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 burned by yet another point guard in loss to Celtics

Sixers burned by yet another point guard in loss to Celtics

The Sixers had been burned by point guards before. Many times, actually. 

Just a week ago, Kyrie Irving dropped 39 points in the Cavs' 112-108 win. Nineteen came in the decisive fourth quarter. 

On Saturday Isaiah Thomas did the same damage. The undersized All-Star tied his season-high with 37 points in the Celtics' comeback 107-106 victory (see instant replay).

“Isaiah’s an All-Star,” Jahlil Okafor said. “He showed us why tonight. He’s the head of their team and came up big for them like he usually does.” 

Thomas made his impact in spurts. During the Celtics' 9-0 second quarter run, he scored six of those points. In the fourth quarter, in which the game was decided, he dropped 12 straight Celtics points. Thomas finished the night 11 for 19 for the field and only 2 of 3 from three. 

The most telling stat was at the free throw line. Thomas shot 13 for 15 after attacking and drawing fouls, a point of emphasis by head coach Brad Stevens for the second half. 

Thomas scored 15 points in the first half. He noticed a change in the Sixers defense in the second and capitalized on it. The Celtics ability to stretch the floor with their three-point shooting bigs also created opportunities for Thomas to get to the rim. 

“In the second half they sat back a little bit and they were switching a lot,” Thomas explained, also noting, “We wanted to put Okafor in a pick-and-roll. He sits far back. I just wanted to attack him downhill. It’s hard for bigs to move those bigs legs they’ve got. So I just tried to stay in attack mode and I saw we were in the bonus.”

The Sixers have had problems defending the one spot all season. Isaiah Thomas is the fifth starting point guard to score 30 points or more against them. He joins Russell Westbrook (32), Jeff Teague (30 in overtime), James Harden (33) and Irving. Another five (Kemba Walker, John Wall, Eric Bledsoe, Mike Conley and Kyle Lowry) have scored 20 or more points. 

The oneness of these high-scoring point guards doesn’t fall solely on the Sixers backcourt, where Sergio Rodriguez has been assuming the starting role in place of the oft-injured Jerryd Bayless. These opponents have been doing their work inside the arc. Of the five who have scored 30, only two (Harden and Irving) attempted more than three treys. 

“We’re all working hard trying to stop them, but it’s easier said than done,” Okafor said. 

The next point guard the Sixers will face is Emmanuel Mudiay when they take on the Nuggets Monday. Last season Mudiay hit the game-winning, buzzer-beating three in Denver. 

Instant Replay: Celtics 107, Sixers 106

Instant Replay: Celtics 107, Sixers 106

BOX SCORE

Rewind 24 hours.

The Sixers were walking off the court Friday night after a dismal blowout loss to the Magic that left Brett Brown reflecting on Saturday, “Here in Philadelphia, at home, that’s not good enough.”

The Sixers had lacked fire and grit, especially with Joel Embiid on the floor against a sub-.500 Magic team that had played the night before in Memphis. 

They had a day to turn it around. A playoff contending Celtics squad was coming to town and Embiid wasn’t available because of his back-to-back limitations. The shorthanded Sixers (see below) had a tall task ahead of them. 

The Sixers reacted by jumping out early and kept the Celtics at bay in the first half. Even when the Celtics cut their lead to three midway through the second quarter, the Sixers responded with an 8-0 burst to go up by a game-high 11 points. 

The Celtics exposed the Sixers' defensive void in the paint without Embiid in the third. With the Sixers up 65-58, Isaiah Thomas drew a foul against Jahlil Okafor. That play sparked a 9-0 Celtics run over the next two minutes, in which Thomas scored six of those points (including four at the line). The Celtics took back the lead during that stretch and forced the Sixers to play catchup.

The Sixers cut the Celtics lead to one in the fourth with a three from Dario Saric, who played one of his most aggressive games of his short NBA career. After the Celtics jumped back up by seven, the Sixers kept fighting and tied the game 100 apiece. The Celtics were able to pull away and finished with a one-point win, 107-106, after Ersan Ilyasova drained a three at the buzzer. 

Inside the stats
Thomas exploded for 37 points (11 for 19 from the field, 2 for 3 from three, 13 for 15 from the line), four rebounds, and seven assists.

Saric recorded a double-double with 21 points and 12 rebounds off the bench, both tying career-highs. 

Ersan Ilyasova dropped 18 points, including three treys, and six rebounds.

Okafor and Sergio Rodriguez scored 15 apiece, with Rodriguez adding eight assists. 

Avery Bradley dropped 20 points and nine rebounds. 

Stauskas starts in place of Covington
Brown turned to shooting guard Nik Stauskas to slide over to the three spot in place of the injured Robert Covington (see below). 

“Boston’s perimeter defense is as good as it is in the NBA,” Brown explained. “I think you need to have more ball handlers, people who can make a play, on the perimeter … I feel that Nik has that ability to put it to the floor and disrupt that aggressive pressure that the Celtics backcourt can put on you.”

Broken ankles
Saric came up with the Sixers' highlight play of the game when he did this to Jonas Jerebko in the third quarter for an instant highlight reel moment. 

Always a student
Not playing, still learning. Embiid has been praised for being an eager student of the game. During warmups he sat courtside to watch film on a laptop even though he wasn’t suiting up. 

Injury updates
Joel Embiid is not playing in back-to-back games and sat out the back end of this home-home series for rest … Robert Covington sat out with a sprained left knee he suffered on Friday after colliding with T.J. McConnell chasing a ball out of bounds … Jerryd Bayless missed his fourth straight game with left wrist soreness. 

Up next
The Sixers host the Nuggets on Monday night.