The Wizards Interrupt the Process and Defeat the Sixers | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

The Wizards Interrupt the Process and Defeat the Sixers

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Updated: February 26, 2018

https://twitter.com/WashWizards/status/967978652569931776

Prior to last night’s game, Sixers Coach Brett Brown and Wizards Coach Scott Brooks both told the media what they expected to see from their respective teams.

Coach Brown, whose team was in the midst of a seven-game win streak, wanted to see incremental improvement as his team marched towards the playoffs. He also mentioned that the Wizards reluctance to double-team post players, and how he wanted to see Joel Embiid exploit Marcin Gortat and Ian Mahinmi as a result.

Coach Brooks had two main concerns: Slow starts and the length of the Sixers. In the last two games against the Sixers, the Wizards faced double-digit deficits in the first quarter, and Coach Brooks attributed those slow offensive starts to the length of the Sixers’ starting five. Brooks’ solution to that problem? He wanted the Wizards to move the ball from side to side to create mismatches, so that everyone could eat. Ok, he didn’t exactly say that last part, but in the absence of John Wall, when the ball moves, everyone eats and the Wizards win–eight out of 11 games to be exact.

The first quarter was a virtual draw. The Wizards started quickly–led by Beal (seven points) and Kelly Oubre (eight points) and scored 30 first quarter points. Nine of the ten Wizards’ players who played scored at least one basket and ten of them were assisted. Unfortunately, the Sixers’ length combined with the Wizards’ carelessness with the ball, led to five turnovers which turned into several Philadelphia baskets.

Joel Embiid was indeed single-covered first by Gortat, then Mahinmi, and he exploited that to the tune of eight points, three assists and just one turnover in that initial quarter. The Sixers as a team did not look sharp (which was understandable considering they were on the second of back-to-back games) but similar to a golfer who misses fairways but continues to scramble to save par (Tiger Woods anyone?), the Sixers did enough to only trail by two heading into the second quarter.

Then the Sixers experienced an Otto Porter/Kelly Oubre takeover. And it wasn’t pretty.

Porter scored 14 points on 6-of-6 shooting (including 2-of-2 from the three-point line), Kelly Oubre scored eight points, and the rest of the Wizards’ bench fed off their energy and scored 37 second quarter points compared to just 20 for the Sixers. The last 2:17 of the quarter was particularly devastating for the Sixers, as the Wizards increased their lead from 11 to 19 points.

Otto scored on consecutive layups, Satoransky hit two free throws, Beal scored his only five points of the quarter in an 18-second span and then Otto ended the half by hitting this dagger:

The halftime score was a lopsided 67-48 in the Wizards’ favor, and that trend continued for the first ten minutes of the third quarter. Embiid continued to score with nine points, but Gortat was pushing him out of his comfort zone and forcing him to take high-degree-of-difficulty shots. Ben Simmons and Robert Covington were seemingly scoring at will, but for every shot they made, Gortat (seven points) or Otto (five points) matched their scoring output. The Wizards led 85-64 with 2:33 left in the third quarter, and then things temporarily took a turn for the worse, or as Beal told ESPN after the game, “sometimes we make things look way harder than they have to be.”

First Beal, who was playing point guard even with Satoransky on the floor (more on that later), turned the ball over on consecutive possessions, and the opportunistic Sixers scored four points to cut the lead to seven. Then Mike Scott’s shot was blocked by Richaun Holmes and Embiid scored a layup on the other end to trim the Wizards’ lead to 15. Gortat temporarily stopped the bleeding with a hook to increase the lead to 17, but Embiid ended the quarter with a three-point shot, and the Sixers had the momentum despite still trailing by 14 points.

Satoransky played point guard for the first four minutes of the fourth quarter, and during that time, the Wizards were able to tread water, despite the Sixers’ growing momentum, and their lead never dipped below 13 points. Oubre, who seemed to be occupying every inch of the court on both ends of the floor and even Jodie Meeks made a cameo, scoring five crucial points.

The unselfish play of Satoransky was the catalyst behind the Wizards’ stellar play at the start of the fourth quarter, but with 7:56 left in the fourth quarter, Coach Brooks removed him from the game, which on the surface, seemed relatively innocuous.  But instead of inserting Tim Frazier or even the yet-to-be-used Ramon Sessions, Coach Brooks subbed in Otto Porter. For the next 4:23 of game play, the crucial position of point guard was divvied between Porter (who struggled to keep possession of the ball the first time up the court and was only bailed out by a miracle shot at the end of the shot clock by Beal) and Beal, who by his own admission, struggled to take care of the ball the entire night.

When the ball was swinging from side to side and everyone was eating–per Coach Brooks’s request–either Satoransky or Frazier was playing quarterback. But now late in the fourth quarter when the Sixers were gaining confidence and momentum, neither player was on the floor and the Sixers took full advantage. Dario Saric scored six points on two 3-point shots, and the Sixers whittled the Wizards’ lead down to eight points with 3:33 left in the game.

As soon as Sato re-entered the game, the Wizards went on a 7-0 run to push the lead to 15 points. Coach Brown called timeout, removed all of his starters and basically conceded the game.

The Wizards went on to win 109-94 to split the season series (2-2) with the Sixers, which Coach Brooks admitted after the game, could come in handy down the road in a playofff tiebreaker. Yes, his team had 19 turnovers, which was something that both he and Beal lamented after the game, but they also had 35 assists and 34 bench points, thanks mostly to the spry Kelly Oubre. His team shot 54-percent from the field, 48-percent from the three-point line and 91-percent from the free-throw line.

Conversely, the Sixers shot just 36-percent from the field, 27-percent from the three-point line and 74-percent from the free-throw line. Embiid did his best to exploit the single-coverage thrown at him by Gortat and Mahinmi, but he only shot 9-for-20 from the field, and he did not get much assistance from his teammates outside of Ben Simmons’ 16 points, eight rebounds and eight assists. In the end, Coach Brown conceded that the Wizards were simply the better team on this night:

I mean I thought defensively we struggled. I give the Wizards credit. You know, when you look at what [Kelly] Oubre [Jr.] did, when you look at what [Otto] Porter [Jr.] did, and when you look at what [Bradley] Beal did, those are impressive numbers. Some of it you shake their hand, other bits I thought we get in scrambled rotations with some inappropriate help. Inappropriate sort of attention to our rules and we got punished badly for that. Tonight was always going to be hard. Coming into Washington on a back-to-back, playing against the Wizards. We look forward to it. This is, you know, very much a playoff type situation in regards to the mental toughness you need to have come down here after a back-to-back and winning and we didn’t do it.

The Wizards continued to play with house money by winning for the ninth time in 12 games without John Wall. They are fourth in the Eastern Conference, but just a half game behind the suddenly-reeling Cleveland Cavaliers. Coach Brooks is still doing odd things with the point guard slot, and their level of effort against lesser teams is still not as consistent as it needs to be. But the Wizards bench is clicking, players are seeing their potential without Wall spoon-feeding them the ball, and there’s every reason to believe that the Wizards are that much closer to being a well-oiled machine in the playoffs, which ultimately is all that matters, right?

https://twitter.com/WashWizards/status/967987959772442624

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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, USAToday.com, Complex Magazine, and the DCist. He considers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar a hero and he had the pleasure of interviewing him back in 2009.