In what was expected to be a lopsided affair, the Wizards played their most sound game since returning to play, losing to a capable Philadelphia 76ers team 107–98. A team missing Bradley Beal, Davis Bertans and John Wall couldn’t possibly compete against the strength of Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Tobias Harris, right? In this game, Washington showed that even the lowest ranked team in the bubble should not be overlooked.
The Wizards’ starting five of Isaac Bonga, Troy Brown Jr., Thomas Bryant, Rui Hachimura and Ish Smith made several turnovers and missed some shots early in the game, but would eventually settle in, trailing by six (26–20) after one. After the first 12 minutes, the starters had a combined 11 points, shooting 33 percent from the field.
Thankfully for the Wizards, the Sixers shot poorly from the free throw line (57 percent) — a trend that would hamper Philadelphia’s ability to close out the game early (Philly finished the game shooting 69 percent from the free throw line).
Despite trailing 54–47 at the half, the Wizards played a much more complete second quarter. The defense — primarily Bonga and Bryant — held Simmons to eight points, while Jerome Robinson provided a spark off the bench to lead all Wizards in scoring (11 points) at half time.
Simmons’ knee injury in the third led to a back-and-forth affair, with the two teams essentially trading baskets throughout the third. Quality three-point shooting saw the Wizards down 77–74 heading into the fourth.
Without Simmons, Embiid took over, scoring 12 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter. While Bryant had a formidable offensive outing (19 points, 10 rebounds, four blocks with a plus eight rating) and played strong overall defense, he struggled to contain Embiid. Mo Wagner (five points, three rebounds with a minus 15 rating) also struggled with Embiid, as the two battled throughout the game, often leaving the other sprawled on the court.
After Embiid sunk both of his free throws with under a minute to play, the Sixers led 104-98. After a timeout, the ball ended up in the hands of Bryant, who was forced to settle for an off-balance three that badly missed — certainly not the play Head Coach Scott Brooks drew up in the huddle. The missed three deflated an already tired Wizards squad and the team simply ran out of gas after a hard-fought game.
Despite picking up loss number four, there were several positives that came from the nine-point defeat:
- First, the play of Robinson — A part of the trade that sent Isaiah Thomas to the Clippers at the trade deadline, Robinson has been one of the most consistent performers for the Wizards in the bubble. Coming off the bench, he finished the game with 19 points, three assists, two steals and shot 50-percent from three. With several big names missing, Robinson is taking advantage of his opportunities.
- Second, three pointers from big men — Bryant showed his willingness to shoot, although he still needs to improve in that aspect of his game (shot 20-percent from three), but at least he is willing to take them. While Wagner has been reluctant to shoot the three ball recently, he did connect on one of his three attempts tonight, so hopefully he will start firing from behind the arc more consistently.
- Third positive? Troy Brown Jr. — Beal and Wall out, Brown has been seen more time as the primary ball-handler. In this expanded role, he put up 17 points, eight rebounds, four assists and looked like a true facilitator at points against Philly.
In my opinion, the positives outweigh the negatives in this game, but I will note that Hachimura looks lost out there. He had eight points (five of which came in the fourth), was an abysmal 2-of-11 from the field and refused to even consider the three ball (except for one attempt, which he made). If the Wizards want Hachimura to be a “core piece” moving forward, he’ll have to show he can do more than just shoot pull-up jumpers.
The Wizards’ next game is on Friday August 7 at 8 PM ET against the New Orleans Pelicans. The game can be watched on NBC Sports Washington.