The Verizon Center, home of the Washington Wizards, was infiltrated by a swarm of passionate Philadelphia 76ers fans Saturday night. Fueled by the annual #BusTheProcess tour, combatting chants echoed throughout the arena as the two fanbases dueled. It was technically an away game for the Sixers, but The Process faithful made it appear to be at least a neutral site game.
However, the home team left with the 109-93 victory, ending the Sixers (12-26) three-game winning streak. Jahlil Okafor returned, as Joel Embiid sat out, after missing the previous four games, and made a statement during his run. With a season-high 26 points (9-of-15 shooting) and taking advantage of Marcin Gortat’s defensive deficiencies, Okafor converted power dribble layups, turnaround fadeaways and put-backs.
Similar to Noel, Okafor utilized his time on the floor to thrive in aspects he succeeds in. At times, he got caught up trying to make a move to the basket using his frame, but there was a diverse shot selection from the former first-round pick. A 26/9 performance from Okafor was a definite, positive surprise that promotes optimism. His frontcourt mate Ersan Ilyasova struggled defensively again, caught up in ball movement and an inability to contest.
The questionable shot selection plagued the power forward recently, but Ilyasova made it a point to get easy, efficient looks (18 points, 7-of-13 shooting). During the first half, he was a presence under the basket, grabbing offensive boards and converting put-backs. Without Embiid, the frontcourt surprised.
In the backcourt, it was a forgettable performance from the T.J. McConnell-Nik Stauskas-Sergio Rodriguez trio. Shooting a collective 4-for-23 sent out alarms, but their inability to contain either John Wall or Bradley Beal led to a dominant performance from the stars. The Wizards’ (20-19) tandem looked explosive.
Wall struggled early against McConnell, but churned out a 25-point (9-for-17 shooting), seven-rebound, seven-assist performance against the Sixers. Beal served as an ideal complement, contributing 20 points and four rebounds. It was almost a no-contest in his individual matchup against Nik Stauskas. Regularly, shooters, via movement, were open for easy attempts due to a lack of awareness. The Sixers won with defensive discipline over the past week. It wasn’t the case tonight.
The Sixers (12-26) have to deal with a budding star Monday when they travel to Milwaukee (20-18) and face “Greak Freak” Giannis Antetokounmpo.
- Not only did the backcourt struggle to convert attempts, John Wall exposed the pure talent advantage he had. Blitzing Sergio Rodriguez plus T.J. McConnell in the half-court, converting from mid-range and setting up teammates allowed Wall to catalyze a second-half push for the Wizards. Star point guards have had stat-stuffing games against the Sixers this season, but it’s not something to fret immensely over.
- The return of the second-half collapse once again appeared tonight. The lack of talent was evident, as Washington utilized their starting talent advantage to overwhelm the visitors. Joel Embiid not factoring into the decision might not have mattered; the Sixers’ guards were dominated and torpedoed the team’s efficiency.
- Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot probably had his top performance tonight off the bench. A regular slasher, TLC had a two-way impact in the second half that warrants consideration for more minutes. A little erratic near the end, Luwawu-Cabarrot mitigated that with a strong start to his night, finishing with 12 points, six rebounds and shooting 5-for-10 from the floor. It’ll be enticing to see his full impact when Ben Simmons returns. TLC could be a massive beneficiary from the addition of the point-forward.
- First 10-day contract signee Chasson Randle made his debut, running the point for the Sixers late in the fourth. He made a three, his calling card entering the league, and with additional minutes could be a possible asset.