There was a moment during the course of tonight's 115-96 loss to the Chicago Bulls where I thought to myself that Philadelphia 76ers could actually get their second win of the season. Looking back, it was an absolutely foolish thought, but holy cow did you watch that first half?
For the first 24 minutes of the game, the Sixers looked like a legitimate NBA team. They went into halftime up 56-51, putting together a solid team effort on offense that was led by Jahlil Okafor. In Okafor's first NBA game in his hometown of Chicago, the 19-year-old put on an absolute show He dominated Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah with an array of different abilities to score, ranging from mid-range jumpers to a couple of sweet baseline dunks.
His effort on the boards was pretty exceptional as well. It's an area of his game he is clearly focusing on, and it's slowly starting to pay off. He finished with 22 points on 9-17 shooting to go with 8 rebounds.
But like most Sixers games this season, the team came out in the third quarter looking flat and disorganized. After limiting themselves to just two turnovers in the first half, they committed seven in the third quarter alone, leading to a handful of easy fast break opportunities for Chicago. Philadelphia ended the game with 11 turnovers, which is lower than their season average of 17.4, but nonetheless resulted in 20 easy points for the Bulls.
Couple the turnovers with the fact Philadelphia completely forgot how to score (large in part to the fact Isaiah Canaan was the primary ball handler for most of the quarter), and a 56-51 lead quickly turned into an 85-68 deficit by the end of the third. Chicago never looked back after that.
Outside of Okafor, there were very few other positives on Philadelphia's side. Jerami Grant finished with six points on 2-8 shooting, but he is an absolute force to be reckoned with on the defensive end. Grant had five blocks rather remarkable blocks tonight, showcasing great awareness as an interior help defender. Whatever Nerlens Noel (who did not play against Chicago) has lacked in the shot blocking department this year, Grant has made up for and then some. He's a real player.
Head coach Brett Brown said that point guard Tony Wroten would not be on a minutes restriction this evening, but he played just 18 minutes. He finished with 12 points on 4-11 shooting, including 2-4 from beyond the arc. Wroten is still understandably trying to find his groove in the offense, but he's trying to force too many passes in tight spots, and can't seem to finish around the rim. Luckily for the Sixers, Kendall Marshall is slated to play both Wednesday and Friday evening.
Christian Wood was a garbage time bright spot for the Sixers. Re-called from the D-League after the injury to Nerlens Noel, Wood had seven points, two rebounds, and a steal in just eight minutes of action. He's played rather sparingly all year for Philadelphia, but considering that nothing else is working, it really can't hurt to see what Wood can do. At the very least, he's a better fit next to Noel or Okafor than Richaun Holmes is, who had four fouls in 14 minutes tonight.
The Sixers travel to Atlanta for a showdown with the Hawks Wednesday. They'll be looking for the first win in 15 days.