Sixers ride Okafor's play for their second victory
This was as good an opportunity as any for the 76ers to get their second victory of the season. The Washington Wizards trotted onto the Wells Fargo Center court minus Bradley Beal, their second-best player. Meanwhile, their best player, John Wall, is still trying to get into a groove following offseason surgery on both knees.
This was as good an opportunity as any for the 76ers to get their second victory of the season.
The Washington Wizards trotted onto the Wells Fargo Center court minus Bradley Beal, their second-best player. Meanwhile, their best player, John Wall, is still trying to get into a groove following offseason surgery on both knees.
And in addition to not being fully healthy, the Wizards, it could be argued, are just as bad as the Sixers. Correction, they are worse than the Sixers, at least they were Wednesday night.
The Sixers jumped out to a 24-point second-quarter lead and held on for a 109-102 victory.
The win improved their record to 2-9 heading into Thursday's nationally televised game on TNT against the Minnesota Timberwolves at the Target Center.
The Sixers also snapped a six-game series losing streak to Washington (2-8). The Wizards have lost three straight and five of their last six games of the season. They are also winless on the road (0-5).
"We kind of learned how to finish games," Ersan Ilyasova said of the Sixers holding onto the lead.
Washington battled back as the Sixers' Jahlil Okafor and Ilyasova fouled in the fourth quarter.
Ilyasova's sixth foul with 1 minute, 29 seconds left put Wall on the foul line. He hit both shots to pull Washington within three points, 103-100.
But reserve center Richaun Holmes, who replaced Ilyasova, responded on the ensuing possession with a wide-open corner three at the 1:10 mark to push the Sixers' lead back up to six points.
"We've been talking about picking my spots," Holmes said of shooting the three-pointer. "I thought that was a pretty good spot to pick."
Then Sergio Rodriguez gave them a 108-102 lead with a pair of foul shots with 18.3 seconds left.
Dario Saric added a foul shot with 1.2 seconds left to give the Sixers their seven-point victory.
"That's exactly the way we drew it up," coach Brett Brown said jokingly after the game. "We'll take it."
The Sixers were without Joel Embiid, who missed the previous two seasons due to navicular bone surgeries. The team formulated a plan not to play him on back-to-back nights. So he sat out Wednesday's matchup and will be play against the Timberwolves.
But he wasn't missed against the Wizards.
Okafor, who started in place of Embiid, erased memories of Monday's 2-for-11 shooting performance against the Houston Rockets when he finished with four points.
However, on Wednesday, he finished with 19 points on 8-for-11 shooting before fouling out with 2:56 left. Ten of his points came in the second quarter, when he made all four of his attempts.
"It was just my teammates talking to me," Okafor said of finding the groove. "Coach Brown challenged me before the game to attack, be aggressive, make quick decisions and it really benefited me."
Ilyasova added 16 points while making 4 of 8 three-pointers before fouling out. This was his first start since he was acquired in a trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder on Nov. 1. Saric, the person Ilyasova replaced, recorded his second double-double of the season. The rookie power forward had 13 points and 12 rebounds.
Nik Stauskas added 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting in a reserve role. He returned after spraining his ankle early in the fourth quarter. Rodriguez added seven points and 12 assists.
Beal was sidelined for the third straight game with hamstring tightness after slipping on a wet spot in the Wizards' Nov. 9 win against the Boston Celtics. Meanwhile, this was Wall's eighth game after the surgeries. The all-star finished with a game-high 27 points.
The Wizards also got contributions from former Prep Charter standout Markieff Morris, with 19 points, Otto Porter Jr. (15 points, 13 rebounds, four steals, one block) and Marcin Gortat (10 points, 14 rebounds).
Injured Sixers reserve center Nerlens Noel should be back in Philadelphia sometime later this week to continue his rehabilitation at the team's practice facility.
Noel had surgery to repair inflamed tissue above his left knee on Oct. 24. He is rehabilitating under the supervision of Kevin Wilk, the associate clinical director at Champion Sports Medicine in Birmingham, Ala.