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July 11, 2023

Quick Six: Sixers fall to Mavericks in Summer League after horrific fourth quarter

After the Sixers’ latest Summer League game in Las Vegas against the Dallas Mavericks, Kyle Neubeck gives his six observations.

The Sixers gave up a big second-half lead in a 111-103 loss to the Mavericks in Summer League, though there were a number of positives for Philly out in the Nevada sands.

Here's what I saw.

There are going to be people who lock in on Terquavion Smith's field goal percentage in Summer League and come away more negative than your average viewer. It's fair to a certain extent, because his shot selection can border on reckless at times, but man does he make it look good when the shots are falling.

Every announcer who watches Smith play can't help but note how fearless he is as a scorer, and for good reason. Smith is willing to put shots up from deep into three-point territory, viewing any conceded space as a reason to let it fly. And you can't blame the kid for trusting in his shot, because the mechanics are pristine and teams have no chance to contest if they give him any sort of space.

What has been nice to see during Summer League is Smith putting in the extra work to snag extra possessions for his team, or more often his playmaking, which has served as a nice surprise. Smith may lean too far toward "gunner" at times on the floor, but you can justify it when you make plays like these, shooting off your own offensive rebounds after flying through traffic to snag it.

There were times when you'd like to see him dial it back a little bit, as when he ignored an open Louis King on the perimeter late in the first half. But then he steps into a beautiful looking pull-up three, and any frustration fades into awe of the made shot.

He has been their most fun player in Summer League by a decent margin, and that trend figures to continue.

A quick follow-up on Smith — I thought this was probably his best passing gamer of the summer so far, as he was able to make a few advantage-creating passes while keeping his feet on the ground. Smith has been a sucker for the jump pass in Vegas and Utah, and while those are good for the occasional highlight play, he needs to show vision as a guard on the floor in order to get chances for an NBA team.

You could argue his two most important passes of Summer League both came in the third quarter, with Smith combining timing and precision on assists to Greg Brown and Azuolas Tubelis. This pass below isn't especially flashy, but it's the sort of play he must make consistently:

DJ Steward was once a highly coveted prospect coming out of high school, and I'm not saying anyone should overreact to him having a positive stretch as a third-year guy in Summer League. But you can see the outline of a productive player there, and he has been a bright spot for Philadelphia throughout their summer campaign to date.

Dinged for being a shooting guard in a point guard's body, Steward has shown some signs of growth as a playmaker, hitting Philadelphia's rollers with some nice pocket passes and drop-offs while leading the team at point. He still carries a lot of defensive concerns, and those will probably limit him from getting a serious look at the NBA level. Still, a lot to like in this setting.

The Sixers carrying four centers will probably doom his chances to make the roster, but I like what I have seen from Filip Petrusev in his first two games since they shifted the setting to Las Vegas. I'm still pretty wary of him as an NBA-level rim protector, but he has been more active around the basket over the past couple of games, and his touch from the free-throw line and in has been much improved. Had he gotten some three-point shots to drop in this game, he would have really been cooking with gas, but the inside-the-arc play was rock solid on offense.

Azuolas Tubelis has really struggled to make a play of note in Summer League, first because he couldn't get on the floor and now because his time on the floor has been inconsequential. While the other two-way guys have flashed, he continues to wait for his first big moment.

The Sixers gave up a fairly sizable lead in this game, which isn't the first time the franchise has done so in recent memory. Dallas absolutely killed the Sixers in the fourth quarter, erasing what started as a 15-point lead and running away with the game in the final minutes.

In fairness to these guys, Jaden Hardy is the best guy on either of these teams, so it's hard to get mad at a group of second-rounders and guys battling for jobs.

Follow Kyle on Twitter: @KyleNeubeck

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