By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)
— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) February 7, 2018
Philadelphia 115, Washington 102 – Box Score
You might have already heard this somewhere, but the Philadelphia Eagles are Super Bowl Champions. Like everyone else around Philadelphia, the Sixers wanted to honor the city’s heroes of the gridiron. Tuesday night, the entire Eagles offensive line was on hand to ring the ceremonial Liberty Bell on the court prior to the game. There was more than the usual sprinkling of green in the Wells Fargo Center crowd, with the jubilant masses constantly breaking out in E-A-G-L-E-S chants, along with more creative numbers like modifying Minnesota’s “Skol” war chant to “Foles”.
With that level of electricity in the building, it’s not surprising that the Sixers jumped out of the gates like Corey Clement racing downfield on a wheel route. Philadelphia dropped 37 points on the Wizards in the first quarter (I was really hoping they would match the Eagles’ 41 points for symbolic purposes); the team shot 16-23 from the field, their best shooting opening frame of the season, at one point surging to a 16-0 run.
Leading by 17 after one, it was then simply a matter of not Sixers-ing the advantage away. Sure, as they often do, the unnecessary turnovers came in droves (17 total on the evening). First-time All-Star Bradley Beal also scored 30 points on 12-22 shooting to leave a kernel of doubt in the mind of Sixers fans throughout the contest. But the Sixers were never in real danger of blowing this lead, and the fans’ euphoric streak of winning continued apace.
The team was on fire from distance all game long, connecting on 14 of 28 shots from behind the arc, led by J.J. Redick’s 4-5 night for 18 points. Meanwhile, Joel Embiid played up to his All-Star starter status, going off for 27 points, making 3 of his 7 threes from the top of the key, grabbing 12 rebounds, and swatting away 3 Washington shots. Whenever the offense bogged down in the half court, the Sixers would find Embiid in an isolation situation and he would bail them out by nailing a jumper over a defender. It’s incredibly valuable to have a “break in case of emergency” option of someone who is bigger than anyone else on the court and can get his shot off whenever and wherever he wants.
Ben Simmons also snagged his share of the spotlight, tallying 15 points, 6 rebounds, 8 assists, 3 steals, and a block. Per his usual MO, all of Simmons’ shot attempts came around the basket, but he makes it work by either finishing with a forceful dunk or using his ambidexterity to flip in some creative buckets. Simmons did have 5 turnovers, as did Robert Covington, so it wasn’t an entirely flawless night. Those edges need to be cleaned up on nights the Sixers aren’t shooting the lights out.
Though they were missing John Wall, a lot had been made about how the Wizards entered play a perfect 5-0 without their star point guard. The Sixers did well to ride the wave of enthusiasm the crowd brought to the table and start their five-game home stand heading into the All-Star break off on the right note. With the Pistons surging since the Blake Griffin trade, the Sixers need to string together some wins to keep pace in the playoff picture.
At the moment, everything is aces on the Philadelphia sports scene. The only negative on the night was the first media interview with Markelle Fultz in over a month; speaking with Caron Butler during the game, Fultz said, “it’s been a long journey just trying to relearn it [his shot].” Not exactly what you want to hear. The downfall of the first overall pick continues to be the biggest mystery in sports. When you’re a city of Super Bowl Champions though, nothing can get you down.