The Sixers nearly lost more than 20 points in the second half, but Bradley Beal’s 60 points were not enough to stop Philly from securing a 141-136 victory over the Wizards.
Here is what I saw.
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• The Philadelphia offense has been a treat to watch so far this season. Of course, there are possessions where their inexperience together shines through and they look like a team that hasn’t had a real training camp. But an average trip to the floor is fun to watch for Philly this season, something I couldn’t have imagined when we were watching a team that started four different players who wanted the ball in the post.
While some (okay, a lot) of their success on Wednesday night was the result of Washington being a dump of toxic waste for defense, these guys are just playing a big brand of basketball. The ball rarely sticks, there’s a lot less wasted dribbling and blocked possessions, and even when some guys do, they’re still looking to play for the good of the group.
Take for example Seth Curry, who came out to start the game absolutely on fire and never gave in in the first half, dropping 20 points in the first two quarters. Even in the middle of his heater, there were occasions for him to call his own number and let it fly which he let pass in order to chase a better shot for Tobias Harris or Danny Green.
(I’m split on Ben Simmons’ decision to reward Embiid for running the floor in the first half. Curry was wide open on the wing and feeling it, so anyone who thinks he should have gotten the ball, I don’t. won’t argue with., but you have to keep motivating the grown-ups when they’re running.)
They live the mantra of their head coach, who doesn’t care how they score and who scores as long as they put points on the board.
• Curry truly deserves a spotlight for his Wednesday game and the insane numbers he puts in to start the year. He’s absolutely going to come back to Earth at some point – no one shoots more than 50% of three on that kind of volume for an entire season – but does man force opposing defenses to make some really tough decisions.
On Wednesday night, he became Philadelphia’s unlikely fourth-quarter draw, rocking a quiet third period to lead the Sixers through rough times, taking advantage of the visitors’ fleeting defense. If anything, the Sixers should have made sure to give him more ball, with Curry opening up for a few swing passes that never came to fruition.
The only criticism I have for him is the same one I had throughout the first line: It doesn’t matter if he plays a little more selfishly. Being a team guy first is good, but no one would be upset if one of the best shooters in the league threw a few questionable shots through the middle of a radiator.
• Joel Embiid was gone for what appeared to be a performance clunker early in Wednesday night’s game, missing his first six shots and botching several possessions in an almost comical fashion. After coming back from the bench he was given the chance to take a technical free kick, and that apparently was all it took to change the night for the better.
Five straight marks later, Embiid was in the zone, combining the pass he flashed in the opening quarter with the killer scorer instinct he has in one cover. This dunk on Thomas Bryant was just plain disrespectful:
Embiid would have racked up 15 points by the end of the first half, and it was a much more typical night for him on both sides once he found his footing on the offense.
It was his time-critical entry into the game that really took Philly over the end. The Sixers were hanging on to a thread after the Wizards finally punished them for not killing the game, and Embiid came on to provide some stability at both ends of the ground.
The improvement in the big guy’s fitness level came when it mattered most, with Embiid dominating in the paint and still summoning the energy for a huge transition block in the closing minutes of the game. He wasn’t the only one producing Wednesday by any stretch of the imagination, but there were echoes of games in the past tonight, with Embiid feeling like the one thing standing between the Sixers and a total collapse.
There weren’t a lot of rebounds to go on a night with so many hot shots, so his line didn’t look like a typical Embiid night, but it was yet another dominant effort. The rampage continues.
• Shake Milton was arguably the (admittedly short) preseason player and put on a show on opening night, but struggled to shoot the ball in the weeks that followed. Entering the game with a mark of 27.3% deep, Milton rebounded ahead of Philly’s back-to-back, a welcome sight with their top player struggling early on.
The third-year goaltender went the old-fashioned way – at the free throw line and with the intermediate play, twisting and turning inside the arc with the help of Dwight Howard to clear his way through. path. Milton was the only guy who didn’t completely collapse from the bench on Wednesday, which is the nicest thing you can say about anyone from the Second Unit.
• Interestingly, Rivers never seemed interested in Ben Simmons keeping Bradley Beal.
Five years ago I could see wanting to stick it on a guy like Russell Westbrook, when he was an athletic freak who could compromise your defense. These days, the former MVP is more of a paper tiger, a guy who always does damage but is often more likely to shoot his team. outside of a game.
I could even understand the initial decision to have Danny Green on him in a tied game. But it became clear pretty quickly that the Green-Thybulle suit offered very little resistance, and what better way for your first All-Defense team than to have him follow a guy who turns off the lights?
Despite 32 points in Beal’s first half, Rivers didn’t budge and Beal continued to cook in the second half, hitting the 50 mark with a few minutes to lose in the third quarter. He did it in every way he could, hitting three pull-ups, scoring on cuts, clawing for a few free throws – it was pretty offensive for a guy whose team was outmatched most of the night.
Philly always comfortably passed the Wiz for a while, but the strategy seemed particularly pointless because Washington really had nothing (and no one) else to do, and the Sixers seemed to have a ready-made solution to the problem. Wouldn’t you rather take a chance on saying that Rui Hachimura beat you, a guy Simmons sometimes babysat on Wednesday?
The Sixers did nothing to stop the assault, and without the combination of hot fire and the terrible defense from Washington, they could have paid for it. Washington has slipped into a game they had no reason to start, and the decision not to make Beal’s life more difficult will be a big talking point after the game. At least he finally got cold in the fourth, and if you’re charitable, maybe Rivers was just trying to tire him out in the first 36 minutes.
(By the way, sticking to his guns is kind of Doc Rivers MO, for better or for worse. Get used to his kind of thing.)
• All that being said about the assignment issue, Simmons didn’t really do much to change the game in the second half as he started to get out of hand. Rivers keeping him out of Beal’s mission is one thing, but his offensive limits reared their ugly head after a first half where he was actually quite effective as a striker.
In the first 24 minutes (and the last eight or so with Embiid), Simmons was able to control the tempo both in half-court and in transition, responding to several buckets from Washington with quick scores the other way around. He was active on and off the ball, creating for himself and for others. Then halftime hit, and the openings there closed a bit, and Simmons’ lack of ingenuity in the half court with the ball in his hands slowed down Philly’s offense to A ramp.
I give him credit for that – he helped Philly recover in record time with a great combination of play with Embiid, rediscovering his form when they needed it most. But again, I thought he was a passenger for too much of the game.
• Philadelphia’s defense as a team wasn’t very good, even outside of Beal’s performance, and it was the first night where I think you could tell the effort really took a toll on them. Late rotations, reluctance to fight across a screen and, worst of all, a few plays where the Wizards outdo them in transition and pick up easy scores for their problems.
On the back-to-back front and against a team they clearly seem to know how to perform against in times of crisis, I’m not going to read too much about it. But I’ve been slightly interested in how they’ll fare against high-level guards when they get to the hardest part of their schedule, and it wasn’t exactly a good data point at that point. respect.
• The biggest culprits for losing the lead were just about everyone on the bench. Outside of Milton pretty much every other guy in Unit 2 was lost at sea to the Wizards. Dwight Howard was ineffective on defense, Tyrese Maxey never had the ball enough to do much with him, and Matisse Thybulle was the unfortunate victim of Beal’s show, trying his best and coming anyway.
And it was with Rivers stuns his lineups a bit more due to injuries in the spin. Tobias Harris and Simmons were the guys who spent time with heavy bench looks, and none were enough to support them. Ugly night for the supporting cast.
The ugly one
• Fair warning: I wrote the paragraphs below before the Sixers got most of a big lead over the Wizards, so yeah, there are definitely more negatives than that after that abysmal defensive effort. .
When the only real complaint you can make about a team in their first eight games is that you want to see them prove themselves in a ‘real’ competition, you know they’re on a roll. good start.
Over the next week they will be tested. Thursday’s game against Brooklyn isn’t as exciting with Kevin Durant, but that game is followed by a meeting with Denver and Nikola Jokic, the Atlanta Hawks, and a pair against Jimmy Butler’s Miami Heat. Things are about to get a bit more interesting and I am delighted to have the opportunity to judge this team against higher caliber opponents.
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