The Sixers couldn't turn Jaden Springer's 29-point outing Thursday into a victory.
With a 99-98 loss to the Hawks, the team fell to 1-2 in the Las Vegas summer league. Atlanta rookie Kobe Bufkin scored a go-ahead layup and Terquavion Smith's game-winning three-point attempt on the Sixers' last possession was well short.
The Sixers will play the Clippers on Friday at 5 p.m. ET.
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Here are observations on their tight defeat to the Hawks:
The Springer-Smith duo
Springer hit close-range, mid-range and long-distance jumpers in the first half. Instead of plowing into the lane and seeking out contact, he was glad to pull up, catch and shoot, and generally take the shots available to him.
Shooting is not suddenly Springer’s top skill, but he’s made meaningful progress over the last year. That he appears to have decreased his dip (and necessary release time) while increasing the fluidity of his shot is significant. There’s certainly no guarantee he’ll earn NBA rotation minutes next season, but credit to the 20-year-old for working hard in the G League, accepting changes to his shooting form, and implementing them effectively.
Springer’s one real miscue in the first half came when he stole a pass, jetted off in search of a bucket before the second-quarter clock ran out and … mystifyingly slowed down. He stopped short for a floater and missed it, then heard from his teammates and the Sixers’ coaching staff that he should have gone all the way for a layup. Other than that head-scratcher, however, Springer played an excellent half on both ends of the court.
Smith came off the bench Thursday and teamed up nicely with Springer on several occasions. Late in the first quarter, he drew help with a brisk drive to the middle and kicked the ball out to Springer for a corner three.
Through six summer league games, it’s noticeable that Smith has looked very comfortable playing in transition and alongside multiple ball handlers. And though he seems to always believe he can beat his man 1-on-1, Smith has done well at recognizing when to move the ball quickly — on hit-ahead passes, in dribble weave actions, etc.
He got into a serious zone early in the fourth quarter Thursday and had his most efficient game this summer, posting 20 points on 7-for-10 shooting, three rebounds, three assists and one turnover.
Brown’s block party
Greg Brown III started for the Sixers and soared for a couple of blocks during a strong second-quarter stretch.
Brown also knocked down a three and threw down a dunk after running the floor with Springer.
The Texas product finished with 11 points on 3-for-6 shooting, seven rebounds and six blocks.
It’s easy to see why he played 64 games for the Trail Blazers over the last two seasons. Brown is listed at 6-foot-7, 206 pounds, but he plays bigger than that because of his leaping ability and a wingspan slightly over 7 feet. The Sixers have played the 21-year-old at the five, which looks like it might wind up being Brown’s best NBA position if he doesn’t become a consistent outside shooter.
Makur Maker (six points, three rebounds) played behind Brown. Neither Filip Petrusev nor Azuolas Tubelis appeared.
Council still slamming
Ricky Council IV converted two driving layups early in the opening quarter.
While Council has shown he can score in traffic, his handle was loose at times against Atlanta, which limited his chances of success off the dribble. At the NBA level, Council will likely be best driving in straight lines and maximizing his explosiveness that way. Picking his spots as a cutter figures to be key, too.
When the rookie guard has a runway, he’s truly fearsome for the opposition. He swiped a steal from Tyrese Martin in the second quarter and rammed home a slam.
Council closed out the game and played a supporting role for the Sixers, who put the ball in Springer's hands during crunch time.
Springer kept drawing free throws and kept sinking them. With an 11-for-11 performance vs. the Hawks, he's at 37 of 42 overall (88.1 percent) this year in summer league.