Photos: Kurt Gies
On a night the 76ers (27-14) were without JJ Redick (back), the sharpshooter’s understudy did just fine, thank you.
In fact, his performance was historic.
Setting a new franchise rookie record by hitting eight 3-pointers, Landry Shamet led the way, scoring a career-high 29 points as the Sixers rolled past the Washington Wizards (16-25), 132-115, Tuesday at The Center.
He caught fire late in the third quarter, connecting on four of his threes in the final four minutes of the frame. His other four threes came in the first half.
Shamet’s eight treys established a new season-high for all first-year players in the NBA. He became just the 10th rookie ever to reach the mark, and finished one triple shy of tying the league mark shared by Yogi Ferrell (2017) and Rodrigue Beaubois (2010).
“When you lose JJ, you try to find other ways to score, and we sure found ways to score with [Shamet],” said Brett Brown.
Thanks to Shamet’s crazy heat check, the Sixers matched their longest winning streak of the year, at four, and stayed unbeaten since the calendar flipped to 2019. They also tied a season-high with 17 threes collectively, and rewrote an arena record with 39 assists.
“It just felt like any other game,” Shamet said. “I came out and was shooting the ball, and these guys just keep telling me to keep shooting and just let the game come to me. It just turned into what it turned into.”
For as critical as Shamet was to putting Washington away, Jimmy Butler was vital to giving the Sixers a needed kick start. The Wizards raced out to a 10-point lead three and a half minutes into regulation, but it was Butler who tallied nine points during a go-ahead 12-2 spurt.
The All-Star, back in action for the first time in three games, started 6 for 6 from the field, and racked up 20 points on the night.
Like Butler and the rest of the Sixers’ starters, Joel Embiid didn’t play beyond Tuesday’s third period. The big man posted his 35th double-double of the season (20 pts, 10 reb), while Ben Simmons supplied 17 points, five rebounds, and nine assists.
Click here for a complete box score.
Back in the spring, the Sixers worked Landry Shamet out twice before the draft. Almost immediately in his first audition, the Wichita State product left a lasting impression that would ultimately tempt the Sixers to choose him with the 26 overall pick.
Brett Brown retold the story following Tuesday’s game:
“One of the things that [Senior Advisor to the Head Coach] Jim O’Brien spotted, I think in the… first minute that we brought him into a gym and worked him out, was his ability to get a shot off quick. There is no dip. He’s not trying to get hand position on the ball. He can receive a ball and shoot a ball at the level that he catches it. He doesn’t have to bring it down, or bring it over, or whatever. It really was one of the attractions when we watched him workout, and it was Coach O’Brien who was on it first.”
Brown said that against Washington, Shamet’s skill was “at its best.”
“He could catch and get shots off quick,” Brown said of Shamet. “The wiggle room in our league is so small, the ability to do that ends up really being an incredible advantage as you move forward in your career – can you get shots off against elite NBA athletes? Tonight he did.”
ONE FOR EVERYONE
There were plenty of big numbers that emerged from Tuesday’s win, with Landry Shamet’s point and 3-point field goal totals most prominent among them.
Also of note versus the Wizards was that the Sixers equaled a season-high with 132 points in regulation. They also tied a season-best with 17 threes, and registered considerable advantages in points in the paint (58-40) and fastbreak points (18-6).
The figure, however, that most stood out to Brett Brown was his team’s 39 assists. For a head coach who has long preached that the “pass is king,” three dozen-plus dimes was a welcomed sight.
“That’s my favorite stat on this page,” Brown said, referring to Tuesday’s final box score, “because everybody on this team had one [assist], and 39 is a big, big number. It’s a mentality, it’s a statement. I think that’s how we want to play, that’s how we’ve always played.
“When you get into having good players, and potential All-Stars and all that, can we still do it in that team environment? Tonight, we did it. People shared in each other’s success.”
HITTING THE HALFWAY NOTE
Incredibly, the Sixers, in a promising blur, have now reached the midway point of the 2018-19 season.
And by the end of the night, they had their 27th victory in hand.
Not since the special 2000-01 campaign, when the club opened 31-10 en route to making a Finals run, has the franchise earned this many wins through 41 games.
To put the Sixers’ current start into context, their 27 triumphs were, as of Tuesday night, tied for third-most in the NBA, behind only Eastern Conference rivals the Toronto Raptors (31) and Milwaukee Bucks (28).
Entering the day, Brett Brown’s group ranked 11th overall in offensive rating (110.1), 11th in defensive rating (107.7), and ninth in net rating (2.4), while pacing the NBA with a 65.9 assist percentage.
As for drawing any hard, fast conclusions at this stage of the year, Brett Brown remains reluctant. He still believes the Sixers have room to grow.
“It’s too broad of a question, what have I learned in the first half of the year. What I will tell you is I’m looking more forward to the second half of the year, in we can take whatever problems and concerns we’ve had, and move on. It has to be first and primarily focused to defense. That’s where my head is at.”
HIGHSMITH PLAYS TWO
Haywood Highsmith certainly had a busy, momentous day Tuesday.
He was at The Center early in the morning, suiting up for the Delaware Blue Coats in an 11 am match-up with Raptors 905.
After turning in a seven-point, eight-rebound effort for the Sixers’ G League affiliate in a 119-108 win, the swing man was summoned to team headquarters in Camden to tend to some important business – signing a two-way contract, his first deal of any kind stipulating actual NBA playing time.
Then, by the middle of the afternoon, Highsmith was back in South Philadelphia, once again at The Center, for the Sixers’ pairing with the Washington Wizards.
Brett Brown said in his pre-game chat with the media he didn’t necessarily expect to use Highsmith, an undrafted Division II product from Wheeling Jesuit, for at least a few games.
It’s a safe bet, though, that Brown also wasn’t expecting the Sixers to get up as big as they did against Washington, which had two days earlier beaten Oklahoma City on the road.
So, Highsmith got some fourth quarter run, and even managed to hit a 3-pointer in the closing minutes of regulation.
“I didn’t think I was too far off,” Highsmith said Tuesday, when asked how close he thought he was to inking an NBA deal. “I already knew teams were interested in me. I’m versatile, 6-foot-7, I can switch onto people, shoot the three. That’s a pretty good game for NBA players. I knew I was there, but I’m still developing now.”
Through 21 outings with the Blue Coats, Highsmith had averaged 13.8 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 2.4 assists per game.
It was Landry Shamet’s world, and we were all living in it.
The Sixers and Wizards wrap up a back-to-back, home-and-home series Wednesday at Capital One Arena. The Sixers will be bidding for a sweep of the three-game season set between the teams.