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Sixers Lose, But Who Cares? Okafor Shines in Preseason Debut

As battle-hardened fans who have faced 2 tanks and lived, losses mean nothing.

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

After a long, mildly exciting off-season, they're back! It's a brand new year for the Philadelphia 76ers! Unfortunately, a blow out loss is still in their repertoire and in their first preseason action, the Sixers lost to the Wizards. 129-95.

But, no worries! It didn't count! On to more important things...

The player of the night was, of course, Jahlil Okafor. When we last saw him, during summer league, he was a mixed bag. Back then, his post moves and footwork were as advertised and drool worthy. However, his conditioning was lacking, sluggish in latter parts of the games, and his mid-range game wasn't anything to write home about. Tonight, we saw some new things.

First, Coach Brett Brown decided to put Professor Oak (prepare for all the nicknames/puns) on 4-5 minute bursts to ease him into playing NBA minutes. In all, he played 17 minutes and... he put on a show.

In the first couple seconds of action, it was obvious that the team was going to make it a point to feed Big Jah. It wasn't pretty sometimes but to his credit, The Ticket Oak delivered. While he struggled to post up deep, he converted on a bunch of mid range opportunities, the best being a baseline fade-away over Marcin Gortat. Defensively, he did a fine job. He navigated pick and rolls well, defended the paint well. All things considered, not a bad debut.

As the preseason continues, the hope is for Jah Rule's minutes to expand and to play deeper into the game. Still, one game down, many more to go. Despite still looking like an amorphous blob of a team, the 76ers are slowly but surely taking shape.

Odds & Ends:

  • I could have probably wrote this whole recap centered around Nerlens Noel had it not been Okafor's debut. After promising rookie year (including a stellar post-ASB), it was interesting to see how and where Noel improved after an off season of work. If I could describe his performance tonight in one word: Comfortable. The post moves, FT shooting, and even his general movement on offense, all, looked comfortable. His jump shooting still leaves much to be desired, as he clanked a few mid range jumpers... but he didn't hesitate or look clumsy. So let's hope it's just a sign of more good things
  • The Okafor-Noel pairing didn't look so bad. Offensively, it's hard to tell when Okafor is making every shot (especially in the 1st half) and their guard play isn't creating for them. Defensively, it can work. Okafor looks way better than Henry Sims or Furkan Aldemir as a front court mate. The one thing I will say is that Noel has to get used to playing against stretch fours. A few times he lost his man which lead to open 3s. But, again, it's 1 preseason game.
  • A quick take about the actual game/Washington. Washington is going to be one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference if healthy. John Wall is one of the, if not best PGs in the conference. Marcin Gortat is going to continue to thrive off pick and rolls. Bradley Beal is pretty dynamic. Year 3 Otto Porter looks to be super interesting. Their back ups/depth is built to be for a contender. Therefore, it's not surprising that the Sixers lost tonight. The blow out status was a combination of poor defense and the Wizards shooting fire beyond the arc.
  • The Sixers starting lineup looked pretty competent out there (the beginning of the 2nd half was a little meh, however), the Sixers back ups... not so much.
  • Covington and Sampson looked fine. Canaan was brutal at times but still can shoot the rock. Holliswood was mediocre. Aldemir wasn't that Furkan good. Jerami Grant was disappointing and still struggles at doing everything but play defense and hustle.
  • Of the new faces, Richaun Holmes didn't look too bad. He played decently on both sides of the ball during his burn. Personally, I think either 1 or none of Grant and Holmes is going to be here long-term.
  • [EDIT] I should also added the caveat that this is only 1 preseason game. So let's react appropriately (by not overreacting... too much).
  • Sorry for the scattered recap as I'm still in preseason form! Next game is this Thursday vs Cleveland Cavaliers!

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