Sixers Struggle With Zone Defense, Drop Weird, Sloppy Preseason Finale to Wizards


In their final tune-up before opening night, the Sixers fell flat.

A horrendous second quarter put them behind and they ultimately fell to the Wizards, 112-93, in their fifth and final preseason game Friday at the Wells Fargo Center. They finish the preseason 4-1.

The Sixers were without Ben Simmons (back tightness) and Raul Neto (hamstring). Neither injury is considered serious and both were kept out for precautionary reasons.

The Boston Celtics come to town next Wednesday night for the season opener.

Here are observations from an ugly one in South Philly.

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• Early on, the Sixers' offense appeared to be humming. They were moving the ball well. There weren't many static possessions. Josh Richardson showed off his ability to move without the ball, cashing in on a pair of layups on sharp cuts to the basket.

Then early in the second, the Wizards switched to a zone and the Sixers' offense couldn't get anything going. They had a brutal quarter, shooting just 3 of 14 (1 of 8 from three) and turning the ball over seven times. 

This isn't the first time the Sixers have seen a zone this preseason, but this is the most effective we've seen one look against them. You better believe the rest of the league will see how well it worked Friday. Given the Sixers' size advantage and without the likes of a JJ Redick out there to help break it, I suspect this won't be the last time they see a zone.

• It was a bit of an odd game for Joel Embiid. The All-Star center was his dominant self for the most part, but the game was tightly officiated and Embiid seemed disinterested at times defensively. At one point late in the second half, Embiid got called for a questionable travel and an offensive foul. He managed to shake it off and score the last five points of the half.

Early on, he made a gorgeous Euro step move around Thomas Bryant for a basket. There was also a sequence where Mo Wagner drew an offensive foul on Embiid. Embiid didn't appear to take too kindly to that. On the next possession he emphatically swatted away a Jordan McRae layup and then drew a foul on Wager with his patented swim through move. Late in the third, Embiid was whistled for a Flagrant 1 against Wagner. Wagner was forced to leave the game and did not return.

Embiid finished with 17 points (6 of 8), six rebounds and two blocks in 23 minutes.

• It sure sounds like Brett Brown intends to get a good look at Furkan Korkmaz early on this season. The third-year wing out of Turkey has struggled to find a role since coming from overseas. But Brown still sees something in the 2016 first-round pick.

The biggest thing that Brown pointed to pregame was Korkmaz's defense. It is something that just experience has helped Korkmaz improve on. Getting the start tonight, Korkmaz made a couple nice defensive plays. On one possession, he provided solid help defense, helping force a turnover and a fast break.

He continues to flash ability offensively, but went just 2 of 9 from the field. The big question of consistency is what remains with the 22-year-old.

• It's sort of a lost storyline among so many this preseason, but Tobias Harris' defense improved. It was one of the biggest concerns coming into the season with Harris switching to the wing but he's more than held his own. He made a pair of impact plays, picking rookie Rui Hachimura's pocket on a drive and sliding into a strong position to help on defense and meet Thomas Bryant to block his shot at the rim.

He told Brown he wouldn't be the weak link of the team defensively. So far so good.

• Brown mentioned he wants his team to play "bully ball offense." At times, you can see the team taking on that personality. Harris has been one of the main participants. He hasn't shot the ball particularly well this preseason - though he was 6 of 13 in this one - but he's attacked every mismatch he's gotten.

Al Horford was clearly looking to take Hachimura to the weight room when he could. Josh Richardson also took guard Chris Chiozza - who he has a five-inch advantage over - into the post. I have a feeling it's just a taste of what we can expect when the regular season starts.

• This is your almost daily "Matisse Thybulle is very good" observation. His most impressive defensive possessions came against Bradley Beal. There were times where Beal had his way against the Sixers - and fair enough, because he's really freaking good. But Thybulle showed off impressive feet in forcing Beal into spots on the floor he didn't want to go. He forced him into the middle of the floor at one point, which caused Beal to cough the ball up. The fact that he only recorded one steal and one block seems almost disappointing.

While his outside shot wasn't falling, he again showed off his cutting ability. With big men like Horford and Kyle O'Quinn that are excellent passers, Thybulle should get his fair share of easy baskets that way. He got one from each of those bigs tonight.

• The backup point guard situation is still a bit muddled. Given that he started as the one the last two games in place of Simmons, you'd have to think Richardson will get the nod. With Neto out, Shake Milton was the first point guard off the bench. Trey Burke started the second half with Richardson sitting out. Milton was solid in 19 minutes with 10 points (4 of 8).

• Brown lost his first challenge on an Embiid offensive foul midway through the third. It did appear that Hachimura flopped but it was way too close of a call to overturn. Brown finished the preseason 2 of 3 on coach's challenges.

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