Game Recap: Wizards 103, Sixers 94
PHILADELPHIA - The 76ers (8-50) put forth their most complete effort since returning from the NBA All-Star Game break. John Wall countered with another impact performance. Washington’s All-Star point guard stepped up in the second half, and sparked his squad on a pivotal run that vaulted the Wizards (27-30) to a 103-94 victory on Friday at The Center.
On several occasions throughout the Sixers’ first week back in action, Brett Brown repeatedly challenged his club - particularly his starters - to bring a greater level of energy to the court at the outset of games. The first-stringers put that message to practice Friday, racing out to a 26-21 edge after 12 minutes of play.
Thanks to an 11-1 surge in the closing moments of the second period, the Sixers punctuated the opening stanza in promising fashion as well. In bringing a 52-48 edge into the locker room, they displayed encouraging defensive progress, given the team had surrendered at least 65 first-half points in each of their previous four games.
For Washington, “urgency” was a pre-game theme highlighted by head coach Randy Wittman. The Wizards entered the evening 10th in the Eastern Conference, three games out of a playoff spot. Their efforts in the third quarter were those of a veteran group that was determined to keep its post-season hopes alive. Wall tallied the Wizards’ first five points in the third quarter, and netted 13 points in all in the period. He manufactured six points amidst a decisive 13-0 spurt that pushed Washington ahead for the duration of the evening as well.
Wall paced all players with 23 points (9-19 fg), and handed out 11 assists to record his 33rd double-double of the season. Jahlil Okafor topped the Sixers with 21 points (9-13 fg), while pulling down six rebounds. Robert Covington produced 12 points (4-9 fg, 3-7 3fg) and 12 rebounds for his fifth career double-double. Further underscoring Covington’s two-way impact, the third-year wing man finished with three steals and three blocked shots, the latter of which tied a season-high. Ish Smith collected 10 points (5-15 fg), seven rebounds, and eight helpers.
Brett Brown Said - On improvements shown by the Sixers in their 103-94 defeat to the Washington Wizards:
“”I thought it was better. We played better. We competed harder. We guarded better.”
The Sixers were responsible for all five dunks t thrown down in Friday’s bout. The second one was initiated as a result of Jerami Grant using his defensive length to create an offensive opportunity in the open floor.
— Philadelphia 76ers (@Sixers) February 27, 2016
The Sixers’ final jam of the evening was posted by the smallest player they had on the floor in the final three minutes of the game. Again, defense proved to be the catalyst.
ISHMAEL SMITH! (CSN) https://t.co/hJYZ8fDeR5
— Philadelphia 76ers (@Sixers) February 27, 2016
The stuff from Smith, at 6’0” tall, was his third of the season, and ninth of his career. That it came at the expense of John Wall only seemed to stoke the enthusiasm of Sixers Radio Network broadcaster Tom McGinnis.
Notes and Quotes:
Prior to Friday’s game, Sixers Chairman of Basketball Operations Jerry Colangelo spoke with season ticket holders at The Center’s Patriot Partner Lounge. He then held another chat with fans during halftime (pictured below).
The four-time NBA Executive of the Year and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame enshrinee discussed his background, and explained how the forming of his partnership with the Sixers came to be in December.
“All I’ve ever done has been involved with start-ups, when you think about it,” said Colangelo, referencing the roles he played in launching the Chicago Bulls, Phoenix Suns, and Arizona Diamondbacks franchises. “I’ve always accepted challenges. When [the Sixers] opportunity was presented to me, I saw it as another opportunity to help. I want to add to, I want to help where I can help, and use my experiences, the good and the bad, and build on that.”
Telling Sixers supporters that he is an “eternal optimist” by nature, Colangelo provided a positive outlook on the direction he feels the franchise is headed.
“I’m very optimistic about the future,” he said. “I think I have a pretty good feel for how you all feel. People want a winner. I understand that. I would only ask that you be a little bit more patient because I believe this thing will turn a lot sooner than some people realize.”
Colangelo’s latest stop in Philadelphia was his third in the Delaware Valley since the middle of January.
Not only did Brett Brown zero in on defense as a key area in which he wanted to see the Sixers improve on Friday, he specifically emphasized the importance of transition defense in his team’s contest against Washington. The Wizards went into the game ranked second in the NBA with an average of 19.1 fastbreak points per game, and sat sixth in the league with 17.9 points generated off turnovers per outing.
Making defensive prospects that much more complicated for the Sixers was John Wall, Washington’s point guard who entered Friday ranked fifth in the NBA himself with 5.0 fastbreak points per game.
“Here he comes,” said Brett Brown when talking about Wall and the impact the All-Star has on the Wizards’ production in transition. “It’s even more difficult because it’s odd numbers usually at that point.”
Brown then explained the Sixers’ transition defense principles,, saying “You think simply about is one big at the rim, is the other big sprinting to the foul line like you’re shooting a free throw, that floor spot, and turn around and sitting in a stance, showing a crowd, and just being visually imposing.”
“That’s quite easy to judge,” said Brown. “It’s quite easy to grade. It’s quite easy to coach. But now, do you do it? All the time? We do it some of the time. We do it no so much the last few games most of the time. It’s always harder, better, longer, and [Friday] that’s going to be our challenge.”
Washington ended up outdoing the Sixers 29-16 in fastbreak points, but only 15-12 in terms of points off turnovers.
Before Friday’s game, Brett Brown said he was given a 15-minute “budget” for the usage of T.J. McConnell. The Sixers’ undrafted rookie free agent was coming off his first absence of the season, when he was forced to sit out Wednesday’s trip to Detroit due to a right ankle sprain that he sustained in Tuesday’s loss to Orlando.
In the end, Brown got a little bit more out of McConnell than he expected, in terms of playing time. The point guard logged 18 minutes, and chipped in with 10 points, shooting five for 10 from the field. The double-digit performance was the 10th in 57 contests for McConnell this season.
The Sixers’ stretch of three games in four days rolls on, as they open a road back-to-back set Sunday at 6:00 PM EST versus the Orlando Magic (25-32). The Sixers and Orlando just played each other this past Tuesday at The Center, with the Magic delivering a 124-115 victory. Situated 11th overall in the Eastern Conference, and sitting 4.0 games back of a playoff-qualifying spot in the standings, Orlando has little margin for error over its final 25 games of the season. On Thursday, the Magic, like 51 other NBA teams before them, fell victim to the Golden State Warriors, and, in particular, Steph Curry. The reigning league MVP teed off for 51 points, his third 50-plus point effort this campaign, and went 10 for 15 from outside the arc in Golden State’s 130-114 triumph. Following the contest, the Orlando flew up to New York City to visit the Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Friday night. The Magic were handed a 108-95 setback.