It was to be expected.
Washington was the perfect team to help the 76ers end their losing streak and practice against a zone defense. And the Sixers used this matchup for what it was: a tuneup.
- Can Sixers find a way to overcome glaring shortfalls vs. elite competition on display in losses to Mavs and Heat?
- Sixers podcast: Why Philly must beat the Dallas Mavericks; making an All-Star case for Tobias Harris
- Sixers-Mavericks best & worst: Another rough night against the zone, a long night on defense
They disposed of the Wizards, 125-108, Saturday night at the Wells Fargo Center. The Sixers (21-10) snapped their three-game skid. They weren’t bothered by the 2-3 zone employed at times. But that, too, was to be expected. A zone doesn’t work when your players appear to be in defensive disarray.
“It was important to [end the losing streak],” said Tobias Harris, who finished with 16 points. "You never want to drop three in a row. Our motto should really be not to drop one when it happens.
“I think it was just a learning lesson for us in a lot of things. Obviously, teams are rolling with the zone. We just kind of have to get them up out of it.”
The loss dropped the Wizards to 8-20, marking their third straight defeat and 10th in 12 games.
Washington point guard Isaiah Thomas was ejected with 2 minutes, 53 seconds left in the game for going into the stands. Thomas, who had 20 points, was heckled by a Sixers fan.
“I’m never going to be disrespected in any way,” Thomas said after the game. “My dad taught me at a young age, don’t never let anybody call you out of your name. It doesn’t matter where I am, that’s not going to happen.”
Thomas attempted foul shots with 3 minutes, 6 seconds remaining. He missed the first free throw and made the second.
“I’m running back and the fan has both of his middle fingers up and said [expletive] you [expletive] three times,” Thomas said. "So then the timeout goes, and I go in the stands to confront him, I said ‘Don’t be disrespectful’ that calm. ‘Be a man. I’m a man before anything, and be a fan.'
“And his response was, ‘I’m sorry. I just wanted a Frosty.’”
Fans in attendance are treated to a free frozen milk shake from a fast food chain when a player on the opposing team misses both foul shots in the second half.
“That’s what happened and I walked back," Thomas said. “I told my security who it was, so he could get kicked out the game. No way, shape, or form that should be allowed at all.”
It marked the third incident at the arena involving an opposing player and a fan this season, and all occuring this month. Utah’s Donovan Mitchell had a fan in the front row ejected on Dec. 2. Then on Dec. 8, Toronto’s Kyle Lowrygot into some trash talking with a fan.
Thomas’ trip into the stands was the game’s only surprise.
Things did get a little interesting, though.
The Sixers had a commanding 23-point, second-quarter lead. However, the Wizards pulled within four points (84-80) on Bradley Beal’s three-pointer with 1:40 left in third quarter.
But that was as close as they got, as the Sixers responded with a 12-2 run to take a 96-82 lead with 9:04 to play.
Beal did finish with a game-high 36 points.
All five Sixers starters finished in double digits, with Joel Embiid leading the way with 21 points, 13 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 blocks. Josh Richardson had 21 points followed by Harris (16) and Al Horford (13, 9 rebounds). Ben Simmons finished with 14 points, 11 assists, 8 rebounds, 4 steals, and 6 turnovers.
Meanwhile, Trey Burke added 12 points in a reserve role.
The game came after the Sixers struggled against zone defenses in their previous two games, against the Mavericks (Friday) and Heat (Wednesday), both losses.
Before Saturday’s game, coach Brett Brown was asked if Simmons needs to shoot more or get to certain spots to help solve the zone defenses.
“I don’t see the zone issues being pointed at Ben as much,” Brown said of the 6-foot-10 point guard. “Ben can have his greatest impact hurting a zone on his being a live-footed, relented, committed offensive rebounder.”
Brown noted that the Sixers shot 22-for-73 (30.1%) from the three-point line in the two games.
“We missed a lot of shots,” he said. “We would not all be talking about this if we shot a respectable percentage.”
Brown would like to see the Simmons, who also plays power forward, beat teams like former NBA post player Kenneth Faried did and Boston reserve Enes Kanter does by grabbing offensive rebounds.
“Like, I see Ben so athletic, elusive, just quick to the boards,” Brown said. “That to me is where he can have his greatest impact in our zone offense.”
The comment came exactly two weeks after the coach said he wanted Simmons to attempt at least one three-pointer per game. On that night, Simmons scored a career-high 34 points in a 141-94 victory over Cleveland.
For the Wizards, Anzejs Pasecniks finished with 11 points. It marked the 7-1 reserve center’s third NBA game after signing a two-way contract with Washington on Tuesday.