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76ers vs. Guangzhou Loong Lions takeaways: Philly dominates in preseason opener, Ben Simmons swishes a 3-pointer

PHILADELPHIA — The Philadelphia 76ers opened up preseason play on Tuesday night, and their exhibition contest against the Guangzhou Loong Lions of the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) provided fans with their first glimpse of the team’s new-look starting five that includes Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Tobias Harris, Al Horford, and Josh Richardson.

The Sixers jumped out to an early lead over the Lions and never looked back as they walked away with a dominant 144-86 win. Thus, the starters only saw limited action as Brett Brown used the opportunity to get his reserves some extended time. Nonetheless, there was a lot to be gleaned from the time that the starters did spent out on the floor, as well as the play of the reserves, and the game as a whole.

With that in mind, here are some key takeaways from the first taste of the 2019-20 Sixers: 

1. Ben Simmons nailed a 3-pointer

It happened, ladies and gentlemen. The moment that Sixers fans have been waiting for. Ben Simmons attempted, and connected on a 3-pointer in an NBA game. I was there and saw it with my own eyes. Don’t believe me? Check it out for yourself below: 

“I work every day and to me, it shows,” Simmons said of the shot after the game. “I’m in the gym every day and I feel like it is paying off.” 

Despite his All-Star status, Simmons had been much maligned for never having made a 3-pointer. Well, no more. The make was the first of Simmons’ NBA career, and now that he’s shown that he’s capable of connecting from long range, it will be a matter of doing it [somewhat] consistently in order to keep defenses honest. If he can do that, the sky is the limit for both Simmons and the Sixers. 

2. Philadelphia’s sheer size is overwhelming

The Sixers’ starting five is enormous, as the shortest member of the group is Josh Richardson who is listed at 6-foot-6. Other than Richardson, every other member of the starting five is at least 6-foot-9 or taller That size was on full display in the contest against a Guangzhou team that just couldn’t match the Sixers’ physicality. Philly dominated the battle of the boards (51 to 40), especially on the offensive end where they snared 15 offensive rebounds. The Sixers also generated a bunch of second-chance points, got to the free-throw line consistently (they had 37 free throw attempts) and just physically overwhelmed the Lions.

After some early resistance, the Lions ultimately wore down and the Sixers were able to coast to victory as a result. It’s important to keep in mind that this was just a preseason game against a team that isn’t in the NBA, but the Sixers’ size figures to be an issue for opponents all season long. 

3. Promising play from rookie Matisse Thybulle

One of the main takeaways from the game was the promising play of rookie forward Matisse Thybulle, who the Sixers selected in the first round of last June’s NBA Draft. Thybulle impressed the coaching staff during training camp with his defensive versatility and athleticism, and he was the first player off of the bench (along with James Ennis III) for Philadelphia on Tuesday night.

During his 16 minutes of action, Thybulle did a bit of everything: he played excellent defense, got out in transition, and stretched the floor with his shot. If he can continue to contribute at the level that he did against the Lions, he will play a major role for the Sixers over the course of the season.

4. Sixers dominated defensively

The Sixers made it very clear that they plan to hang their hat on the defensive end of the floor this season, and that’s exactly what they did on Tuesday night. They set the tone defensively early on and made it difficult for the Lions to get in much of a rhythm. The Sixers held the Lions to just 38 percent shooting from the floor, and 28 percent from long distance, while also forcing 23 turnovers that they tuned into a whopping 45 points on the other end. 

It won’t always be that easy for the Sixers to impose their will defensively on the opposition, but they sure looked good on that end of the floor on Tuesday night.