Trust. For three years it’s all Sixers fans had. We had to trust that Joel Embiid would be healthy. We had to trust that Dario Saric would come over from Europe and become a star, even when relegated to the bench. We had to trust that Ben Simmons’ ankle would heal, that Markelle Fultz, bum shoulder and all, would be as good as advertized, that Robert Covington, T.J. McConnell and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot would progress and that veterans like Jerryd Bayless, J.J. Redick and Amir Johnson would contribute in ways the Sixers lacked last year.
We had to trust a lot. This process took forever, with plenty of mistakes along the way. But watching Simmons and Embiid start the Sixers season together seemed to make it all worthwhile.
Embiid and Simmons combine for the nice steal and score.
Great start to the second here. pic.twitter.com/xoYWavBKaZ
— NBC Sports Philly (@NBCSPhilly) October 18, 2017
The Sixers lost the 2017 season opener in Washington Wednesday night, falling to the Wizards 120-115. They had many chances to pull off the upset, but were unable to start the season with a win.
Embiid was put on a minutes restriction to start the season — again — as the Sixers announced their new $148-million dollar centerpiece would play between 15 and 20 minutes in the opener against Washington. Through three quarters he had played 21 minutes, dropping 12 points on 4-of-11 shooting, adding 10 rebounds and three assists. He finished the game with 26 minutes, scoring 18 and grabbing 13 boards.
A man this large shouldn’t be able to do this pic.twitter.com/9FWOYbIIFN
— Michael Lee (@MrMichaelLee) October 19, 2017
As good as he was, Embiid was just a plus-1 and veteran center Marcin Gortat got the better of the young center in the fourth quarter, finishing with 16 points, 17 boards and three blocks. Still, the Sixers defense was different when Embiid was on the floor, as the Wizards were able to attack the rim far more when he was on the bench.
But when he was in, watch out.
This is fun. pic.twitter.com/vArDVtCYhD
— Did the Sixers Win? (@DidTheSixersWin) October 19, 2017
Simmons finished the game with 18 points on 7-of-15 shooting in 34 minutes, adding 10 rebounds and five assists, with just one turnover.
— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) October 18, 2017
Covington led the Sixers with 29 points thanks to seven three pointers, adding seven rebounds as well. But Covington had five turnovers, including a costly one late when the Sixers had a chance to take the lead in the final minute.
Fultz wasn’t on the floor for the final stretch, as Bayless got the nod. Fultz had an up and down start to his NBA career, scoring 10 points and adding just one assist in 17 minutes. He was a minus-18, and he was killed for his free throw form early in the game.
That said, he did a lot of nice things too.
There is palpable excitement for this team, so much that Sixers Twitter was on fire the whole contest, not to mention the fans who went down to Washington chanting Trust the Process throughout the closely-contested loss.
Wells Fargo Center South pic.twitter.com/JtgiL247yp
— max (@MaxRappaport) October 18, 2017
When Embiid wasn’t in the game, he served as the biggest cheerleader in the gym.
TRUST. THE. PROCESS. pic.twitter.com/AsMhPu2Nk6
— Legion Hoops (@LegionHoops) October 18, 2017
Again, the Sixers had a chances late, but Washington eventually held on for the victory. It’s incredible, though, to remember this was the first ever NBA game for Simmons, the first game for Fultz, the first game since last October for Bayless, the first game since January for Embiid, the first time Redick has played with any of these guys and Brown hasn’t even come close to figuring out his rotation. Saric only had 22 minutes and made one shot. That’s not going to happen a lot.
Oh, and let’s also remember the Wizards might be the second-best team in the Eastern conference this year. There are no moral victories in the NBA, but for a team that won 75 games over the last four seasons COMBINED, this was a sign of many more wins to come for the young Sixers.