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Five Figures: Sixers defense comes up big against Wizards

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NBA: Washington Wizards at Philadelphia 76ers Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia 76ers defeated the Washington Wizards 113-107 in the season opener on Wednesday evening. If you missed the game, you can check out Dan Volpone’s recap here. For an idea of who contributed most to the win, head over to the Bell Ringer. Below, five figures that help tell the story of the game.

12 minutes played

Shake Milton played a crucial role in the win, playing a full 12 minutes in a decisive 4th quarter in which the Sixers outscored the Wizards 40-24. Milton had just 4 points and 1 assist in the final frame, doing most of his boxscore damage earlier in the game. But his steady ball handling as an initiator and his effort on defense were impossible to miss. Taking the ball out of Ben Simmons hands allowed the offense to space out, which opened up the floor for Joel Embiid to go to work.

On the game as a whole, Milton scored 19 points to go along with 3 assists, 3 steals, and 0 turnovers in 30 minutes played. Perhaps most impressive is that Milton did it all on just 17.8% usage, a testament to his very presence on the floor having a major positive impact for the offense.

75% at the rim

The Sixers struggled to hit from deep as a team (28.6% 3PT), but that was buoyed by their proficiency around the rim. As a team, Philly converted at the cup at 75.0%, per Cleaning the Glass. Shake Milton, Ben Simmons and Tyrese Maxey all took turns getting to the rim for pretty finishes. And of course, Joel Embiid was dominant within arm’s length of the hoop. What’s really interesting though is that shots at the rim accounted for just 31% of the Sixers’ field goals. That’s, in part, due to our next number.

26.4% FT Rate

If you want to get to the line, you have to attack the rim. And while shots at the rim accounted for less than a third of the Sixers field goals overall, the Sixers attacked the rim often, leading to 30 free throws for the team which would take away from their “attempts” at the rim. You would like to see the Sixers shoot at a better clip from the charity stripe than 76.7% (23/30), but the sheer volume was enough to punish the Wizards. Overall, the Sixers free throw rate was 26.4% (per Cleaning the Glass). Put another way, the Sixers made 26.4 free throw attempts per 100 field goals they shot as a team. Philly will take those easy buckets all night long.

36.4% from the floor in the 4th quarter

The Sixers defense locked down in the 4th quarter, limiting the Wizards to just 36.4% (8/22) shooting. Removing free throws (6 makes in 8 attempts), the Wizards produced just 18 points on their 22 field goals across the final 12 minutes of play. With Shake Milton guarding both Bradley Beal and Russell Westbrook at times, Milton held his own navigating screens to be a pest. Joel Embiid was also a mitigating force for Philly based on size and reputation alone. In many cases, the Wiz settled for long midrange jumpers rather than attack the star center.

19 stocks

As a team, the Sixers combined for 11 steals and 8 blocks for 19 stocks total. Philadelphia’s ability to wreak havoc had a major impact on Washington’s offense. Cleaning the Glass tracks the Wizards as scoring just .882 points per possession in the halfcourt. The Wizards finished with 19 turnovers (to Philly’s 16) and converted at just 41.4% at the rim. Keeping your opponent to sub 42% at the rim is a very efficient formula for victory.