5 observations from Sixers-Wizards

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5 observations from Sixers-Wizards

WASHINGTON -- The Sixers followed up their stunning opening night win over the Miami Heat with another improbable victory on Friday night against the Washington Wizards.

Trailing by as many as 14 points throughout the first three quarters, the Sixers rallied to tie the game after three before surging to a 109-102 victory (see Instant Replay).

The Sixers are 2-0 for the first time since the 2006-07 season when they began the year 3-0.

Here are a few items that caught our attention in Friday’s game:

1. Before the game, Sixers head coach Brett Brown talked about how the Sixers can best contain John Wall.

“Get back! Run as fast as you can and get back! It really is that simple,” Brown said.

Or was it. Wall, perhaps the fastest player in the league in terms of raw speed, was a monster in the open court. Though the Sixers were able to get back on Wall, the guard either slipped past with a quick move or was able to draw contact.

Before the game, Brown talked about Wall finishing his drives to the hoop with contact.

“You have to give him some cushion. You don’t want to be static, you don’t want to be stuck, so you have to give some cushion,” Brown said. “When someone is moving that fast you’ll have to absorb some of that and it’s much easier to talk about than to do it.

“I saw it for years with Tony Parker. He just loved finishing into people’s bodies. He'd run right at him and get up and go at them, so you have to avoid being static. You have to keep moving.”

Like Brown said, easier said than done. Wall scored 15 points in the first quarter and had 23 at the half.

But in the second half Wall had just three points, as the Sixers were able to get back on defense and cut off the drives to the basket.

2. The Sixers’ half-court offense still needs some help. In the early part of the game, the lack of movement hurt the Sixers’ shot selection and they often settled for three-pointers when a better shot might have been available.

The Sixers went 0 for 9 from three-point range and ran just one pick-and-roll play. And guess what? Lavoy Allen and Tony Wroten ran the play well enough to get a layup.

3. Though the Sixers were down by as many as 14 points from the first quarter into the third quarter, they were able to whittle away at the Wizards’ lead by forcing bad shots.

The Wizards attempted nine long two-pointers during the third quarter after attempting nine during the entire first half. Meanwhile, the Sixers continued to get shots in the paint. They also hit a few three-pointers, too. After the 0 for 9 in the first quarter, the Sixers went 6 for 14 the rest of the way.

4. Give Michael Carter-Williams some credit for showing some grit. Despite committing two turnovers in the first two minutes of the game, the rookie didn’t commit another for the rest of the game.

He didn’t back off his game either. After shooting 1 for 6 in the first half, MCW went 5 for 9 in the second half.

5. Spencer Hawes (16 points, 14 rebounds) could be the Sixers’ best three-point threat. He shot 3 for 6 from deep on Friday and because of his ability to hit the long ball, he was able to make passes from the high post to teammates cutting to the hoop.

Sixers intend to use Ben Simmons, Dario Saric in same lineup

Sixers intend to use Ben Simmons, Dario Saric in same lineup

GALLOWAY, N.J. — Training camp is an opportunity for Brett Brown to assess all the pieces he has available to construct the best roster possible. There are no clear-cut formulas to create the most successful lineups, not when the team has so many players that can be utilized at multiple positions. 

“There are a lot of moving parts,” Brown said Wednesday after Day 2 of training camp. “You’re going to see a bunch of different looks, blue and white. That’s part of my job. That’s part of what I’ve got to get done when we play on opening night.” 

Among these combinations is pairing Dario Saric and Ben Simmons. Given their versatility, the rookies can play multiple positions to share the court. Brown has eyed their size and skills at the two- and three-spots.

“The pluses are you have 6-10, do-alls that really can jump into a very versatile defensive world with perhaps a lot of switching,” Brown said. “I think they’re elite defensive rebounders that can rebound and lead a break and take off. ...

“The disadvantages are, you’re playing two guys out of position that’ve never played a second of NBA basketball and have never played together. It comes down to familiarity, it comes down to some type of comfort level that they’re going to have to navigate and figure out each other a little bit more.”

Saric and Simmons, like the rest of the Sixers, are learning one another’s games in training camp. Saric described Simmons’ skill set as “amazing” considering his stature and speed, noting, “I never played with somebody who’s that [many] kilograms.” 

“I think we will find a way to play together,” Saric said. “I think we can do it. Coach said most of the time we will play together. Maybe I can push the ball, he can push the ball too. ... He’s an unbelievably good passer and I think we’ll find a way how to play and I’m very happy because of that.”

Simmons entered the league touted as a point-forward. Exceeding the combo position, Simmons has played pure point at times, both on the offensive and defensive ends. He has been tapping into the Sixers' guards and veteran leader Elton Brand to help enhance his communication running the floor.

“[The] challenge is probably guarding the point guard position. They’re a lot quicker,” Simmons said. “But I also have a lot more length and strength. I think just being able to get to the rim. Also, if I have a smaller guy I can post it up.”

Saric also has ball handling skills in his arsenal. He grew up playing point guard from ages 8 to 14 before hitting a growth spurt. Saric looked up to Magic Johnson at the position. 

“To make other players happy and to make other players better, I think that’s the role of point guard,” Saric said. 

Brown will use the next four weeks as a trial period to maneuver different combinations and looks, including a towering duo of rookies.  

“Now is the time to do that," Brown said, "with the end game being whenever that type of thing happens, you have something quite special if they’re paired — when they’re paired, because I’m going to play them together — when they start really feeling each other’s game out in the environment that I've put them in a lot better."

Sixers being cautious with Jahlil Okafor early in training camp

Sixers being cautious with Jahlil Okafor early in training camp

GALLOWAY, N.J. — The Sixers lost Jahlil Okafor for the final 23 games last season because of a small meniscus tear in his right knee. Now they are being cautious as he prepares for his second year.

As part of the Sixers’ prescheduled load management for Okafor, he participated in a portion of practice and then worked out individually with head strength and conditioning coach Todd Wright.

“They just told me to relax once I did what they wanted me to do today,” Okafor said. “I was off to the sidelines. I feel fine. I’ll be good tomorrow.”

Okafor learned during his first NBA season that he should speak more openly with the staff about his body.

“Communication is key,” he said. “I think last year I didn’t really communicate how I was feeling, so I wasn’t able to get the help I needed.”

The team held three practice sessions in the first two days of training camp. Okafor said he knew the Sixers would be cautious with his workload. He is poised to improve upon his rookie year in which he averaged 17.5 points and 7.0 rebounds in 53 games last season.

“I’m 100 percent healthy,” he said. “I’m all good.”