The Washington Wizards opened their 2017-2018 regular season campaign with a 120-115 win at home over the Philadelphia 76ers. It was a good win for the home team and the visitors put on a show in defeat. Capital One Arena or “The Vault” as Bradley Beal likes to call it, was electric from opening tip until the final buzzer. John Wall showed what a healthy version of him looks like and at times it was scary, the Sixers let everyone know that they should be taken serious and the only thing standing in their way is health and experience.
The Wizards had one of the best starting units in the association last year, last night however, it was their bench that held them down. While the second unit struggled to defend in transition, they outscored Philly’s second unit 41-25. Washington’s starters were outscored by Philadelphia’s 87-79. So it was definitely a positive showing from an area that used to be a weakpoint for the Wizards.
Robert Covington led the way for the Sixers, taking advantage of the space created by his younger teammates with 29 points (7-11 from three). Ben Simmons made his debut and was masterful in his role as a facilitator. It may not have shown in the assist column, but he created so much for his teammates.Brett Brown called his debut “Exceptional” and that’s what it was as the youngster put together a very solid line. Simmons had 18 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals, and a block. Joel Embid played 26, well close to 27 minutes and caused trouble for Washington with 18 points and 13 rebounds. His ability to anchor the defense allowed the Sixers to really get out and run.
Otto Porter started out hot, scoring the team’s first 8 points of the night. Kelly Oubre stepped up and finished the game with the starters after an injury to Jason Smith. The youngster showed improvement as his 14 points and 8 rebounds played a role in the win.
Wall and Beal didn’t have a great shooting night, but that didn’t stop them from being assertive. Beal started off slow in terms of looking for his shot, but really got going in the second half, starting with 11 quick points in the first five minutes of the third quarter. Wall attacked the defense all game, resulting in a few highlight worthy dunks and some no-calls that left him on the floor. John finished with 28 points, 5 rebounds, 8 assists, and 2 blocks. Beal had 25 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, and 3 steals.
DMV native Markelle Fultz made his debut in front of friends and family, coming off the bench and scoring 10 points in 17 minutes. He had a few “Welcome to the league rook” moments, but that’s to be expected.
Washington host Detroit on Friday, as long as health isn’t an issue, these matchups against Philadelphia are going to be must see television.
Wall-Beal: They looked and performed like the best backcourt in the Eastern Conference on an off shooting night. There were a couple of sequences in the second half when they took over for Washington. The biggest difference may have been that they hit a new level in their partnership, they not only took turns, but both had it going in a few stretches.
Porter/Oubre: We have talked about how improved both players looked during training camp and preseason, it’s only one game in the regular season, but they both showed growth in their games. Porter scored the team’s first 8 points, hit the glass and did a good job keeping the ball moving. Oubre was a terror on defense as expected, but really looked comfortable on offense whether it was pushing it in transition or knocking down an open shot.
Gortat: He doesn’t get nearly enough credit, but he had a monstrous double-double last night. 16 points and 17 rebounds, he really got it going in the scoring column late as a roll man after setting great screens. Definitely a good showing from him.
Bench: Not much to say except Washington has improved in that area, obviously the injury to Jason Smith may move Oubre off the second unit, but they had no problem scoring last night. Jodie Meeks had 14 points and Mahinmi and Scott looked comfortable, Frazier was solid as well. It’ll take time for that unit to gel, but they were a big factor in last night’s win.
The Process: That trio of Embid, Simmons, and Fultz is only going to get better with time. All three looked comfortable out there and have a good feel for the game. Those three combined to score 46 points and only one of them played over 30 minutes, Simmons. They’re definitely a team worth keeping an eye on as the season continues.