GRADES: Oklahoma City Thunder 102, Philadelphia 76ers 97

The Philadelphia 76ers lose their second scrimmage game without Joel Embiid but see another solid performance by Ben Simmons

The Philadelphia 76ers’ second scrimmage brought more promising developments despite Joel Embiid being sidelined with a calf injury. With Horford starting in place of their All-Star center, the Sixers’ style of play would presumably show distinct differences. That would be true in a few ways.

During the first quarter, the 76ers were aggressive defensively, swarming opponents on the perimeter. The interior defense lacked due to Embiid’s absence. Offensively, they pushed the ball often. Ben Simmons made sure to run immediately after a defensive rebound. In the midst of taking an early lead, the Sixers caught fire from beyond the arc, particularly, Al Horford.

Though he had some early mistakes, Shake Milton picked up where he left off from the Memphis game. He took shots within the offense, capitalizing on strong drives to the basket and several made 3-point shots.

In order, early substitutions included Furkan Korkmaz, Matisse Thybulle, Norvel Pelle, and Glenn Robinson III. With Thybulle and Pelle on the floor, the Sixers’ defense flustered OKC’s guards on the perimeter while the interior tightened up. Even future Hall of Famer Chris Paul struggled at times versus the Sixers’ defense.

Throughout the first three quarters, the Sixers were able to take advantage of mismatches, posting up the Thunder’s smaller guards. Ben Simmons and Tobias Harris used their size for easy scores. On one play, Harris dominated Paul on the block with a drop-step spin that ended with a dunk. Their double digit lead would not last long after that play.

Once the starters found a permanent bench seat, that’s when OKC turned the game in their favor. Thybulle stayed on the floor, wreaking havoc as the disruptor he has been branded, but even his defensive tenacity could not preserve the Sixers’ lead. Alec Burks was able to nail some shots from three and had some nice pull-up jumpers, but the rest of the supporting cast found no real answer for OKC’s bench lineup.

The Sixers’ lead dwindled in the fourth quarter to a tie 95-95 with 1:51 to play. With Alec Burks on the court as their main offensive threat, the offense sputtered, giving OKC every chance to take the final lead. After some timely 3-point shots from former Sixer Mike Muscala and Andre Roberson, the Sixers eventually fell to the Thunder 102-97.

In their loss, some realities have remained constant. Their bench players demonstrated that they need more work. With flashes of defensive brilliance, Matisse Thybulle still struggled with his dribbling and decision-making, especially in transition. Once again, Kyle O’Quinn and Mike Scott showed why they’ve fallen out of the rotation. Marial Shayok seemed like the slowest player on the floor every minute he played.

Unfortunately, Glenn Robinson III left the game early with a hip injury after a collision with Terrance Ferguson. The good news? Horford seems to have found his stroke as Simmons flirted with a triple double in another strong performance.

BEN SIMMONS

PF, Philadelphia 76ers

A-

26 mins | 14 pts | 11 reb | 9 ast | 1 stl | 0 blk | 5 TO | 5-10 FG | 0-0 3PT| 4-7 FT | 3 PF | +21

Ben Simmons played his usual game, dishing out assists and grabbing boards for the Sixers. He was aggressive again with his drives to the rim, but he took no shots beyond the 3-point line this game. Great highlights included an alley-oop dunk from Shake Milton in the first half and a sharp pass to Pelle in transition for an easy basket.

AL HORFORD

C, Philadelphia 76ers

B+

23 mins | 13 pts | 9 reb | 3 ast | 2 stl | 0 blk | 1 TO | 4-7 FG | 4-5 3PT| 1-2 FT | 1 PF | + 17 |

Al Horford had a solid offensive performance, getting hot beyond the three-point line. He grabbed nine rebounds, but he did not block any shots or protect the paint the way Joel Embiid would have done. He looks spry and full of energy out there with the team. It appears as if the hiatus is something that benefitted his body with the extra rest.

SHAKE MILTON

PG, Philadelphia 76ers

B-

21 mins | 11 pts | 4 reb | 2 ast | 0 stl | 0 blk | 3 TO | 4-10 FG | 3-6 3PT| 0-0 FT | 4 PF | +2 

Shake Milton continued to stay aggressive on the offensive end, driving to the basket and shooting jump shots with confidence. His first basket was a nice drive to the lane and finishing with his left hand. He made 50 percent of his three-pointers, and he had some nice dishes to his teammates. One highlight was his alley-oop pass he made to Ben Simmons for a jam. He must improve his defensive numbers for the next game and limit his turnovers.

JOSH RICHARDSON

SG, Philadelphia 76ers

B+

23 mins | 10 pts | 2 reb | 3 ast | 4 stl | 2 blk | 1 TO | 4-8 FG | 1-3 3PT| 1-2 FT | 2 PF | + 17 

Josh Richardson had another solid performance, hitting 50 percent of his shots and making plays on the defensive end. He was active in the passing lanes, picking up a team-high four steals. His willingness to cut hard to the basket gives the team effective movement with a pass-happy Ben Simmons always on the lookout for slashers.

NORVEL PELLE

C, Philadelphia 76ers

C+

15 mins | 6 pts | 6 reb | 0 ast | 0 stl | 4 blk | 2 TO | 3-8 FG | 0-0 3PT| 0-0 FT | 4 PF | – 5 

Norvel Pelle filled in nicely as the backup center. He led the team with four blocks and grabbed six boards. He continues to be a spark off the bench for Brett Brown, protecting the rim with authority and awareness. He has a Clint Capella-type feel to his game, able to grab lobs for dunks and as a paint protector.

Next: 2020 NBA Mock Draft 4.0

The next Sixers game is July 28 at 8:30 PM E.T. against the Dallas Mavericks.