Early turnovers and a lack of bench production marred Washington’s chance at redemption Saturday as the Wizards fell 103-90 to the visiting Philadelphia 76ers. The Sixers were led by Andre Iguodala, who scored 17 of his 23 points in the first half. The Wizards were led by JaVale McGee, who tied a career-high 18 rebounds to go with a 23 points and 5 blocks line in the back-to-back defeat.
“It was a tough game. We felt like we were out there playing hard but it just wasn’t enough tonight,” McGee said postgame. “It’s definitely frustrating right now because I don’t like losing.” McGee got off to a great start and nearly achieved a double-double by halftime. He began the night with a dance inside Washington’s pregame huddle and looked loose on the offensive end, something Wizards Head Coach Flip Saunders has preached to his guys. “I try to be energized before every game, and try to get my teammates energized and hyped before the game,” McGee said, regarding the dance. “I was just having fun.”
McGee’s balance on the court–something not often said about the 7-1 big–helped Washington tremendously on a night in which their forwards struggled as a collective. Starting forwards Chris Singleton and Trevor Booker combined for only 6 points in last night’s loss, while reserve Rashard Lewis sank only one of his ten looks from the field. The loss of Andray Blatche didn’t help either, and it might be awhile before the Wizards can suit their veteran up.
“It’s going to be a little bit of time,” Wizards Head Coach Flip Saunders said pregame. “He’s (Blatche is) going through his treatment and everything else. It’s not hours or days away from that.” Blatche took a few shots from the Verizon Center main court long before the game’s pregame warmups, and he stretched out his range well beyond the arc as he lofted three ball attempt after three ball attempt. He rotated his affected right shoulder often between spots on the floor, and earlier, while trying to find his rhythm at the free throw line, shook his head as he suffered through off-the-mark looks.
Without Blatche, Washington lacked production off the bench. The Wizards took a 26-23 lead after one quarter but their second-unit struggled from the field. Washington missed six of their first eight shots in the second quarter, and a lot of them were gimmies, or shots you’d expect any pro baller to make. Layups, three-footers. The Wizards actually gave up the ball seven times in the first quarter, yet their six turnovers in the second really added weight as Washington’s second unit failed to knock down buckets. The Wizards went from shooting 50% in the first to 27.3% in the second.
“When we have a tendency to hold the ball we end up with a lot of turnovers. We just weren’t winning at the free throw line or with turnovers,” Wizards Head Coach Flip Saunders said after the game. “We were trying to get a run but they (76ers) were getting really comfortable with us, especially after last night’s game. We definitely stepped up our confidence at the end of the game but we have to understand that winning is not going to happen unless we make it happen.” Despite the trouble, Washington found three starters with solid lines by the end of the night. JaVale had his big game, Nick Young finished with 27 points on 11-for-22 shooting, while John Wall–despite 7 of his 8 turnovers coming in the first half–finished with 19 points on 6-for-14 shooting, 9 assists, and 9 rebounds. “I would say the second half was the best half of basketball he (Wall) has ever played with us,” Saunders said. “He was being really aggressive and put in a great effort. He was a constant asset tonight. He got frustrated at times but we talked him through it and maintained his focus.” Wall’s focus helped cut a 20 point fourth quarter deficit to 10, but the Wizards were mistake prone over the last few minutes and couldn’t find the basket. With exactly a minute left in the game Wall committed an offensive foul, his only turnover in the second half. The turnover all but acted as the final “dagger.”
On the last Wizards shot of the game–a miss by Young from 27-feet–McGee had time to rebound the ball but it went to Iguodala at the final buzzer. If McGee secured the ball he would have set a new career-high in rebounds, yet it went to Iguodala’s impressive line of 23 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, and 5 steals. Iguodala paced the Sixers but he also received help from his bench. Thaddeus Young scored 18 while Louis Williams chipped in 24. Philadelphia’s bench production was one of the main differences in the game. “They were just knocking down shots and playing tough defense,” Young (Nick) said after the game. “They’ve been together a long time and have great chemistry. We started the game well but we have to find a way to do it for 48 minutes.” On the subject of free throws, an area which Coach Saunders addressed during his postgame presser, Young missed his first ever look this season. “I think somebody on TV jinxed me. I ain’t saying no names–Comcast–I ain’t saying no names, but somebody jinxed me,” he joked. Young is referring to play-by-play great Steve Buckhantz, who, with color analyst and former Bullets great Phil Chenier, often discusses the superstition of free throw jinxing by talking about free throw stats after the shots. Young went a perfect 30-for-30 on the season before missing late in the second quarter on his first of four shots from the stripe. He made his next three and is now 33-for-34 on the season.