Wizards lose third straight as James Harden records 17 assists for 76ers

Wizards lose third straight as Harden records 17 assists originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

WASHINGTON — The Washington Wizards lost to the Philadelphia 76ers 118-111 on Halloween at Capital One Arena. Here are five takeaways from what went down…

Three in a row

The Wizards were 3-1 through their first four games this season, but a lot can change in a short period of time as it only took four days for them to lose three consecutive games, leaving them at 3-4. After losing to the Pacers at home and the Celtics on the road, they returned home for a lopsided defeat at the hands of the Sixers.

Philly played without superstar Joel Embiid, who sat with a non-COVID illness. But James Harden (23 points, 17 assists) and Tyrese Maxey (28 points) were plenty enough for them to get the win. The Sixers created separation with a +13 margin in the third quarter and were able to hold the Wizards off after that.

The Wizards fell to 3-4 on the season and it won’t get any easier moving forward. They see the Sixers again on Wednesday, then the Nets and Grizzlies after that.

No Embiid changed some things

Without Embiid, the Sixers went micro with P.J. Tucker starting at center. He’s 6-foot-5, which means he had a 10-inch height disadvantage battling the 7-foot-3 Kristaps Porzingis in the post. Porzingis was able to capitalize with a strong offensive game of 32 points (10-16 FG) to go along with nine rebounds, but Tucker held his own in other areas, as he usually does. He did a nice job of creating openings for Sixers’ guards off screens and broke free for a few baskets of his own, scoring 13 points.

Former Wizards fan favorite Montrezl Harrell also made a big difference in the second half, partly leading to Taj Gibson replacing Daniel Gafford in the second unit. Where the Wizards probably wish they took advantage more is in the paint. The Sixers outdid the Wizards in paint points, 56-50. 

Deni to the bench

Before the game, when asked the customary question of whether he would use the same starters, head coach Wes Unseld Jr. responded with a vague “maybe.” It wasn’t clear at the time if that actually meant a change was coming, as he could have just been practicing gamesmanship. But sure enough, there was a new lineup, as Deni Avdija moved to the bench after starting the first six games. He was replaced by Anthony Gill.

Avdija only played 11 minutes in the Wizards’ loss to the Celtics on Sunday night, as Unseld Jr. went away from him after a poor defensive start, albeit due to some very difficult assignments. Avdija played 17 minutes in this one and played better. He had a rough beginning, but rallied to get some stops against Harden and was able to show a little bit more of his passing ability with a handful of assists. That’s the thing about Avdija coming off the bench. While he balances out the starting lineup well, he should have more of an opportunity to spread his wings offensively in the second unit.

Slow start for Beal

After going scoreless in the first half of Sunday’s loss for the first time since 2018, Bradley Beal managed only four points in the first half against Philadelphia. He was better in the third quarter, with eight points in the frame, and ended up with 20 points for the night on 7-for-18 shooting with four turnovers. With 12 points against Boston, that means he combined to score 32 points in two games. It wasn’t long ago that was a single-game number for Beal.

Beal, though, has had a heck of a time against two tough defenses on back-to-back nights. Against Philly, he saw a lot of contact, yet only got to the line four times. He’s in a bit of a rut right now and the referees seem intent on not lending any help. It will be interesting to see if the Wizards do anything differently next game to try to shake his slump.

Still waiting on Kispert

Corey Kispert sat out once again due to his sprained left ankle, despite last week practicing for the Wizards and being described by Unseld Jr. as “really close.” According to the Wizards’ coach, Kispert continues to make progress practicing with the Capital City Go-Go. He’s just not quite ready yet.

Wednesday will mark four weeks since Kispert’s injury was first revealed and the original timeline was 4-6 weeks. So, given that, it probably shouldn’t be a surprise he hasn’t played yet, even though it seemed like his return was imminent late last week. The Wizards play their next game on Wednesday and that will technically be within the original window the team gave as a projection. Maybe he plays against Philly. If not, the Wizards’ next game is Friday vs. the Nets.

This article was written by WTOP’s news partner, NBC Sports Washington. Sign up for NBC Sports Washington’s free email subscription today.

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