Coach Brett Brown proclaimed the Philadelphia 76ers would play smash-mouth offense and bully-ball defense this season.
That style can be effective.
But as Philadelphia fans discovered Thursday night, it isn’t always pretty.
The Sixers opened their season with a 107-93 win over the Boston Celtics.
The game was choppy with little flow. The Sixers committed 34 fouls.
When the sold-out Wells Fargo Center crowd wasn’t screaming at the referees, they were groaning as wide-open Sixers shots rolled off the rim or missed the basket completely.
Boston made 33 of 90 shots. The Celtics were just 19 of 45 on shots in the lane.
Philadelphia outrebounded the Celtics 62-41.
The Sixers offensive numbers, however, were just as cringe-worthy.
Philadelphia shot 37 of 86 from the field. The Sixers were 7 of 29 from 3-point range.
“Had our defense not been our defense, we might have seen a different result,” Brown said. “We were trying to play as physical as we could.”
While it wasn’t an aesthetic success, Sixers fans should be pleased with Thursday’s win. Brown was.
Philadelphia played the type of defense that wins NBA championships.
With a starting five of 6-foot-10 Ben Simmons, 7-0 Joel Embiid, 6-7 Tobias Harris, 6-10 Al Horford and 6-5 Josh Richardson, the Sixers will — as they did to the Celtics — overwhelm opponents with their height and length.
Defense and rebounding will be what the Sixers are about this season.
Those strengths will become even more pronounced in the postseason when pace of the game slows and points are even tougher to come by.
Meanwhile, it’s fair to describe the offense as a work in progress, and that’s no surprise to Brown.
“If you have a team like I have with the length that they have,” he said, “I would expect the defense to be quite good and our offense, maybe not so. If we can get the defense to hold the fort and incrementally improve, we just need to get our offense to catch up and get more rhythm.”
The Sixers’ offense has 81 regular season games left to find its way. Brown is searching for solutions.
He played swing man Furkan Korkmaz a little more than 19 minutes Thursday because of his ability to shoot. Korkmaz sank a 3-pointer to start the Sixers’ decisive fourth-quarter run.
“I need to grow a bomber,” Brown said. “Somebody’s got to emerge where they’re lightning in a bottle, they can come in and go bam, bam, bam and make a 3. Why not Furk? So, we’ll look at it.”
If the Sixers can’t “grow a bomber,” expect them to acquire one or even two shooters through a trade or free agent signing later in the season.
Think in terms of the February additions of Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova in 2018.
So despite how Thursday’s game unfolded, Sixers fans shouldn’t worry.
Philadelphia will look more this season like the Patrick Ewing-led New York Knicks of the 1990s than the Steph Curry-led Golden State Warriors of recent vintage.
But come June – if there are no major injuries – Philadelphia will play for an NBA title.
Until then, Sixers fans might want to keep their eyes focused on the team’s win total.