1. Now widely considered to be the top contender in the East given Boston’s major loss the Washington Wizards got right to work claiming a season opening win over the up and coming Philadelphia 76ers. And as per usual the best damned back court this side of the Mississippi had their mitts all over this one. Wall finished with an impressive 28 and 8 but what isn’t present in the stats is how he and Bradley Beal took over late and sealed the W from the young and rambunctious group. Beal had one helluva night with 25-6-4 and adding three steals.
The DC duo did not have a great shooting night. Together they were on 16 of 45 from the field including 1 of 7 from deep. However, it showed a resilience that has been questioned that they were able to get to the line at ease (20 for 25 between the two), ratchet up the defense and do all the little things that take talented but still young and unproven teams like the 76ers out of the game. After going down three at the half Wall and Beal scored 25 of their 34 third quarter points to effectively rest their supporting cast and keep them fresh for a fourth quarter in which they came in like gangbusters.
2. Ever since we were witness to how the Wizards’ title went down in flames culminating in a second half implosion in game 7 against the Celtics most of the attention went to Washington’s bench and rightfully so. The concerns followed them through the off-season as they did seemingly very little to rectify this. Compounded by the loss of starting power forward Markieff Morris for the first couple of months and the Wiz would appear to be facing some serious depth issues. Well that didn’t seem like the case last night. Kelly Oubre and Jodie Meeks (yes that Jodie Meeks) led all bench scorers with 14 a piece. Meeks offense was a clear bright spot for the Wiz but it was Oubre along with stepping in at the 4 and providing some pretty crack defense along the way. Otto Porter, Jr. who also chipped in 10 points nabbed three steals and repeatedly prevented the 76ers from getting too comfortable
After fighting most of last season with injuries Ian Mahinmi looked decent spelling Marcin “The Polish Hammer” Gortat last night. The two did an excellent job controlling the paint. Gortat had 16 points, grabbed 17 boards and blocked three shots while Ian chipped in 6 and 4 with a block although his largest impact was collecting a few fouls to keep their high minute guys out of trouble. Former Pelican Tim Frazier although scoerless did do a decent job at creating and controlling the flow of the game tossing five assists and Mike Scott did enough to keep defenses honest with his 7 points. Not saying that this is a cure all but for the time being it’s encouraging to see them produce against an at least average for the time being team.
3. We finally got a first look at the FEDS in real action. And in spite of them coming up short there’s a LOT to like here. However, it was one the non-FEDS that looked the best. Robert Covington (setting himself up to make ALL the money next summer) led the Sixers with 29 points including 7 of 11 from three to pace the 76ers. But y’all did’t come here to hear about that (as awesome as it was) you came here to fawn over the youngins’ and rightfully so. Joel “JoJo” Embiid, still visibly pissed over his minutes restriction put up 18 and 13 with 3 assists and a block. But it was the debut of Ben Simmons that caught my eye the most. On an impressive line of 18-10-5 with 2 steals and a block it is clear that not only did he not get rusty missing his first year but he picked up a lot of basketball. He looked comfortable, in control and while there’s still a little skittishness there he looked a lot more comfortable than I expected.
Now the F and the D in the FEDS had a more difficult time. Markelle Fultz finished with 10 points and 3 boards and only one assist while Saric could only muster 3 points, 3 boards and 2 assists in 22 minutes. Neither of these guys looked bad per se but they just seemed ill fitting. We all knew that fitting all of these puzzle pieces were going to be an issue and we also knew that this wasn’t going to get worked out in Game one of an 82 game season. Fultz did look tentative at times and pretty unsure about his decision making. Once again, we didn’t expect him to be Chris Paul after one game but concerning nonetheless.
While Fultz is coming along the 76ers are stuck with Jerryd Bayless starting at the point. Sure he wasn’t terrible last night scoring 13 on 50% shooting and tossing 3 dimes but this group will need a much more dynamic floor general to get the most out of this group. JJ Redick is a waste if he only gets 10 shot attempts and he cans half of his threes. Amir Johnson looked flat out lost and Tim Luwawu-Cabarrot and TJ McConnell look like third stringers. There’s a lot of good here but also a lot to learn. And that’s what’s going to make this so much fun.