Here are my key takeaways and "best" and "worst" awards from the 76ers' 118-113 victory over the Washington Wizards on Wednesday night at the Wells Fargo Center.
The Wizards might have started the way NBA teams will try to neutralize Ben Simmons. The visiting team got back in the game after going to a Hack-A-Ben approach midway through the fourth quarter. The Sixers point guard went on to make 12 of 24 foul shots during the stretch in which he was fouled intentionally while the Sixers had the ball. In the process, the Sixers' 14-point lead with 6 minutes, 47 seconds left shrunk to three seconds with 39.4 left.
Remember the annual shooting slump that Robert Covington goes through? The Sixers small forward might be experiencing one now. He finished with nine points on 4-for-12 shooting – including missing 4 of 5 three-pointers against Washington. This came one game after he scored a season-low two points on 1-for-11 shooting. He missed all nine of his three-pointers that night.
This team just can't avoid injuries. Reserve point guard T.J. McConnell became the latest Sixer to go down. He suffered a left shoulder bruise in the third quarter. The Sixers have had more injured players than healthy ones this season. That's not good for a team hoping to make the playoffs.
Simmons still had a career night even though he hit only 12 of 24 foul shots during the Hack-A-Ben. Being aggressive from the start, he finished with career highs of 31 points and 18 rebounds. Twenty of his points came after intermission. The rookie showed no sign of injury after leaving Monday's game in the fourth quarter because of a sprained right ankle.
Have the Sixers forgotten how to make three-pointers? They struggled from the third-point line for the second consecutive game, making just 3 of 18. The Sixers had missed 25 of 28 attempts in Monday's loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. On Wednesday, Covington and JJ Redick – two of the league's top three-point shooters – combined to make just 1 of 10 shots from behind the arc.
‘Best’ and ‘worst’ awards
Best performance: This was a tough one. but I ultimately gave it to Joel Embiid over a deserving Simmons. Yes, I know Simmons finished with career highs for points and rebounds. However, he made just 15 of 29 foul shots for the game and had a game-high six turnovers. Embiid, meanwhile, finished with 25 points, 14 rebounds — seven offensive — and a game-high four blocked shots before fouling out late in the game. He also had fewer turnovers (three).
Worst performance: This goes to Otto Porter. The Wizards small forward needed to have a huge game for his team to win. He wasn't even close to posting an average game. Porter scored eight points on 3-for-14 shooting. Porter did have a team-high three steals. However, he graded out at a game-worst minus-22.
Best defensive performance: Embiid gets this one with his game-high four blocks to go with one steal.
Worst statistic: This goes to the Wizards' first-quarter shooting. They dug a hole for themselves by making just 7 of 24 shots (29.2 percent) in the period.
Best statistic: The Sixers' 64 rebounds. It's the team's highest rebounding total since it had 72 in an overtime game against the Wizards on Nov. 11, 1990.
Worst of the worst: I have to give this to the Wizards' Hack-A-Ben tactic. Yes, it enabled them to get back into the game. However, it made the game hard to watch as it went to a snail's pace.