The Washington Wizards caught a break when Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid was ruled out with a non-COVID illness for their Monday night showdown. But they still couldn’t capitalize, falling 118-111.
The entire first half was as even as it gets. Neither team managed to build a lead of more than five, resulting in 16 lead changes and 15 ties throughout the first two quarters. Kristaps Porzingis led the way with 11 points and five rebounds at the break while James Harden poured in 15 points and eight assists as he picked up the slack without his superstar running mate.
The third quarter proved to be the most consequential. After exchanging blows to start the second half, Washington held a 71-68 lead with just over five minutes to go. At that point, Kyle Kuzma was all alone in transition. He went for a double-clutch dunk contest slam, which he missed.
The miss seemed to deflate the team, and the Wizards managed to score just two points the rest of the quarter. The 76ers closed the period with an 18-2 run, spearheaded by old friend Montrezl Harrell.
Trez, who was clearly fired up after eating a first-half elbow from Daniel Gafford, scored seven points in the final 2:08 to leave the Wizards with an 86-73 deficit heading into the fourth quarter.
Porzingis tried to keep the game close, scoring 17 of his 32 points in the final frame, but the lead was too much to overcome against a 76ers squad that flexed its depth even with Embiid.
Bradley Beal finished with 20 points, five rebounds and six assists, while Monte Morris tacked on a season-high 19 points and three steals.
The Wizards will get a chance to exact revenge on their Halloween tormentors as they head to Philadelphia on Wednesday for the second leg of their home-and-home.