Summer league games are usually not the cleanest or sharpest, but they’re often interesting, in their own way. Monday's matchup between the Sixers and Oklahoma City Thunder was not an exhibition of beautiful basketball, but it did provide plenty of unexpected drama.
The Sixers fell in Las Vegas against Oklahoma City, 84-81, after coming back from a 31-point deficit to force overtime. Rookie Matisse Thybulle's driving layup off a pindown screen tied the game at 81 with 10.6 seconds remaining, and the Sixers got a stop on the Thunder's final possession of regulation. Oklahoma City held the Sixers scoreless in the two-minute overtime as PJ Dozier missed a long three-pointer at the buzzer that would have tied the game.
The team’s next game is Wednesday against the Pistons at 3 p.m. (NBA TV).
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• Shake Milton had an auspicious start, knocking down a contested three-pointer from the top of the key on his first shot attempt after making just 4 of his first 29 shots in summer league.
That was, however, his best moment of the day. Milton left the game late in the second quarter after appearing to injure his ankle stepping on the foot of first-round pick Darius Bazley. Milton, who walked to the locker room after the play, had five points on 2 for 7 shooting and four turnovers.
• Zhaire Smith was the Sixers’ best player.
He missed his first four shots but made 8 of his next 15, including a pull-up three from the left wing early in the fourth quarter, and finished with a team-high 18 points, five rebounds, three assists and two steals.
Smith has made some mistakes in summer league — including four turnovers vs. the Thunder — but you expect he’ll benefit from the chance to play and learn from those errors in a relatively low-pressure setting.
• The points of emphasis for Thybulle as a rookie will likely be playing disruptive defense and knocking down three-point shots. Those are two things he can do immediately at the NBA level.
A secondary, long-term focus for Thybulle should be ball handling. On one first-quarter play Monday, he pump faked from the right wing, took a weak dribble to the middle and was stripped. On a second-quarter play, Thybulle started an unsure drive to the hoop, lost control on a behind-the-back move and had to kick it back out behind the three-point line. While developing his handle will take time and isn’t essential for his rookie year, at a minimum he’ll need to be stronger with the ball come the regular season.
Thybulle had 14 points on 4 for 10 shooting (2 of 6 from three-point range), four rebounds and two steals.
His instincts and closing speed on defense remain highly impressive. He read this pass and swiped the ball with ease.
• When you watch a game involving Norvel Pelle, it’s a good bet that you’re going to see one or two eye-opening, above-the-rim blocks.
The Sixers will hope they can continue refining his other tools as a rim protector, including the ability to defend without fouling and choose the right gambles to make. Pelle’s athleticism and shot blocking are outstanding skills, but they’re not necessarily enough to cement an NBA future.
• Pelle only played six minutes Monday as the Sixers gave Christ Koumadje an extended look. In 20 minutes, the 7-foot-4 Koumadje had 10 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks.
• Dozier and Jalen Jones were not bashful about shooting the ball, and neither had much success. The pair combined to shoot 3 for 27.
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