Sixers summer league

3 observations after Sixers beat Knicks, win first game in Vegas

The Sixers opened with a victory Saturday in Las Vegas.

Terquavion Smith
Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images

Jaden Springer and the Sixers started sharply on Saturday.

Springer scored 23 points and the Sixers won their opening game of the Las Vegas summer league after a 1-2 run in Salt Lake City. They took a 110-101 victory over the Knicks.

Next up for the Sixers is a Monday night matchup against the Mavericks.

Here are observations on their win Saturday:

Letting the jumpers fly this time 

Springer took the Sixers’ first two field goals, missing a pair of three-point attempts. 

On one second-quarter play, Springer couldn’t maintain that same approach. He squared up for a catch-and-shoot three, left his feet, and then belatedly changed his mind, picking up a traveling violation. Still, this was a much better decision-making game for Springer than his outing Thursday in Utah, which included seven turnovers. Springer had three giveaways in 32 minutes. 

More significantly, he kept shooting when open and even tried a few reasonable contested looks. Springer went 2 for 6 from long range and the Knicks didn’t sag off of him defensively. 

We’d wondered Thursday whether Filip Petrusev would display more of his shooting skill in Las Vegas. He did just that vs. the Knicks, knocking down two early jumpers and a top-of-the-key three in the third quarter. Petrusev had his best showing of the summer overall, scoring 13 points on 6-for-8 shooting and grabbing five rebounds. Increasing his three-point volume still appears sensible in summer league; Petrusev twice got whistled for traveling immediately after pump faking jumpers. 

Smith shines on defense 

Charlie Brown Jr. and Michael Foster Jr., two starters for the Delaware Blue Coats team that clinched the G League championship last season, featured for the Knicks.

Brown opened the scoring with a cutting dunk and posted 17 points, six rebounds and three steals. Foster had 12 points and five boards. 

As for this season, undrafted rookie guards Terquavion Smith and Ricky Council IV have signed two-way contracts with the Sixers. Smith was initially less attack-minded than usual offensively, but his defensive activity popped. He blocked three shots and swiped three steals, one of which he immediately turned into a lefty slam. 

Smith’s defense was nowhere near immaculate — he got burned on a backdoor cut a minute or so later — but his productive aggression was positive. Sixers head coach Nick Nurse loves forcing turnovers and generating transition offense, and perhaps Smith can one day contribute to that cause.

As Smith knows, gaining muscle would improve his chances of being an adequate NBA defender. The Sixers listed him at 6-foot-4, 165 pounds on their summer league roster. 

Asked last weekend about his short-term developmental aims, Smith said, “Just locking in, staying focused, getting stronger. That’s probably the one thing I’m focused on the most.”

Smith’s feel for the game offensively was also decent Saturday. He had five assists and three turnovers. While he’s not bashful about putting up deep jumpers, Smith’s audacious decisions rarely take the form of high-risk passes. Moving forward, we imagine that honing his playmaking instincts and understanding how to leverage the attention he draws from well behind the arc will be keys for Smith. 

Smart, Sixers close it out 

Athletic forward Greg Brown III had a nice day for the Sixers, recording 11 points on 4-for-6 shooting and three blocks. 

Brown was one of four players that summer league head coach Rico Hines used off the bench. Azuolas Tubelis, who’d started last time out, played on the second unit Saturday. The 6-foot-11 rookie scored his only three points on a corner jumper. 

Javonte Smart started and helped the Sixers play a cleaner game than Thursday with a five-assist, one-turnover performance. He didn’t have a great shooting game (5 for 15 from the floor), but Smart has been useful for the Sixers in summer league as a mature, stabilizing, high-effort player. 

However, Smart could not prevent the Sixers from having quite a few shaky moments down the stretch, including a play where Council got away with an eight-second violation.

Of course, the standard for what counts as a smooth finish is a lot lower in summer league than in a regular-season NBA game. The Sixers played well for most of the day and earned a victory to begin their stay in Las Vegas.

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