Panzura postgame wrap: 76ers 117, Pelicans 97
Teams with greater continuity and familiarity often hold a major advantage in basketball, particularly early in a season. Despite being without one of its two All-Stars from 2020-21, Philadelphia’s edge in chemistry and cohesiveness was evident Wednesday, as the 76ers pulled away from New Orleans in the second half en route to a 20-point victory. The interconference matchup was evenly played for a half, resulting in a 53-all deadlock, but Philadelphia got hot from the perimeter after intermission and put the clamps down defensively against New Orleans. The home team only managed 17 third-quarter points, creating a double-digit hole.
Ben Simmons was suspended for Wednesday’s game by Philadelphia, but the 76ers relied on a fast start by All-Star center Joel Embiid and 20-plus points from three other players.
IT WAS OVER WHEN…
Philadelphia rained in a series of deep jumpers early in the fourth quarter, building a 16-point lead with seven-plus minutes remaining. Furkan Korkmaz sent a few fans to the exits by pulling up on a fast break and swishing a bomb from the left wing, making it 98-79 at 7:00.
PELICANS PLAYER OF THE GAME
Nickeil Alexander-Walker continued a trend he’s maintained since the latter part of his rookie year, excelling as a starter. Given the starting nod along with Devonte’ Graham in the backcourt, Alexander-Walker played aggressively all game, dropping in 14 first-half points and finishing with 23.
BY THE NUMBERS
13/25: Philadelphia three-point shooting, a major factor in turning a tight affair into a decisive margin.
41: Combined points by New Orleans starting guards Alexander-Walker and Graham, who shot a combined 15/25 from the field and 8/14 from three-point range.
20-9: Philadelphia edge in foul shots attempted. The Pelicans only had one game all of last season in which they shot fewer than 10 free throws.
Trying to predict how the upcoming season will unfold seems like a fairly impossible task, but if New Orleans is a contender for the West play-in tournament, some of its most formidable competition could come from the likes of Minnesota, Sacramento and San Antonio. In a Twitter poll, the Timberwolves were the overwhelming pick as the biggest threat among that trio to reach the play-in round in the West, receiving 60 percent of votes (the Kings and Spurs both less than 25 percent of the ballots). As @xk_tweets responded, “Minnesota. Feels like they are the most complete team of the three, Edwards should make a mini-leap this year, and if D’Angelo Russell is healthy all season, they have a ton of firepower.”