The moment Philadelphia 76ers fans waited for all night Thursday finally came with 8:49 left in the fourth quarter. Markelle Fultz made a 3-pointer over Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine.
The Wells Fargo Center roared as Fultz hit the first 3-pointer of his NBA career. He found his footing in the fourth quarter Thursday, scoring seven points as he ran the offense for most of the frame.
Fultz finished with 12 points on 33.3 percent shooting from the field as the Sixers defeated the Bulls 127-108 to get their first win of the season.
During the Sixers’ game Tuesday against the Boston Celtics, Fultz played three minutes in the second half – and he didn’t play during the fourth quarter. He struggled with his shot, and he totaled five points during the game.
The Sixers had a comfortable 102-76 lead against the Bulls at the end of the third, though, so Fultz had some time to find his offense.
He began the quarter with five points, and the 3-pointer against LaVine gave him a boost. With five minutes left in the game, Fultz drove to the basket off a ball screen Joel Embiid set to score a layup. The fourth quarter was perhaps what Fultz needed, particularly after shooting 2-of-7 from the field against the Celtics.
The proof of this may come when comparing the former No. 1 pick’s shot charts from the first two games. On the left is Fultz’s chart against the Celtics and the right is against the Bulls (open circles are misses), with both coming courtesy of ESPN.
Fultz seems to play best when he has the ball in his hands. Ben Simmons runs the show, and rightfully so, as he facilitates the offense incredibly well. But perhaps Fultz would be better served leading the second unit.
He was his most aggressive and effective when he played point guard. He totaled five assists, the second-most on the team behind Simmons (11). The shot chart above shows that Fultz didn’t stray from right around the paint and free throw line against the Celtics.
And though not all of the second-year guard’s attempts fell in the game against the Bulls (on the right), he let shots fly from a variety of spots on the floor.
If Fultz comes off the bench to relieve Simmons, coach Brett Brown can run Landry Shamet with him. A rookie out of Wichita State, Shamet is a good shooter and spaces the floor. He scored 12 points and shot 57.1 percent from 3-point range.
Also, if Fultz comes off the bench to run the offense, perhaps he could see more ball screens. The offense would run through him more, and in turn, he could be more effective.
Most of the shots Fultz has taken so far are midrange pull-up jumpers. Before he made the 3-pointer, Fultz only made one jump shot in the game, which was a pull-up jumper during the second quarter.
The 20-year-old showed an ability to get to midrange attempts up in the preseason and making those jumpers will be his primary shot as he continues to develop a 3-pointer.