OPSL: Sixers 84, Thunder 73

by Max Rappaport
Sixers.com Writer
@MaxRappaport

Box Score | Highlights | Interviews

ORLANDO -- Summer league basketball isn’t always pretty. In fact, it rarely is. With teams comprised largely of undrafted rookies and journeyman veterans brought in on a weeklong tryout basis, chemistry is built slowly.

In their meeting with the Thunder on Sunday, the Sixers were without Nerlens Noel (rest) and Hollis Thompson (left knee soreness), and eight of the nine players who suited up for the team were rookies. The two teams combined to commit 71 fouls and turn the ball over 42 times, but Philadelphia was able to come out ahead, 84-73.

Philadelphia’s lone veteran, point guard Casper Ware, led the way with 20 points on 8-of-16 shooting to go along with five assists and five rebounds. Initially brought in on a 10-day contract in March, he appeared in nine games for the Sixers last season and is hoping to parlay a strong performance this summer into a roster spot in the fall.

“[Because I’m more experienced], I felt like I had to take control more and be more vocal,” the 23-year-old said of his play in Sunday’s win. “Of course I want to make a team, get a contract, but other than that I just want to come out here and play hard.”

Beyond his contributions on the offensive end, Ware impressed Sixers OPSL head coach Lloyd Pierce with his leadership and outspokenness on the defensive end, where he rallied a group defensive effort that helped hold Oklahoma City to 37.3% from the field and 21.7% from beyond the arc.

Starting at center in place of Noel, undrafted rookie Ronald Roberts, Jr. followed up a 12-point, nine-rebound performance in Saturday’s OPSL opener with 12 points on 4-of-5 shooting to go along with six rebounds (five offensive) against Steven Adams and the Thunder. The St. Joe’s alum said after the game that he can feel himself becoming more and more comfortable with his teammates and with the Sixers’ style of play with each passing day.

“He’s all energy,” Pierce said of the 6’8” big man. “That’s who he is, a great athlete who plays with intensity, plays hard on every possession, and that really helps everything that we do.”

Fellow rookie Travis Bader knocked off the rust after a 1-for-7 shooting performance on Saturday, scoring 13 points on 4-of-7 shooting, and 2014 32nd-overall pick K.J. McDaniels scored 13 points (4/9 FG) in 20 minutes of play.

The Sixers are back in action Tuesday at 7pm (EST) when they take on the Houston Rockets. Catch the game on The Comcast Network if you’re watching in Philadelphia or on NBA TV if you’re not. As always, you can watch the games on Summer League Live on your computer, tablet, or smartphone. 

Top Performers

Casper Ware: Matched up against 6’3” rookie Semaj Christon for much of the game, 5’10” point guard Casper Ware held his own, holding the Xavier alum to 12 points on 14 shot attempts and notching 20 points, five assists, and five rebounds. After the game, Sixers OPSL head coach Lloyd Pierce lauded Ware's intensity and vocality on the defensive end.

Ronald Roberts, Jr.: After a strong performance in Game One of OPSL (12 points, nine rebounds), big man Ronald Roberts, Jr. made his presence felt early, grabbing four offensive boards in the first four minutes of the game, including one possession in which he grabbed three straight, including one in which he dove out of bounds to save a long rebound. He finished the game with 12 points (5/6 FG) and six rebounds (five offensive).

K.J. McDaniels: The rookie out of Clemson finished with 13 points (4/9 FG) and four rebounds, but in his case the box score didn’t tell the full story. Through two games, he is the Sixers’ leader in +/- at +24 and has shown the ability to disrupt pick-and-rolls, stay in front of ballhandlers, and alter shots that made him the ACC Defensive Player of the Year in 2014.

Talib Zanna: The Pittsburgh product played within himself in Sunday’s win, setting hard screens, playing solid team defense (team-leading +12 plus-minus) and scoring seven points without attempting a shot (7/8 FT).