Key Legislature: Wizards 106 vs Sixers 94 — How it's Supposed to Be | Wizards Blog Truth About

Key Legislature: Wizards 106 vs Sixers 94 — How it’s Supposed to Be

Updated: February 6, 2016

TAI’s Key Legislature… The game’s defining moment, its critical event, the wildest basketball thing you ever saw, or just stuff that happened. Wizards vs. Sixers, Regular Season Game 48, Feb. 5, 2016, by Troy Haliburton (@TroyHalibur), from the Verizon Center.

In the words of the great American philosopher Chris Rock, “Dudes are always trying to get credit for some shit that you’re supposed to do.” The Wizards were supposed to beat the 76ers because the talent discrepancy between the two teams is as distinguishable as the one seen between the Wizards and the defending champion Warriors earlier in the week. It doesn’t matter that the roster fielded by the Sixers more closely resembles a D-League All-Star team rather than an actual NBA franchise, a win is a win. And for a franchise that still fancies itself a playoff-bound team, the Wizards needed to prove to themselves that they can dominate an inferior opponent.

Jared Dudley, de facto Wizards mouthpiece, pointed out that this was a game the Wizards should have won, so by no means has Washington’s season turned around:

“Totally around, no. It’s just one game, a team that you should beat. The Sixers have been struggling all year. It’s some nice little home cooking before you go to Charlotte. I think that we’ve established offensively the way we have to play and defensively, can you get enough rebounds, can you get enough stops, and can you keep your turnovers low enough to give yourself the chance to win every night. Sometimes, we have, but that’s something we have to improve on.

“With our team being so deep, we have to now be able to get our rotations ready for how we are going to play for these next 30 games.”

It’s not as if the Wizards have had much practice playing against a slew of bad teams, since they have endured the second-toughest schedule in the Association. Before last night, they’d played 17 teams below .500 in 47 games.  But the universe does seem to have a way of balancing everything out: one of the selling points for the Wizards being able to turn their season around has been the fact that their schedule will be one of the league’s easiest going forward. Notable, however, is that they’ve played the fewest games in the NBA to date, so while strength of schedule may be more manageable, the Wiz have hundreds of minutes of catching up to do.

Friday night was the first of four meetings with the lowly 76ers. It’s a good sign that Washington did not take for granted that the Sixers have been much improved on the season after their disastrous start, actually sporting a better record than the Wizards since the start of 2016. Led by All-Star John Wall’s first triple-double of the season, the Wizards dismantled the Sixers from the inside out, outscoring them 58-42 in the paint and out rebounding them 46-38.

A large part of the reason that Washington had so much success down low against Philly was the fact that Wall and Bradley Beal were able to break down Philly’s guards off the dribble, attacking the rim for points of their own or distributing when the rotating help voided the paint area. Of course, it helped to have Marcin Gortat provide a safety valve all night with his touch around the basket. Gortat was so effective with a variety of layup finishes that it seemed like he was doing a George Mikan drill on air, not playing against actual NBA defenders.

“March” finished with 21 points on 10-for-16 shooting from the field, 13 rebounds, and a game-high plus/minus of plus-26. It was extremely important that Gortat brought his A-game, considering he had a much heavier load than most nights with Nene missing the contest (with a calf injury that will be monitored day-to-day, according to Randy Wittman).

Nene’s absence was a pre-game talking point, because he is the one player who does a lot of the dirty work down low in terms of rebounding, but Washington’s point guards were able to pick up the slack. Wall shined, attacking the glass and grabbing a career-high 13 rebounds. He pretty much did his best Russell Westbrook impersonation. Wall’s 13 defensive rebounds were critical because they allowed him to start the fast break immediately, and also cut down on Washington’s dreaded forced outlet passes to Wall, which are predictable and too often end up in the hands of the opposing team.

For a game that offered about as much excitement as a congressional hearing, and involved the worst team in the NBA playing against one of the many middling teams, there were not many big picture narratives to take away, except for the return of Bradley Beal to the starting lineup. Beal looked about as crisp as he has since his breakout game against San Antonio back in November. He finished with a game-high 22 points on 10-for-16 shooting, and he did it without displaying the sharp shooting touch that Wizards fans have come to know and love. This Beal was a masked menace, getting to the rim and finishing through contact. This is an aspect that many pundits have been waiting to see from Beal for about two seasons. Maybe he’s finally able to use his improved ball-handling skills to keep his dribble until he reaches the cup.

It was good to see Beal back in the starting lineup and playing alongside John Wall, as he should be, but there was a bit of a domino effect on productivity off the Wizards’ bench. Just last week in the win against the Houston Rockets, the bench scored 55 points in a big win. Versus Philadelphia, the Wizards’ bench looked a little disjointed, and Randy Wittman has his work cut out for him trying to settle on a rotation that will not leave the team totally vulnerable on the defensive end.  (He’s been working to find an answer here for a calendar year, at least.)

Real victories are better than moral victories, because they count in the standings. This team needs to get comfortable asserting themselves against inferior opponents, because they’ll have plenty of them in their path to the payoffs over the last 30-some game this season. If they fall apart, so too will their chances at a postseason berth.

Troy Haliburton on Twitter
Troy Haliburton
Troy Haliburton is a native Washingtonian, and graduate of Gonzaga College High School and Morehouse College. Bylines on bylines on bylines.

Will write for food.