NBA opening night: 4 takeaways from 76ers narrow win over the Wizards

By Vincent Frank
Dec 23, 2020; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia 76ers guard Ben Simmons (25) controls the ball against Washington Wizards guard Russell Westbrook (4) during the second quarter at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

NBA opening night might have been put on the back burner some due to news coming from Houston. However, that didn’t stop the Philadelphia 76ers and Washington Wizards from playing one heck of a game.

With Russell Westbrook making his Wizards debut, Washington led pretty much from the opening jump ball to the final minutes before Philadelphia came back with a flurry in the fourth quarter. The 76ers outscored the Wizards 40-24 in the fourth quarter with stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons leading the way.

Meanwhile, the Wizards’ star-studded backcourt of Westbrook and Bradley Beal combined for 52 points in the narrow loss. Here’s our look at the top takeaways from the 76ers season-opening win against a game Wizards team.

Philadelphia 76ers’ Tobias Harris in jeopardy of losing starting job

76ers Tobias Harris struggled against Wizards
Dec 23, 2020; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia 76ers forward Tobias Harris (12) shoots against against the Washington Wizards during the second quarter at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Harris was downright disastrous from a shooting perspective Wednesday evening, connecting on just 3-of-13 shots from the field. He also finished minus-seven in 31 minutes of action. For someone making a resounding $36 million per season, that’s simply not going to cut it.

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On the other hand, third-year guard Shake Milton was brilliant when replacing Harris on the court. The former second-round pick scored 19 points on 6-of-11 shooting. Even more eye-opening, he was plus-33 in 30 minutes of action. Sure Milton is your traditional two-guard and Harris plays small forward. But it might now be time for the 76ers to swap the two in their starting lineup.

Russell Westbrook dazzles in Wizards debut

It was one of the biggest blockbuster trades around the NBA world this past offseason. The Washington Wizards acquiring former MVP Russell Westbrook in a trade with the Houston Rockets for John Wall.

While Wizards fans have love for the injury-plagued Wall, getting someone of Westbrook’s ilk in return to team up with Bradley Beal seemed to be a marriage made in heaven.

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Westbrook more than proved that in his debut with the Wizards against what many expected to be a superior Philadelphia 76ers team Wednesday evening. The Triple-double machine more than lived up to that moniker, scoring 21 points, grabbing 11 rebounds and dishing out 15 assists in a six-point loss.

Wizards need to get more production from the frontcourt

We already know that Westbrook and Bradley Beal will be doing most of the scoring for this Wizards team. That’s how they planned it when they acquire Russ. However, the team’s starting frontcourt has to assist from a scoring perspective more than what we saw during Wednesday’s loss.

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Rookie Deni Avdija, Isaac Bonga and Thomas Bryant combined to score just 22 points on 9-of-18 from the field. Sure they were efficient, but the trio must be more willing to take shots. It will help when Rui Hachimura returns from a freak injury. Davis Bertans also performed well off the bench. With that said, this has to be a bit concerning.

76ers new backcourt struggles

76ers Seth Curry struggled against the Wizards
Dec 15, 2020; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia 76ers guard Seth Curry (31) shoots against the Boston Celtics during the third quarter at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Despite the brilliant play of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons Wednesday evening, there’s a potentially concerning theme for new 76ers head coach Doc Rivers. Philadelphia went out there and acquired Seth Curry and Danny Green to help the team’s perimeter shooting after major struggles over the past few seasons.

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Curry and Green did absolutely nothing to prove that they are the answers here. The duo shot 1-of-9 from three-point range, scoring a combined 15 points. This didn’t help a 76ers squad that shot 29% from distance despite Wednesday’s win. And it has to be of some concern for Rivers.