Despite all of the pessimism heading into Monday’s game with the Philadelphia 76ers, the Washington Wizards came out with energy, and were able to steal a 117-98 win against a tough, in-conference opponent.
The game comes in the middle of an eight game home stand for Washington, who now move to 3-1 in the first four games of that stretch. A New York Knicks loss and the Toronto Raptors likely losing to the Miami Heat later tonight will move the Wizards up one spot in the standings, to the eighth seed. They now sit just one game behind the seventh place Charlotte Hornets and are now just two and a half games behind the Sixers, who, with the loss to the Wizards fall to 25-18. With the Cleveland Cavaliers beating a shorthanded Brooklyn Nets team, Philadelphia moves one spot down to the sixth seed.
Lots of bright spots in Washington Wizards win over Philadelphia 76ers
This win wasn’t a fluke either, Joel Embiid had 32 points on 10-20 shooting. Tyrese Maxey had 18 points on 5-10 shooting. The Wizards just played better.
Wizards forward Kyle Kuzma was the star of this one. He recorded 16 rebounds, 15 points, 4 assists, and 3 blocks while shooting 6-13 from the field, including 1-3 from 3-point range. Kuzma’s performance included more than one highlight reel play, but the one everyone will be talking about is his poster dunk over 76ers center Joel Embiid:
Thomas Bryant and Montrezl Harrell also had amazing games coming off the bench. Bryant notched 15 points and 5 rebounds and shot 6-11 from the field, while Harrell logged 18 points and 7 rebounds on 6-9 shooting. Spencer Dinwiddie contributed to the offensive end, despite having just 7 points and 2 turnovers, by moving the ball and grabbing 7 assists.
Another bright spot for Wizard fans has to be the return of Bradley Beal. Beal has missed the last week of games after returning a positive test for COVID-19. Yesterday, his status was updated to “QUESTIONABLE” for today’s game, and it was announced later that he would be a game time decision for the Wizards. Washington opted to let him play, and he recorded 13 points, 6 assists, and 5 rebounds.
Washington was moving the ball phenomenally all night, ending with 25 assists compared to the 76ers’ 19. In total, 59.4 percent of their points were off of assists. The Wizards also made sure to keep the ball under a tight lock today, giving up just 12 turnovers, most of which came in the fourth quarter after the game had already been decided.
The Wizards schedule over the next few games gives some room for hope as well. On Wednesday they’ll play the Brooklyn Nets in their fifth of eight straight home games. While this matchup would normally be a hard one to chalk up a win for Washington in, Brooklyn is currently playing shorthanded, and will be playing without Kevin Durant, who has a sprained MCL in his left knee. The Nets lost their most recent game, today, against the Cavaliers. Of course, the Wizards will still have to worry about the three-headed monster of Kyrie Irving, James Harden, and Blake Griffin, but Brooklyn coming into the game without arguably their most talented player should give Wizards fans a little bit of hope.
After that, Washington plays the Toronto Raptors, a game which could easily go either way, followed by the Boston Celtics. While Boston has been surging lately, and they did win their last game, the Celtics have struggled all season long, and that last game was against the New Orleans Pelicans. With the Wizards holding a 2-0 series advantage in games against Boston, their should be a lot of hope for a positive outcome in that game.
If Washington can hold on through this next stretch of games, the middle of February holds a reprieve in schedule for them, with the Wizards facing a slew of beatable teams including the Detroit Pistons, the Sacramento Kings, and the Indiana Pacers.