Immediate Reaction: Okafor Dominates But 76ers Lose
The Philadelphia 76ers started the fourth quarter on an 8-2 run, giving them a 5 point lead with just under 8 minutes remaining.
For the second game in a row, the Sixers appeared poised to take home their first win of the season. For the second game in a row, they couldn’t close it out.
Jahlil Okafor dominated his matchup with fellow rookie, and first overall pick, Karl-Anthony Towns. Okafor got Towns in foul trouble early, then dominated the Wolves bench, on his way to 25 points on 10-15 shooting from the field, 12 rebounds, and two blocked shots.
Okafor was particularly impressive in the first half, where he finished with 19 points and 9 rebounds. Towns spent most of the game in foul trouble and finished with just 6 points and 2 rebounds in 19 minutes of play.
It wasn’t enough, as Andrew Wiggins scored 17 of his 32 points in the fourth quarter Minnesota, helping the Timberwolves to their 6th win of the season.
Here are some quick thoughts from tonight’s game. More to come later.
* Jahlil Okafor hit everything. From driving 17 foot jumpers, to fadeaway jump shots out of the post, to gorgeous spin moves toward the basket. He had success against a very tough defender in Karl-Anthony Towns, and was able to keep Towns in foul trouble for most of the game. When Towns was off the floor Okafor scored against Gorgui Dieng at will.
* Okafor also went 5-7 from the free throw line. I’m not sure what’s a better sign: that he made 5 out of his 7 attempts, or that he got to the line 7 times in the first place.
* Okafor and Nerlens Noel started the 1st and 3rd quarters on the court together, but outside of that seemed to largely be staggered, with Brown spending the majority of the game with just one true big man. This is likely a trend that will continue, as both Okafor and Noel have been significantly better individually without the other on the court.
* I also thought Brett Brown did a better job of limiting Okafor’s runs to more manageable intervals. With the exception of a few possessions at the end of Okafor’s stints, he seemed to be more active on the defensive end.
* Okafor was the only Sixers starter to reach double figures in scoring. The rest of the starters combined for 22 points on 7-26 shooting from the field.
* Robert Covington scored 18 points off the bench on 6-14 shooting from the field, which included 3-9 from three point range. He also contributed 6 rebounds and 3 steals and played a team-high 35 minutes. It’s the second big game in a row for Covington, who scored 21 in the Sixers’ previous game against the Miami Heat. The Sixers offense looks noticeably better when Covington is on the floor and making shots from the perimeter.
* Jerami Grant continues to mix in intriguing drives to the hoop with frustrating plays. He made a three pointer tonight, the first he’s made in five games, but the floor spacing continues to suffer when he’s on the court with Okafor and Noel. He did have a tremendous chase-down block, though.
* Along with Covington, Isaiah Canaan (14 points, 3-9 from three) and Hollis Thompson (15 points, 3-7 from three) both made shots from the perimeter as well.
* Brett Brown continues to play with basically only two big men. Neither Christian Wood or Richaun Holmes, who is back with the team after missing time with a hamstring injury, saw minutes for the second game in a row.
* Starting shooting guard Nik Stauskas didn’t play in the second half because of knee pain. Isaiah Canaan started for him after the break, giving Brown a two point guard lineup.
* Nerlens Noel finished with 7 points, 5 rebounds, 2 steals, and a block in 32 minutes of play. He was active on the defensive side of the court during the first half, but didn’t seem to have quite the same impact in the second half. Noel only played 4 minutes in the 4th quarter, with Brown instead electing to go with Okafor for much of the time down the stretch.
* Speaking of the decision to go with Okafor, he barely touched the ball at the end of the game. Okafor scored 4 points in the middle of the fourth quarter, then didn’t get a field goal attempt in the final 4+ minutes of action, and rarely even touched the ball in a scoring position. The Sixers perimeter players really struggled to get the ball to Okafor late in the game.
* The Sixers held an 86-80 lead with 4:58 remaining. They were outscored 20-9 to end the game. Many of the same problems that were exhibited during the final stretch of the Miami game were present tonight, with bad ball movement, questionable lineup combinations, poor floor spacing, and bad shot selection down the stretch.
* The loss dropped the Sixers to 0-15 on the season and was their 25th straight loss in a row, including the 10 game losing streak they ended last year on. They can tie the NBA record for most losses in a row at 26 Wednesday at Boston.
Derek Bodner covers the 76ers for Philadelphia magazine’s new Sixers Post. Follow @DerekBodnerNBA on Twitter.