The Sixers were scheduled to play a basketball game Wednesday night and did so, beating the Wizards by a 141-136 score and improving to 7-1.
Those facts, and basketball in general, seemed secondary to the outside world.
Head coach Doc Rivers was thoughtful and unafraid to call things as he saw them pregame when asked about pro-Trump rioters storming the Capitol in Washington, D.C. He described it as a “disturbing” day and said, “Could you imagine if those were all Black people storming the Capitol, and what would’ve happened?”
The Celtics and Heat walked off the court before their scheduled game, then released a joint statement indicating they decided to play to “try to bring joy to people’s lives.”
Bucks and Pistons players took a knee after tipping off.
The Sixers will play again Thursday night against the Nets in Brooklyn. Below are observations on their win Wednesday:
Curry can’t miss
“When I get good shots, I expect to make them at a pretty high percentage,” Seth Curry said Saturday.
There’s plenty of evidence to support that sentiment. Curry caught fire in this game, making 6 of his 7 three-point attempts and scoring a season-high 28 points. He’s not a shooter who should ever lose confidence, but it’s clear he possesses it in abundance at the moment.
Curry’s pump fake has been very effective, in part because it’s convincing by itself and in part because not contesting his shot is risky. When the Sixers swing the ball around the perimeter and scrambling defenders close out on him, his pump fake is an especially useful tool.
The 30-year-old has now made 25 of 42 three-pointers as a Sixer (59.5 percent).
The Bradley Beal Show
The Sixers’ defense, which entered the game as the NBA’s best, allowed Bradley Beal to post a career-high 60 points on 20-for-35 shooting, a tremendous individual effort by the two-time All-Star.
In the big picture, performances like Beal’s shouldn’t be a massive concern. He’s a player difficult for any team to defend, and the Sixers managed to win despite their subpar defense.
Still, Beal’s big night is a reminder that the Sixers don’t have a conventional shutdown perimeter defender other than Ben Simmons, who guarded Russell Westbrook and had 17 points and 12 assists. Danny Green forces turnovers and plays smart team defense, but Simmons and Joel Embiid are several rungs above any other Sixer defensively. Needless to say, that’s still an excellent defensive foundation.
Speaking of Embiid, he scored 38 points and had three blocks and three steals, eventually finding an offensive groove after missing his first six field goal attempts, and providing important baskets down the stretch. He had an impressive chase-down block on Wizards point guard Raul Neto in the second quarter, hustling back to catch up to his much shorter former teammate.
A veteran’s response
Shake Milton only made 40.5 percent of his field goals and 27.3 percent of his threes over the Sixers’ first seven games. It was only a matter of time, though, until his shots started falling at a higher rate. Milton’s composure, self-belief and uncomplicated jumper have been helpful qualities early in his young NBA career. Green doesn’t view the 24-year-old as among the Sixers’ “young guys.”
“He’s a vet in my mind — the way he acts, the way he moves, his mannerisms,” Green said last week.
Milton broke through Wednesday for 19 points on 6-for-9 shooting, doing damage at all three levels.
He’s enjoyed the opportunity to play more with rookie Tyrese Maxey because of injuries to Furkan Korkmaz (left adductor strain) and Mike Scott (left knee contusion). Both players remained out against Washington.
“Young kid can go — ‘Rese can go,” Milton said after the Sixers’ shootaround Wednesday. “It’s definitely fun to have somebody like that in the backcourt with you. He can dribble, shoot, pass. He’s just a playmaker. Any time you have an extra playmaker on the court, it makes it fun to play with.”
It will be interesting to see what Rivers does with his bench when everyone is healthy. With the way Maxey’s speedy, high-energy style fits Rivers’ desired pace, it would be surprising to see his minutes drastically cut.