WASHINGTON -- The Sixers went to Washington having won four in a row and eight of nine, while the Wizards had dropped three a row and were last in the NBA in scoring defense, allowing 122.9 points per game. Of course that all meant nothing as the Wizards beat the Sixers, 119-113, on Thursday night at CapitalOne Arena.
Here are some takeaways from the game
It’s hard to win when your two All-Stars combine for 15 turnovers. But Joel Embiid had eight and Ben Simmons seven. Simmons was careless with his passes while Embiid continually got stripped when he put the ball on the floor. Give Washington credit for sending waves of defenders every time Embiid put the ball on the floor.
.When the Sixers jumped to an 11-point lead in the first quarter, it appeared as if they thought this would be another easy day at the office. Suddenly the Sixers stepped their foot off the gas and were allowing the Wizards wide-open shots. The Sixers weren’t closing out on shooters and Washington constantly made them pay. On the other end, the Sixers were forcing shots and making lazy passes.
Then the Sixers, trailing by as many as 15 points in the fourth quarter, started playing hard, like a desperate team. It turned out to be too little too late.
Coach Brett Brown keeps singing the praises of Simmons on the defensive end, so it was only natural that he was given the toughest assignment -- guarding Bradley Beal. The 6-foot-5 Beal entered the game fourth in the NBA in scoring, averaging 28.7 points. Beal seemed bothered by the 6-foot-10 Simmons.
The Sixers often put Simmons on a prolific scorer later in the game, but this wasn’t the case. In the first quarter, Simmons set the defensive tone with two steals and a deflection that eventually resulted in a Wizards turnover.
Brown understood that it would be tough for Simmons or any one player to guard Beal, so Mike Scott and Matisse Thybulle alternated on him. He was held to just eight shots and nine points in the first half, but Washington led 65-55.
Beal was much more aggressive looking for his shots, hitting two long jumpers to begin the second half. Having trouble dealing with Simmons one-on-one, Washington set more picks to free Beal in the second half.
It worked, as Beal hit his four of his first five shots in the third quarter. He began forcing shots in the fourth quarter and that is when the Sixers started coming back.
The fact that Beal had an off game and the Wizards still won says a lot about the Sixers’ lackluster performance.
Raul Neto has had an uneven playing time as a point guard off the bench for the Sixers, but he gave them a big spark late in the first quarter, hitting corner threes on consecutive possessions. Yet he played only six minutes in the first half.
Neto’s scoring is a bonus. He is not afraid to shoot, but he does a solid job getting the team in its offense and he is always looking for Embiid down low.
At the third quarter buzzer, Neto made another big play, hitting a three at the buzzer to cut Washington’s lead to 91-81.
The Sixers couldn’t find any first-half answers for Washington’s 6-10 sharpshooter Davis Bertans. In the first half he came off the bench to score 22 points, hitting all eight field goals, including six threes.
James Ennis, a solid defender, was among the Sixers having trouble stopping him. After his seventh field goal, Thybulle, giving away five inches, began guarding Bertans. All of a sudden Bertans wasn’t getting open looks. Bertans did score late in the half on a backdoor feed from Beal. Scott was on him on the defensive switch.
Bertans entered the game shooting 44.6 percent from beyond he arc, so his accuracy wasn’t a surprise, but the Sixers were forcing him to take some tough shots and he was making them.
The second half was a different story. When Bertans checked into the game, Brown had Thybulle on him and the Sixers rookie did a good job denying him the ball.