Doc unveils Tucker-at-the-five lineup, Maxey at it again in Sixers’ win over Cavs

We got our first look at the PJ Tucker-led small-ball lineup and the results were mostly positive in the Sixers’ 113-97 preseason win over the Cavs.

Doc Rivers’ starting unit featured James Harden, Tyrese Maxey, De’Anthony Melton, and Tucker. Joel Embiid did not travel to Cleveland as part of his preseason plan. Montrezl Harrell was also out. He’s day-to-day with a rib injury.

Here are a few takeaways from the night.

First quarter

  • Tobias Harris taking the opening tip. I venture to guess it’s the first time he’s done that in a while.
  • Tyrese Maxey’s ridiculous preseason run continued early with three threes in a row.
  • Interior defense was understandably a little rough. The Sixers haven’t gone to a look with a center as small as Tucker in the Doc Rivers era. As the game went on, they did better protecting the paint and fighting All-Star big Jarrett Allen.
  • De’Anthony Melton had a couple nice kick-outs for threes to Maxey and Tucker on the break. Melton is not the guy you want running your offense, but he’s proven he has the ability to lead the break and catch opposing teams napping in transition.
  • Maxey with 13 points in less than seven minutes. That’ll play.
  • James Harden drew a foul on a step-back three. Vintage. Followed it with a traditional three a couple possessions later. One small concern with Harden: his handle has been a little loose in the preseason. He had two turnovers where he simply lost his dribble with minimal pressure.
  • Airball from Matisse Thybulle on his attempt from three, then missed another corner look. He was able to connect from the corner in the waning moments of the period. Good for Thybulle that he keeps firing
  • Even with Paul Reed checking in, the Sixers were switch-heavy.
  • If Maxey averages over 20 points a half (he had 15 after one quarter) the Sixers might win a game or two. The Sixers took a 33-20 lead in the second.

Second quarter

  • Sixers scalding hot from three to start. They’re 7 of 15 after a Danuel House Jr. three.
  • Lots of energy from Reed in the second quarter. He’s getting his hands on the ball a ton defensively. Also had an offensive rebound and nice hook shot finish.
  • It should not come as a surprise that Allen is going off against these small Sixers lineups. He’s up to 15 points and seven rebounds.
  • Nice juice from House off the bench. He’s hit a couple wing threes, had a nice follow and finish on a missed Maxey layup and has had a generally high activity level.
  • Speaking of solid offseason additions, I just love Melton’s game. He hit a pull-up midrange jumper off a screen, then grabbed a great offensive rebound and finished. Strong stat-stuffing line: seven points, five rebounds and three assists.
  • Cavs guards starting to warm up a bit.
  • Would like to see a little more of the Harden-Tucker two-man game. They hit back-to-back threes to extend the lead back to 59-47.
  • The Sixers go into the locker room with a 61-50 advantage. Maxey leads the way with a game-high 17 points. Didn’t hit 20 in the half. He’s slacking. Harden with nine points, five rebounds and three assists. He’s just 2 of 6 from the field, but 2 of 3 from deep. House with eight points in seven minutes.

Third quarter

  • Have really liked the ball movement from the small-ball group. Defensively they’ve struggled, but the reality is Doc is not likely to go with Tucker at the five against opposing centers like Allen. With that said, it’s been a fun test for this look.
  • Encouraging drive and finish by Harden. He got Allen on a switch and had the burst to get by him and the explosiveness to finish at the rim.
  • Been a solid night from Tobias. He’s jacked up six threes (seven if you include the one he was fouled on). He also grabbed seven rebounds on a night when they needed it.
  • It appears the fringe-rotation players are leaking in as Furkan Korkmaz checks into the game midway through the third. Looks like the starters are done for the night. Cavs still rolling with mostly starters and it shows as they cut the lead to 80-75.
  • More havoc from Reed and the Sixers build the lead back to 86-75 to close the period. Balanced effort from the starting unit if they’re all in fact done for the night. Maxey led the way with 19 points. Harden with 11 points, six rebounds and four assists. Melton with seven points, six rebounds and five assists.

Fourth quarter

  • Another corner three from Thybulle to open the quarter. Again, give him credit for firing away after the early airball.
  • Shake Milton has had a solid preseason. Nothing spectacular, but a few nice reads and drives. He has 10 points, five rebounds and four assists. Would still like to see his shot return to his 2019-20 form. He’s 0 for 2 from three in this one.
  • Thybulle has now knocked down three straight threes after missing his first two. Man, the Sixers have so much more depth right now. Doc will have a few tough decisions to make — a very good problem to have.
  • Looks like Paul Reed’s night is done. Here’s a fun stat line: four points, three rebounds, three blocks, three steals, two assists.
  • Isaiah Joe looks good leading the Sixers’ deep bench unit. Hit a nice-step-back three, a pull-up fadeaway two and found Michael Foster Jr. on a nice drive and kick.
  • No Charles Bassey, even with Embiid and Montrezl Harrell sitting out. It seems more and more likely he will be the odd man out when roster cuts are all done.

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