It’s only “opening week” in the NBA, but the Philadelphia 76ers sent a message in their home opener against the Celtics, small ball is out and big MEN will determine who will win the East.
ESPN’s Tim Bontemps grasped what was going on in Philly right away.
The Philadelphia 76ers spent the offseason building a team focused on a very specific identity: being big and physical and imposing their will on their opponents at both ends of the court.
“Overall the mentality was to go in and [play] ‘smashmouth basketball,’ as coach says, and I think we did a pretty good job,” Sixers forward Matisse Thybulle said.
The object of the game was to wear the undersized Celtics down and as the game wore on, it became obvious the strategy was working. Even without the kind of shooting most teams in the NBA have tried to build around, Philly has the size and athleticism to make life miserable for guard oriented clubs.
Now whether or not “smash-mouth basketball” will get the 76ers past a Bucks team with Giannis Antetokounmpo, Ersan Ilyasova, Brook Lopez, and Robin Lopez is yet to be determined, but Milwaukee won’t be easily intimated and the NBA defending champion Toronto Raptors should be absolutely elated for an opportunity to play this style of play against a team that no longer has the shooting and play-making of Jimmy Butler.
The Raptors don’t have the dominance of a Kawhi Leonard at small forward anymore, but size is something they match up really well against. Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka are two guys no one is going to push around and Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby give them size, speed and skill at the forward spots. Head coach Nick Nurse must have seen the 76ers strategy coming as he’s already been experimenting with a lineup featuring all four of these bigs on the floor at the same time.
There should be a lot of enthusiasm for the gantlet 76ers head coach Bret Brown has thrown down. Small ball and threes are great for fantasy basketball, but smash-mouth interior ball combined with strategy and skill is a lot more fun to watch.