Sixers Fall To Wizards 129-95 In Preseason Opener

Jahlil Okafor scores 12 points in his debut

Sixers rookie Jahlil Okafor, pictured here playing in the Las Vegas Summer League, scored 12 points in his preseason debut | Stephen R. Sylvanie, USA TODAY Sports

Sixers rookie Jahlil Okafor, pictured here playing in the Las Vegas Summer League, scored 12 points in his preseason debut | Stephen R. Sylvanie, USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia 76ers fell to the Washington Wizards last night 129-95 in their preseason opener.

The Sixers were led by their new-look front court. Nerlens Noel led the way with 13 points on 4-8 shooting, to go along with 5 rebounds, 3 assists, and a blocked shot. Rookie Jahlil Okafor, selected 3rd overall in last June’s draft, added in 12 points on 6-10 shooting, 2 rebounds, and 2 blocked shots.

Okafor, who played 17 minutes on the night, had success against the big Washington front court of Marcin Gortat and Kris Humphries, although not in the way that most would have expected. Okafor struggled to get good looks in the paint and instead relied on a series of jump shots to get his points.

Okafor scored the first 6 points of the game for the Sixers and finished the first quarter with 8 points on 4-4 shooting from the field.

After trailing by 10 points to start the second quarter, the Sixers used a 21-10 run to end the half and pull within 2 at the break. Robert Covington scored all 8 of his points during the run.

The Sixers starters held their own in the first half, as the Sixers outscored the Wizards by 12 points in the first half while Okafor was on the court.

Things fell apart for the starting unit in the second half, as Washington used a 16-4 run to start the 3rd quarter and blow the game wide open. Bradley Beal, who finished the game with 19 points on 9-13 shooting, scored 6 points during the Washington run.

Okafor was replaced by Jerami Grant with just under 7 minutes remaining in the third quarter and did not return. The rest of the starters would shortly follow Okafor to the bench, with substitutes playing the final 17 or so minutes of action.

Before the game head coach Brett Brown said he was aiming to get Okafor about 20 minutes of playing time, and Okafor finished with just over 17 minutes played on the night.

The Sixers were doomed by turnovers, transition defense, and an inability to defend the perimeter. The Sixers committed 24 turnovers, which allowed Washington to live on the fast break. The Wizards also shot 57.7% on three pointers, connecting on 15 triples on the night.

Third year forwward Otto Porter led the way with 22 points for Washington, including 4-4 from three point range. Bradley Beal (19 points, 9-13 shooting) and John Wall (10 points, 9 assists) also joined in, giving the Wizards a formidable perimeter attack.

Quick Thoughts

  • While it was nice to see Okafor’s midrange game looking as strong as it was, the rookie big man is going to need to get more in the post than he did last night. Okafor struggled to establish deep post position, and the size and physicality of the NBA is going to be an adjustment for him.
  • That being said, I thought there were encouraging signs from Okafor, and not just on his jump shooting. He was very active in the first half, and made a real effort to get down the court in transition. Improving his conditioning has been a real focus for Brown, and he looked good in that regard for much of the night. I also thought his effort level was better on defense. He had to give up a ton of ground on John Wall / Marcin Gortat pick and rolls, but he otherwise rotated relatively well.
  • Nerlens Noel looked much more comfortable on the offensive end than he did last year at this time. His jump shot is still a work in progress, but he used his athleticism to his advantage when facing the basket, and pulled off a couple of nice post moves that he didn’t have the footwork to do a year ago. There’s also a growing sense of confidence when Noel goes to the free throw line, with the 2nd year big making 5 of his 6 attempts last night.
  • The Sixers point guard play has been a major question mark for the team heading into the preseason, and last night didn’t do anything to quell those concerns. Isaiah Canaan made 3 of his 5 three point attempts, but struggled to really create looks for his teammates, and was routinely beaten by the much more athletic John Wall. Scottie Wilbekin didn’t do much better off the bench, finishing with 5 points on 7 field goal attempts in 24 minutes off the bench.
  • Richaun Holmes had a solid showing. The rookie played only 10 minutes, but finished with 5 points, including a made three pointer, 2 rebounds, and an assist, and played at a high energy level.
  • Nobody on the Sixers bench really stood out, at least in a positive way. The Sixers got absolutely destroyed when the bench unit was on the floor: Jerami Grant was a -24 in 20 minutes, Hollis Thompson -30 in 23 minutes, Furkan Aldemir -22 in 17 minutes, Scottie Wilbekin -30 in 24 minutes, and Jordan McRae -33 in 21 minutes. The 3 best bench players may have been Richaun Holmes (5 points in 10 minutes), Christian Wood (4 points and 3 rebounds in 9 minutes), and J.P. Tokoto (6 points in 6 minutes).

Next up: 

The Sixers continue preseason action Thursday night against the Cleveland Cavaliers at the Wells Fargo Center. Tipoff is at 7 PM and will be broadcast on CSN and NBATV.

Derek Bodner covers the 76ers for Philadelphia magazine. Follow @DerekBodnerNBA on Twitter.