The Wizards should celebrate this hard fought win, at least for one night. This is the type of win that a young team can use as building blocks for future success.
And while one can make the argument that this is the type of win that the Wizards should get - playing a nearly equally young team, with a poorer record, and at home - and in a sense they are right. However, this Wizards team came into the game with its starting point guard coming off the bench after missing 4 games due to injury, another starter, Josh Howard, who has not yet played this season, one of its key bench players, Yi Jianlian, is still injured and it lost its current starting Small Forward, Al Thornton, after about 8 minutes of play. However, to be fair Philadelphia was without Craig Brackens and Jason Kapono due to injury and Andre Iguodala played while not being fully 100%. The reality is that both teams, like many in the NBA, are dealing with injury.
Philadelphia feeling as if it had given up a winnable game that last time these two teams played began the game with a higher degree of focus and intensity. The 76ers began the game with a .524 FG% and was lead by Elton Brand's 11 points. Most disconcerting was how easily Brand and the 76ers appeared to score in the paint. The 76ers scored 30 first quarter points - 14 points in the paint, 5 points on second chance opportunities and 6 points on fast breaks - which enabled them to jump out to an early 10 point lead. It became clear that the Wizards had too many individual breakdowns which negatively affected their team defensive effort to begin the game. It was also clear from the start that JaVale McGee had come to play.
The second quarter was eerily similar to the first as the 76ers continued to shoot the ball well (.524 FG%), which was helped by how easily they continued to score in the paint. The 76ers scored 22 points in the second quarter - 14 of which were scored in the paint, 6 points on second chance opportunities and 9 points via fast break. The 76ers were able to ride their efficient play to a 14 point first half lead.
The Wizards, behind a much more intense defensive effort, were able to turn the tide a little and get back into the game. The Wizards began to match up JaVale McGee more frequently on Elton Brand and as a result the team was able to begin to cut down on the 76ers points in the paint. That in turn forced the 76ers into lower percentage shots and their shooting percentage began to decline in the 3rd quarter. It is important to highlight that Elton Brand, who lead the 76ers in scoring during the first half with 17 points, was only able to add 2 points to his total in the 3rd quarter. The Wizards finished the 3rd quarter down by 4 points (PHI 77 - WAS 73).
The game became even more intense in the fourth quarter. As the trash talk elevated so did the physical play. The physical play seemed to hit a crescendo following a flagrant foul by Elton Brand on JaVale McGee. The most amazing part of the play was that McGee was able to complete the dunk even though Brand was pushing him to the floor.
A little while later, John Wall commits a hard foul on Evan Turner and Marreese Speights jumps in Wall's face. Andray Blatche immediately came to his point guards defense. The play ends with both Wall and Speights being assessed technical fouls.
The fourth quarter finished on a very interesting note. The second overall pick, Evan Turner had an opportunity to seal the win for his team on two foul shots. Turner stepped to the line and missed both. The Wizards down by three points had to hit a three to tie the game. John Wall brings the ball up the court with about 5 seconds remaining in regulation and Jrue Holiday attempts to foul him before he can get a shot off. Noticing this, Wall pulls up from about 45 feet away to attempt a three point shot sending him to the line for three foul shots. Wall, who can be a streaky foul shooter, hits all three foul shots to send the game into overtime. In this case, the number 1 pick was able to make a play whereas the number 2 pick was not.
The overtime period came down to essentially two possessions with about 12 seconds remaining. Each team received one final possession. The Wizards run a very similar play to the one that they used in Detroit except this time they had Nick Young play the role of Andray Blatche. Nick Young calmly hits an open three point shot to put the Wizards up by 2 points.
The 76ers got the ball back with about 7 seconds remaining in the game and needed a 2 to send it to double-overtime or a three to win the game. Nick Young playing inspired defense forces Andre Iguodala into a tough shot, which he missed. Game over the Wizards win.
Other notes and observations:
Al Thornton left the game and did not return after he sprained his left ankle in the first quarter. After the game he appeared to be moving with a slight, but noticeable limp.
Dipping his toe in the water almost literally. Alonzo Gee made his Wizards debut, but if you blinked you likely missed it. He played all of the 4.3 seconds that were remaining before the half. Like I said, don't blink.
JaVale McGee is not perfect but he is playing some serious ball right now. He finished with a season high in points (24) and a career high in rebounds (18) and oh yeah he added 4 blocks, 2 steals and committed only 1 personal foul. And his 24 points came while he shot .600 from the field. JaVale also lead the team in minutes played (45:51).
John Wall looked extremely rusty in the first half of the game managed to shake off his rust in the second half. Wall scored all 25 of his points in the second half of the game and finished with 6 assists, 3 rebounds, 1 steal and 1 turnover. That is a career night for most other people. He also hit 3 big three pointers and was a perfect 8 for 8 from the foul line. Where are those people who thought Turner would be the better choice? I'm just saying.
The Wizards had five players score in double figures - Wall (25), McGee (24), Young (19), Arenas and Blatche (17).
The Wizards had two players, McGee (24 points and 18 rebounds) and Blatche (17 points and 12 rebounds), who finished with double-doubles.
On a night where Gilbert Arenas' shot was not falling (.375 FG%), he still finds a way to score points (17) and has continued to dish out assists (7). Surprisingly, Gilbert was second on the team in blocked shots with two. However, he also added 8 turnovers and 4 personal fouls.
- All of the positive contributions would have been for naught had it not been for the critical jump ball that Trevor Booker was able to secure.
On the not so positive note the 76ers Forwards Brand, Speights and Nocioni, mostly playing in the paint, finished with a combined 46 points. The Wizards have to do a much better job of defending particularly the Power Forward position.
Finally here are a few videos from the post-game media availability session. Enjoy and discuss.
Nick Young discusses the game winning shot:
Sorry Trevor Booker fans, but he got big-timed as JaVale McGee began to discuss the game:
Gilbert Arenas discussing the game with a little comedic relief tossed in by Hilton Armstrong at the end:
John Wall discusses his and the team's performance: