Sixers observations: Grant Riller gets hot in blowout win over Nuggets at summer league

The summer Sixers were superior to the Nuggets in almost every imaginable way on Friday night.

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With a 97-71 win over Denver, the Sixers improved to 2-2 in Las Vegas. Grant Riller (18 points), Trevelin Queen (17) and Isaiah Joe (14) were the team’s top scorers.

The Sixers’ final game of the summer is Saturday at 7 pm ET against the Bulls. Here are observations on their blowout of the Nuggets:

Brown Dialed in defensively

For a second straight game, the Sixers’ early-game defense was highly effective… and the opposition’s outside shooting not exactly immaculate.

Charlie Brown Jr. took obvious pride in preventing first-round pick Christian Braun from anything easy. He hounded Braun in the backcourt to force a rare eight-second violation.

Brown’s defense is his clear path to breaking through for a regular NBA role at some stage. His jumper was falling to begin Friday’s game, too. After a nightmarish 0-for-9 shooting effort in Wednesday’s win over the Heat, Brown knocked down a couple of three-pointers.

However, the not-especially-close misses were still present for Brown against Denver, including an air ball and an attempt off the side of the backboard. He ended with eight points (3 of 12 from the floor) and six rebounds.

Meanwhile, the Nuggets had serious shooting struggles. Denver came up empty on its first nine Threes and 13 of its first 15 field goals. Even Rookie Collin Gillespie, a 90.5 percent foul shooter last season at Villanova, misfired on his first free throw. Gillespie, who’s signed a two-way contract with the Nuggets, posted five points (2-for-9 shooting), three rebounds and three assists on the night.

Pros and cons from the big guys

A Charles Bassey dunk was the game’s opening basket. The 21-year-old also assisted Justin Smith on an early slam, recognizing Smith was available on the back door cut.

Overall, it’s evident passing is not nearly as intuitive for Bassey as shot blocking or rebounding. They looked awkward a few times on the short roll; on one play, he saw Smith make another cut but wasn’t sure whether a pass was open. Bassey shuffled his feet and was called for traveling.

Shooting is another secondary skill to watch with Bassey, who tried one long-distance shot Friday that hit the front rim and generally seemed to release the ball somewhat on his heels. It will be interesting to see whether Bassey attempts to open Jumpers come the regular season.

Michael Foster Jr. has grabbed everyone’s attention with one or two plays in just about every summer league game. He did so Friday through his smooth ball handling in transition, setting himself up for a layup with an in-and-out move.

Still, Foster’s youth is often apparent. The 19-year-old had four turnovers in his 18 minutes, one of which came on a difficult baseline-to-baseline pass. A play where Foster pulled down an Offensive rebound, took a dribble and got stripped was another classic example of not yet knowing all the nuances of how to adapt his game to the NBA.

Riller gets Rolling

Riller hit two Threes late in the first quarter and a couple of layups early in the second. He did well to drive hard and display finishing craft instead of leaning too heavily on his three-ball.

Among Riller’s other highlights were a turnaround jumper from the top of the key and a finger roll to beat the third-quarter buzzer. He still looks to be an NBA-level Offensive player.

Joe was initially content to be peripheral, but he also got hot and managed to take nine Threes in his 23 minutes, Converting four. His one made two-pointer was among the night’s toughest shots. Late in the third period, Joe almost had the ball stolen from him by Gillespie, but he spun away and scored through contact in the paint as the shot clock expired.

There’s no point in placing a ton of scrutiny on turnovers — or anything, for that matter — at summer league, but Queen has continued to throw high-risk passes that likely wouldn’t go over well in high-stakes NBA games. That said, it’s clearly positive that he’s looked a bit more comfortable and been more productive in his last two outings.


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