Opening Statements: Wizards vs Sixers, Game 57 | Wizards Blog Truth About

Opening Statements: Wizards vs Sixers, Game 57

Updated: February 26, 2016

Teams: Wizards vs Sixers
Time: 7:00 p.m. ET
Venue: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, PA
Television: CSN
Radio: WNEW-FM 99.1
Spread: Wiz fav’d by 8.5

Prior to Wednesday night’s meeting with the Bulls, the Washington Wizards had won three of four games coming out of the All-Star Break. They had every reason to feel confident about the second half of the season. Their only post-All-Star game loss came against the Miami Heat, their third game in three nights. They’d also won against the Pelicans, despite an off night from Wall (rare)—the guard admitted his performance was “malodorous.”

Even the Wizards’ schedule seemed to be skewing toward a second-half resurgence narrative: first up, the Bulls without Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler, Nikola Mirortic, and Pau Gasol was weakened by the flu. Then, the NBA’s (un)finest Philadelphia Sixers, the Eastern Conference-leading Cavaliers, who the Wizards have split with in two games, then the Sixers again. There was a real possibility that the Wizards could go 6-2 and move up from 10th in the East and out of the playoffs to the 8-spot or even higher. But those types of assumptions can only be expected from a team that has demonstrated the ability to win consistently—and the Wizards have done anything but during this 2015-2016 season (and even prior).

In Chicago, the Wizards allowed the Bulls to hang around in the first half, then let the Bulls seize control of the game in the third quarter. By the time Doug McDermott scored his 10th fourth-quarter point, the game was over and the Wizards lost a(nother) winnable game. TAI’s Troy Haliburton summarized the Wizards’ failure in his Key Legislature post:

The Wizards’ stagnant defense has been almost as alarming. The rotations were late pretty much all night and that allowed shooters Doug McDermott, Tony Snell and Mike Dunleavy to not only knock down open shots, but also to use late closeouts to their advantage—utilizing pump-fakes and attacking the basket, as witnessed by the McBuckets dunk that sent the United Center into a frenzy.

After the game, Coach Wittman criticized his team’s defensive effort, John Wall faulted his team’s lack of urgency, and Bradley Beal lamented that the Wizards did not make adjustments. The passive-aggressive finger-pointing was bad, but Washington’s inability to gain playoff ground to the then-8-seed playoff team was worse. Not even Alan Anderson’s season debut could mask that.

Tonight, the Wizards take on the aforementioned Sixers in Philadelphia. What should have been an opportunity for Wall and Co. to pad their record against a bad team has now morphed into a lightweight must-win situation for the Wizards. The Sixers have not won since the first week of February (against the Brooklyn Nets) and they are coming off a 20-point loss to the Detroit Pistons, a team the Wizards recently defeated by 12 points at home. The Sixers are 0-4 since the All-Star break and during that span they’ve given up an average of 121.2 points per game.

Sixers beat writer Keith Pompey suggests the Sixers’ problems are issues the Wizards can identify with and exploit:

The 76ers are experiencing a post-all-star-break regression for the third consecutive season. But, unlike the previous two, the cause has nothing to do with trading away their best players at the deadline. It has a lot to do with their commitment to playing twin towers Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor together, at least early in the game. It also has to do with horrid transition defense and, especially in Wednesday’s loss to the Detroit Pistons, a lack of energy that had the Sixers looking uninterested at times.

Coach Wittman attempted to revive the Nene/Gortat combination early this year with mixed results, he’s watched his team play horrid defense (in transition and overall), and a lack of energy—particularly in the third quarter—has been a thorn in his team’s side forever. The Wizards and Sixers have similar deficiencies, but one would think that the Wizards’ superior talent would give them the slight edge over the Sixers, whose roster has been purposely devised to be long on potential. With the exception of Ish Smith and the occasional flash from Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor, Philly is shallow on players who can contribute consistently.

Speaking of rosters, the Wizards have upgraded theirs twice in the past two weeks. First they traded for Markieff Morris right before the trade deadline (giving up yet another first-round pick in the process), and yesterday, they officially signed J.J. Hickson, who was bought out by the Denver Nuggets on Monday. Hickson has appeared in just 20 of the Nuggets’ 54 games, averaging 6.9 points and 4.4 rebounds. He hasn’t played double-figure minutes since a January 8 meeting with the Grizzlies and hasn’t scored in double-figures since Dec. 8. Wizards Team President Ernie Grunfeld said Hickson gives the Wizards, “another solid veteran who will bring more depth to our frontcourt” and that “his experience, athletic ability and physical presence will be solid additions to our team as we continue our playoff push.”

Grunfeld heaped virtually identical accolades on Morris last week (and other signings previously). Morris has struggled to get comfortable in his initial four games as a Wizard, averaging just 5.5 points on 26 percent shooting from the field. He has shown a willingness to run the floor on offense and, as he demonstrated against Bobby Portis in the loss to the Bulls, he’s capable of playing solid one-on-one defense in stretches.

The additions of Morris and Hickson, the health of Anderson, Beal, Nene, the recent strong play of Gortat (the Bulls game notwithstanding), and the continued brilliance of John Wall should … should … keep the Wiz in the mix for the final playoff spot. But the habitually inconsistent play, the inexplicable third-quarter lapses, and the sleepwalking on defense has forced the Wizards into must-win situations for the remainder of the season. They face another one tonight against the lowly, but sometimes dangerous Sixers.


  • David Aldridge, who was recently inducted to the NBA Hall of Fame, was on the Tony Kornheiser radio show this past Tuesday discussing the Washington Wizards—specifically their dismal chances on convincing Kevin Durant to come to D.C. Aldridge implied that the Wizards’ lack of a practice facility (which is allegedly coming in 2018) is just one of the reasons are behind Durant inevitable snub of the Wizards. “The things that needed to be done three years ago if this was your plan, they didn’t do. And so now you’re trying to catch up and to me it’s too late. You’re going against teams that already have practice facilities built, that are already having practice in those facilities,” he said. “And things like this, in my experience—if you didn’t know last year whether or not he was coming, he’s not coming. I’ve been to Oklahoma City’s practice facility. It’s phenomenal. They have chefs on-site, they have barbers on-site, they will fix your car on-site. They have all of this stuff there, it is already online, it is already in use. You have to be better than that.”
  • Speaking of attributes the Wizards do not have, Michael Lee of Yahoo! Sports wrote a great profile on John Wall for The Vertical. Wall lamented about his lack of notoriety in D.C., despite being an All-Star.
  • Read Adam Rubin’s retrospective about the greatest Bullets team in the 35 years—the 1996-97 squad. Part I is here, part II is here. He interviewed Rod Strickland, Juwan Howard, Bernie Bickerstaff, Tracy Murray, and more.


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Rashad Mobley
Reporter/Writer at TAI
Rashad has been covering the NBA and the Washington Wizards since 2008—his first two years were spent at Hoops Addict before moving to Truth About It. Rashad has appeared on ESPN and college radio, SportsTalk on NewsChannel 8 in Washington D.C., and his articles have appeared on ESPN TrueHoop,, Complex Magazine, and the DCist. He considers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar a hero and he had the pleasure of interviewing him back in 2009.