WASHINGTON -- Thursday's win over the Sixers may not have been the best defensive performance of this season for the Wizards, but it's up there.
Granted, the bar has not been set very high. They are quite literally on pace to be one of the worst defenses in NBA history.
And some of the numbers at first glance suggest they weren't even that great against Philadelphia in Thursday's win. They still allowed 113 points, the Sixers shot 53.2 percent from the field and made 13-of-28 threes, good for 46.4 percent.
But the Sixers also had 21 turnovers, the Wizards outscored them 40-22 in the second quarter and Philly's bench managed only 18 points. And of the turnovers, 15 came from Joel Embiid (eight) and Ben Simmons (seven), their two best players.
"We just wanted to show a lot of activity [and] we wanted to be aggressive," head coach Scott Brooks said. "We wanted to throw some frustration into the game by throwing extra hands at their main players, and I thought the guys did a good job."
The extra hands were in the form of all-out double-teams, particularly on Embiid in the post. He leads the NBA in post-ups per game and once he got locked in to one with a defender, the Wizards sent help.
Embiid still ended up with 26 points and 21 rebounds, but the eight turnovers were killer. All in all, Moe Wagner and Ian Mahinmi felt good about how they fared as the ones assigned to him all night.
"The dude had 20 and 20 like it was nothing. But we did a good job," Wagner said.
Both Mahinmi and Wagner credited the double-teams as being of help. They knew they had reinforcements and that gave them extra confidence. They also used their fouls and sent him to the line 14 times.
"The good thing is that it's never really a one-on-one thing with Joel. We get help left and right. My teammates have my back," Mahinmi said.
As for Simmons, Brooks pointed to the job second-year wing Isaac Bonga did on him. Bonga is 6-foot-9 and a scrappy defender and, though Simmons had 17 points and 10 assists, Bonga may have done as well guarding him as any Wizards player has since Simmons entered the league. He had previously been a pain for the Wizards, so much so they once intentionally fouled him enough to set an NBA record for free throw attempts in a quarter.
In a way, injuries may have paved the way for the Wizards' defensive effort on Thursday. Isaiah Thomas was out with a calf injury and he would have been a liability against the Sixers, who have an unusually tall lineup. And Thomas Bryant was out with a foot injury, which gave Mahinmi a rare chance to play in what was his season debut.
Mahinmi's best attributes are on defense and that showed in the Wizards' win.
"I'm not super, super happy with what I did. But I will take that for a first game," he said.
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