For the first time since Brett Brown’s coaching debut in 2013 the Philadelphia 76ers are starting a season with a win. Even more importantly, they handled their business against the rival Boston Celtics with a 107-93 victory Wednesday night.
While the team’s performance wasn’t perfect (i.e. shooting 24.1 percent from three-point range) there was one important positive that can’t be lost from the opening game. In years past whenever Joel Embiid was in early foul trouble, the Sixers were in for a long game.
The 2019-2020 Sixers will change that narrative thanks to Al Horford and Kyle O’Quinn. In fact, both players already started changing it on opening night.
Every Sixers fan must have held their breath when Embiid picked up his fifth foul with 10:48 left in the fourth quarter. With the lead only at eight at the time, one Celtics run could have changed the game. If that happened, Embiid would have been forced to play most of the quarter with five fouls. To prevent him from fouling out, Brown went to the bench and brought in Horford.
According to Brown, Horford is off to a good start with his new team.
“Just solid all over the place,” Brown said about Horford’s first game as a Sixer, via Marc Narducci of the Philadelphia inquirer. “He is just so intellectually ready to play, he is so in the moment, he is in the game.”
When Horford committed his fifth foul a few minutes after Embiid left the game, it was time to bring in O’Quinn. On his first offensive possession, O’Quinn hit a big three to extend the Sixers lead to double digits. He scored five points in four minutes before Horford re-entered the game for good.
Instead of the eight-point lead disappearing, it only grew the rest of the game. The Sixers outscored the Celtics by six in the final quarter and never needed Embiid to come back into the game.
He only played 23 minutes the entire game. Even though it’s only one game, the Sixers proved they don’t need to overwork Embiid to get wins. If this trend continues the entire season, it will pay off in April, May and June.
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