By Donnell Coley
The Philadelphia 76ers brought their seven-game win streak into Washington on Sunday night looking to win the season series in front of a national television audience.
Wizards All-Star guard Bradley Beal recognized the importance of the game and gave a warning to his team at halftime, up 67-48.
“I told the guys at halftime this game isn’t over. They’ve shown all year that they can come back from 20-point deficits like it’s nothing,” Beal said after the team’s 109-94 win.
Fittingly, it was Beal (team-high 24 points) who made some of the biggest shots of the game down the stretch.
Sixers forward Dario Saric made back-to-back three-pointers that cut the Wizards lead to single digits. But Beal had a quick answer, hitting one from deep to push the lead to 100-89 with 5:18 left.
After Sixers All-Star Joel Embiid put in three of his game-high 25 points from an and-1 that cut the lead to eight, Beal struck again. First, he hit a technical free throw. Then, he stared Embiid down after the 7-foot-1 center switched on him. Beal calmly took a couple of dribbles baseline before stepping back for a mid-range jumper that put the Wizards back ahead double digits, 103-92.
“We did a good job of closing it out and staying poised at the end,” said Beal.
Wizards forward Otto Porter (23 points, 10-16 FG) was scorching hot and his three-pointer with 2:06 left in the game put the team up 107-92. The shot caused Sixers coach Brett Brown to wave the white flag as he called for a timeout to pull his starters.
Porter and Beal had plenty of help along the way as Washington consistently shot above 50 percent, especially in the first half. Kelly Oubre Jr. set the pace early, scoring 8 of his 19 points off the bench in the first quarter. He was a perfect 3-for-3 from the floor, including two momentum-building triples.
In the second quarter, Oubre scored another eight points, but it was Porter who took over the scoring load. This time, it was his turn to reach perfection scoring 14 points on 6-of-6 shooting. He displayed his full offensive arsenal. Creating off the dribble, coming off screens and sticking tough fadeaways. He hit a few clutch shots near the end of the shot clock and even sent the team into the half with a deep ball buzzer beater that put them up 67-48.
Meanwhile, the Sixers were stagnate offensively and struggled to make shots. They’re shooting percentage never surpassed 40 percent and they were even worse from deep. Formidable marksman like guards J.J. Redick and Marco Belinelli clanked their attempts from all angles. They combined to go 4-of-15 from long distance.
Wizards coach Scott Brooks appreciated his group’s defensive effort, especially Beal and Oubre who matched up with the Sixers three-point threats.
“I thought [Beal] competed on the defensive end. He has a hard guy to guard in J.J. [Redick], he never stops moving. Belinelli, never stops moving. I think our perimeter guys did a great job on their guys,” said Brooks.
Redick finished with just six points in nearly 30 minutes of action, while Belinelli scored 10 points in 27 minutes.
Washington has one of the toughest remaining schedules in the league, so securing this win and evening the season series was crucial.
“Sometimes it’s going to come down to the best record between the two and right now, we’re split,” Brooks said in regard to the season matchup with the Sixers.
Next up, the Wizards travel to Milwaukee on Tuesday for yet another nationally televised game against a playoff-hopeful team.