove he deserved that $23 million contract, and the way he’s shooting this preseason, that deal might be undervaluing him. Redick went 5-6 from three against the Heat, bringing him to 12-14 in the preseason. It hasn’t all been Redick knocking down wide open looks thanks to gravity provided by Embiid or Simmons either. The former Duke star can subtly navigate his way around the arc and make a quick change of direction or one-dribble move to create just a sliver of space for himself. All he needs is a split second of room and the shot is going up (and going down).

Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot made a strong final case for himself to be the main wing off the bench as the season gets underway. TLC dropped 17 points, attacking the basket more than we’ve ever seen from him in a Sixers uniform, sinking 10 of 11 free throws. He also showed some strong secondary play-making, tallying 3 assists. Luwawu-Cabarrot has easily the highest two-way potential between himself, Justin Anderson, and Nik Stauskas. TLC playing well in the present as well makes it an easy decision for Brett Brown.

Although the Heat were sitting startign point guard Goran Dragic, it’s still very encouraging that the Sixers had no difficulty in dispatching a Miami team that also in the group for the last few playoffs spots in the Eastern Conference. Philadelphia won handily both of their preseason games in which Joel Embiid played. He and the Sixers appear poised to pick up right where they left off in that excellent month of January before he was injured. The first, real test begins Wednesday night against the Wizards.

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