Game Recap: Wizards 116, Sixers 108
Dramatic swings were a recurring theme in the second half of Monday’s competitive battle between the 76ers (8-52) and Washington Wizards (29-30) at Verizon Center. The game’s decisive surge belonged to the hosts, as the Wizards scored 37 points in the fourth quarter to overcome the short-handed Sixers, 116-108.
Despite a somewhat choppy first half that was controlled mostly by Washington, the Sixers managed to stay within striking distance, down 12 points, 60-48, at the break. After Washington deposited the initial bucket of the third quarter, the Sixers exploded, due in large part an inspired stretch from Nerlens Noel. During a 12-0 spurt that was the backbone of a 22-6 tear, Noel, who logged only seven minutes in the first half due to foul trouble, generated seven points with his first career triple, and two emphatic dunks. By the time the Sixers’ go-ahead run came to an end with five minutes left in the third frame, the Sixers were ahead, 74-66.
While Washington responded with eight points in a row of its own, the Sixers maintained their poise. Three key field goals from Jerami Grant in the closing moments of the quarter gave them an 82-79 advantage entering the final 12 minutes of regulation.
With sights set on climbing back into the Eastern Conference playoff race, and boasting a roster of experienced veterans, the Wizards - namely point guard John Wall and center Marcin Gortat - wouldn’t go quietly. The inside-out duo combined to generate 29 points in the fourth quarter, and delivered three “and-1” conversions in the span of four possessions amidst Washington’s pivotal 16-0 spurt that positioned the Wizards for their sixth win in eight games since the All-Star break.
Wall, who played all 24 minutes in the second half, ended the evening with 37 points (13-26 fg, 9-12 ft), his second-highest total of the season. Gortat, meanwhile, was a force on the glass, grabbing a career-high 20 rebounds. He also tallied 18 points (7-14 fg), and was a major reason why Washington produced a 53-32 margin in rebounding, and 22-5 advantage in second-chance points.
After an eight-point first half, Ish Smith was vital to revving up the Sixers following intermission. He netted 25 points (9-18 fg) in all, and topped the Sixers with six assists. Jerami Grant, filling a vacancy in the starting line-up created by Jahlil Okafor’s right shin contusion, manufactured 14 points (6-11 fg), six rebounds, four assists, and two blocks. Noel closed the night with 11 points (5-8 fg) and five rebounds.
Brett Brown Said - On the Sixers’ outscoring the Washington Wizards 60-56 in the second, while threatening to pull out a come-from-behind win:
“We played hard, we played smart for the most part, but we just couldn’t close it out.”
A career first from Nerlens Noel, both in terms of what he tried to do and succeeded in doing, lit the fuse for the Sixers’ go-ahead 26-6 surge that opened the third quarter. The development was as unexpected as it was welcomed for the Sixers.
NERLENS FOR THREE! (CSN)https://t.co/LIKxN0A3DQ
— Philadelphia 76ers (@Sixers) March 1, 2016
Nerlens Noel was a dominant force during the Sixers' third-quarter burst. His alertness around the rim midway through the period resulted in the Sixers grabbing their first lead since the opening stages of the first frame. Tom McGinnis described the action on the Sixers Radio Network.
Notes and Quotes:
Monday marked the fifth game that Jahlil Okafor has missed this season due to injury. He sustained a right shin contusion late in Sunday’s fourth quarter at Orlando, when he collided with Isaiah Canaan. The sequence below shows how the impact occurred.
During the stoppage of play that immediately followed the foul called on Magic forward Mario Hezonja, Okafor left the floor, and didn’t return for the rest of the evening.
That the Sixers had their second game in as many nights on Monday didn’t influence Brett Brown’s decision to hold out the rookie center, who wasn't expected to be sidelined for more than Tuesday's contest.
“We’re just trying to be smart with him,” explained Brown. “We’re going to miss his scoring. We have to find something a little bit different in ways to put points on the board.”
With Okafor sidelined, Nerlens Noel, one such potential scoring option, started at center for the 15th time this season; however, his production in the first half was hampered by foul trouble. He was whistled for two personal fouls in the opening three minutes, 35 seconds of the first quarter, and was then charged with a third harm three minutes into the second period.
The Sixers’ frontcourt did get a boost from the bench. Nine-year forward Carl Landry, demonstrating his professional, veteran nature, showed no rust despite not playing in three of the Sixers’ four previous games. He provided the team with a physical interior presence, regularly attacking the rim en route to posting 13 points by intermission. He finished the contest with 15 points (6-8 fg) and two rebounds.
Leaving the Sixers further short-handed on Monday was the absence of Hollis Thompson. He remained on the shelf with the flu-like symptoms that prevented him from suiting up Sunday in Orlando.
Against Orlando on Sunday, the Sixers endured a trying start, falling behind 77-51 by halftime. Monday, during his pre-game media availability, Brett Brown directly laid out his hopes for how the Sixers would begin their pairing with Washington.
“Let’s go to the obvious,” said the third-year head coach. “You have to show John Wall a crowd. I was around [San Antonio’s] Tony Parker when he was really young, and that was the fastest guard rim-to-rim that I had seen. I look at [Oklahoma City’s] Russell Westbrook and John Wall, and they just are elite at putting pressure on the rim in the first two to three seconds, so we have to get back. That’s way more than just the person guarding John, it’s the entire time. So I hope that in transition defense that everybody understands that’s our first goal.”
In the opening quarter, Wall started strong, generating 12 points. He had 16 points by intermission, and helped Washington to a 7-1 margin in fastbreak points.
In the third period, the script flipped. Instead of Wall and the Wizards getting the bulk of opportunities in transition, it was the Sixers’ turn, thanks to their defense. They forced eight turnovers in the third, allowing them to create advantages of 11-5 and 8-0 in points off turnovers and fastbreak points, respectively. While the swings in those areas improved the Sixers’ chances of a comeback, they would not be enough.
In the fourth quarter, Wall was a factor in the Wizards holding edges of 10-5 in points off turnovers, and 12-6 on fastbreak points.
For the first time since the Sixers’ January 16th victory over the Portland Trail Blazers, Isaiah Canaan was inserted into the starting line-up. He followed up a solid 18-point showing in Orlando on Sunday with a 13-point effort against the Wizards.
Canaan began the season as the Sixers’ top point guard. After the Sixers acquired Ish Smith via trade on Christmas Eve, Canaan was moved off the ball to shooting guard, an assignment that allowed him to put his perimeter skills to use. Still, Canaan thinks his stint at point guard was valuable, especially in pairing up with the likes of Smith.
“Whoever gets the ball (becomes the one),” said Canaan on Monday, discussing what happens when he plays alongside Smith, and also T.J. McConnell. “We all can push it, we all can play-make. It’s just whoever gets it. Of course, we try to get it in their hands as much as possible, and I try to find open shots.”
Canaan and Smith teamed up for 38 points and 10 assists, while combining for six of the Sixers’ 10 three-pointers.
The Sixers begin a home game-laden segment of their schedule on Wednesday, hosting the Charlotte Hornets (30-28) at 7:00 PM EST. Charlotte enjoyed a rejuvenating February, emerging as one of the NBA’s best teams in the previous month. With seven wins in their past 10 games, the Hornets have surged back into the Eastern Conference playoff picture, and, as of Monday, were tied for seventh-place in the standings. In addition to boasting the ninth-best defensive rating in the league, Charlotte is also established an elite three-point shooting team, ranking third in the NBA with an average of 10.3 triples per game. Several pick-ups that the Hornets landed over the past year have since paid dividends. Nicolas Batum is second on the club in scoring (14.2 ppg) and rebounding (6.3 rpg), while leading the Hornets in assists (5.5 apg). Jeremy Lamb has been effective in a reserve role, tallying 10.1 points per contest. Charlotte mainstay Kemba Walker is generating a career-high 20.5 points per game. On Sunday afternoon, Charlotte’s season-long six-game road trip concluded with an 87-76 setback to Southeast Division rival Atlanta. Aside from Wednesday’s match-up with the Sixers, the Hornets will play their next eight outings at Time Warner Cable Arena.