A promising and competitive showing was seen from the 76ers yesterday as they played their first game against the home team, the Orlando Magic in the opening day of the Orlando Pro Summer League. The Sixers were defeated by the Magic 83-77 but a lot can be taken away from the first game down here in sunny Florida.
First, Nerlens Noel had his NBA debut and it didn’t take long at all for him to make a strong impact. Noel had the first field goal of the game with a tremendous dunk that shook Amway Center only 30 seconds after tipoff. Every Philly fan can breathe a sigh of relief because Noel looked confident and comfortable for not playing a competitive game of basketball in over a year. Noel finished with 19 points against the Magic. The big man also knocked down an outstanding 7-7 free throws proving that he has been working very hard on that part of his game.
The 7-6 played well and actually had the lead at the end of the first quarter 23-22. The real story of the first quarter was Pierre Jackson out of Baylor University. He was injured while only playing the first 6 minutes of the game and had to be carried off the court by his own teammates as he was grimacing in pain. Sixers officials say Jackson ruptured his right Achilles which is not good news to Philadunkia nation. Jackson looked good defensively putting unwanted pressure on Magic’s star Oladipo. Jackson also was quick to get the offensive side of the ball rolling for the Sixers, making 3-5 field goals and 7 points before leaving in the first quarter with his devastating injury.
Quick to stand out after Jackson left the game was Casper Ware. Ware played with heart and effort and was often jawing with Oladipo after the whistle blew. The two were at it all game. You could say that Ware was like a fly that just wouldn’t go away. The more you swat at it the more it comes back, and he was beginning to aggravate Oladipo. Ware finished the game with an impressive 16 points and was 50% from downtown making 3-6 three pointers. Ware also was perfect from the charity stripe making 5-5 free throws. He was certainty playing like a man that wanted a roster spot.
Some more standout players in today’s game were Hollis Thompson and Ronald Roberts Jr. Although Thompson only had 5 points he was a monster when it came to crashing the glass. He created extra scoring opportunities grabbing 8 offensive boards while racking up 6 defensive rebounds in 26 minutes played. While Thompson was grabbing boards, Roberts started out the first half tremendously scoring 11 points and finishing with 12 points for the game. He also was strong on the boards and had a huge put back slam in the second quarter. The two were a force that looked good out on the court together.
Offensively Philadelphia looked good with the combination of Ware, Noel, and Roberts who were the leading scorers in today’s game. Noel showed great awareness for a big man making efficient outlet passes to the outside shooters. Defensively the Sixers struggled at times letting Orlando pull away at points during the game. Oladipo was able to penetrate and kick the ball out to a hot Seth Curry who had eight points at half time and continued to be an ongoing outside threat throughout the game testing Philadelphia’s perimeter defense.
Now that the first game nerves are out of the way and in the books, the Sixers can put this game behind them and focus on the rest of the OPSL tournament. The man who should have had the biggest nerves is Noel who responded in an interview after the first game. “It’s been 18 months since I’ve played an organized game of basketball and it felt great. I’m real happy with my performance today and I just have to stay focused to help benefit my team” Noel said when asked about how he felt about his return. With that kind of confidence and a 19-point debut, Sixers fans should be just asexcited about the future in Philly as their Center is.
The Sixers are scheduled to play Oklahoma City tomorrow at 5 pm and I’ll be covering it live for Philadunkia.
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Tyler Cook is a scribe for Philadunkia. You can follow him on Twitter @TylerCook93