The Palestra just saw a new shade of Red and Blue.
On Sunday afternoon, the Philadelphia 76ers held their Blue x White Scrimmage with the White squad squeaking out a nail-biting overtime victory in front of a raucous, packed- to-the-rafters Palestra crowd.
“The first reaction that I had when I came out and saw the Philadelphia crowd was how loud they were,” 76ers coach Brett Brown said.
The scrimmage, which sold out of free tickets within hours of being released, was the 2017-2018 team’s first public appearance of the season. Every healthy player on the roster got court action, but fans were most excited to see the highly anticipated local debuts of rookie #1 NBA Draft picks Markelle Fultz and Ben Simmons, as well as the sharpshooting veteran JJ Reddick, who left the Los Angeles Clippers to sign with the Sixers in July.
The scrimmage saw strong attendance from Penn affiliates, including several members of the Penn men’s and women's basketball teams and Dean of Admissions Eric Furda sitting courtside. Wharton alum and 76ers majority owner Josh Harris was also in attendance.
It was not only a rare occasion for the fans, but it was also a unique experience for the Sixers themselves — most of the team had never played in the historic arena before.
“You know you wake up and it’s sort of cold, and you remember it’s basketball season, and you come into this building — it's a great day to see our scrimmage after 4 good days of practice,” Brown said.
As for the scrimmage itself, the competition featured some modified rules. In addition to playing only three quarters and two abridged overtime periods, several players switched teams midway through the game to give both the fans and the coaching staff different looks.
By the final quarter of regulation, though, it was clear that players on both teams were hungry to get a win. On one play, point guard TJ McConnell dove on the floor to try to steal an in-bounds pass, before yelling emphatically at the referee when the ball was not called out-of-bounds.
A few minutes later, Simmons scored for the Blue team on a put-back floater to tie the game 117-117 with just a few seconds left and sent the game to overtime.
In the extra period, forward Justin Anderson hit a tough three pointer to tie the game with six seconds left for the Blue team, but guard Nik Stauskas responded with two free throws on the other end to give the White team a thrilling 124-122 victory.
Despite the losing effort, Simmons took control of the microphone just after the buzzer and thanked the crowd for its support.
“We’ve had a couple of tough years, but we’re looking to forward to this year and having a great, successful year,” Simmons said as the Palestra erupted into one final applause.
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