Sixers: 3 takeaways from opening night without Ben Simmons

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(Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

The Sixers cruised to victory on opening night in New Orleans, 117-97, despite the well-documented absence of All-Star point guard Ben Simmons. The game was by no means a blowout — the Pelicans kept it within reach for three quarters — but Philadelphia was clearly the superior team.

So, it’s only the Pelicans. Without Zion Williamson, for that matter. This is not some juggernaut the Sixers had to overcome. Even so, there was a healthy balance of positives and negatives from the team’s first game (of potentially many) without Simmons, who was suspended on Tuesday for “conduct detrimental to the team.”

Here’s what we learned.

Takeaways from Sixers win over Pelicans: Joel Embiid has space

Joel Embiid opened the game with a dominant stretch, scoring 12 of his 22 points in the first quarter. At one point, the group on the floor was him, Georges Niang, Danny Green, Furkan Korkmaz, and Seth Curry. That’s four plus-plus gravity shooters and the most dominant interior scorer in the game.

Safe to say, the early returns on Embiid this season were positive. He had room to operate in the middle of the floor, his passing felt much more frequent and purposeful (five assists), and he was characteristically strong on the defensive end.

A slight injury scare aside, not much went wrong for the 7-footer out of Kansas. He was able to defer to the hot hands of Tobias Harris, Furkan Korkmaz, and Tyrese Maxey in the second half, but this performance was reminiscent of Embiid’s MVP campaign last season — automatic mid-range jumper, a balanced attack, and the absolute decimation of his ill-fated opponent (in this case, Jonas Valanciunas).

With Simmons’ status in the air, the Sixers will need Embiid to keep up the excellence. Odds are, he will.

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