WASHINGTON (AP) — Joseph Blair was next in Washington’s line of succession. With coach Wes Unseld Jr. and assistant Pat Delany in health and safety protocols, it would be his job to run the team.
Blair’s players made that task a little easier.
“Some feelings, words don’t do justice, and I think today was one for me,” Blair said. “You get kind of consumed in the game at a certain point, and you no longer care where you’re at. You’re just doing what you need to do to get the team moving forward, whether it’s when I’m standing up as the head coach or if I’m sitting on the bench as an assistant coach.”
Kyle Kuzma had 15 points and 16 rebounds, and Bradley Beal added 13 points in his return from a three-game absence to lift the Washington Wizards to a 117-98 victory over Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers on Monday.
Unseld missed a second straight game after entering health and safety protocols. Delany, who coached the team Saturday, also entered the protocols, forcing Blair to take over for this game. Blair was a head coach in the G League with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers in 2018-19. Then he was an NBA assistant for Philadelphia and Minnesota before joining Unseld’s new staff in Washington this season.
Beal had been out since entering the protocols himself, but he returned and scored 11 points in the first quarter. Washington went on an early 11-0 run and never looked back.
Embiid scored 32 points for the 76ers, but he was on the receiving end of the game’s biggest highlight when Kuzma dunked over him in the second quarter. Philadelphia lost for only the second time in its last 11 games.
After the Wizards led 61-55 at halftime, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored seven quick points in the third quarter, including a 3-pointer that put Washington up 72-59.
“Dog days of the NBA, but you’ve got to fight through that,” Philadelphia’s Tyrese Maxey said. “We started out slow, and it’s hard to come back once you start out slow.”
It was a six-point lead early in the fourth before the Wizards went on a 22-5 run to put the game away.
Washington had seven players in double figures. Montrezl Harrel led the way with 18 points, and Thomas Bryant had 15.
“It didn’t matter who they played tonight,” 76ers coach Doc Rivers said. “All of them played better than our guys. It was just one of those nights. I thought we got outplayed in every phase of the game.”
Kuzma dunked over Embiid with one hand to give the Wizards a 58-47 lead.
“I owed him, actually, because my rookie year I tried to dunk on him, and it didn’t go so well,” Kuzma said.
Moments later, Kuzma blocked a shot attempt by Embiid at the other end.
BACK AT IT
Beal didn’t score much after the first quarter, but he finished with six assists and five rebounds. He also played 32:39, the most of anyone on the team.
“I’m totally pleased with Brad,” Blair said. “I think the numbers don’t do justice what he brought to the game, because even when he’s not making baskets or getting those assists, he still draws the attention of the defense in an unbelievable way. It’s very noticeable, if you ever see him with the ball, how much everything shifts in his direction.”
76ers: Andre Drummond and Rivers were both called for technical fouls. … Philadelphia was without Danny Green (right hip) for a third straight game, and Matisse Thybulle (right shoulder) was out for a second in a row. … Maxey (18 points) was the only player besides Embiid in double figures for the 76ers.
Wizards: Bryant and Harrell were called for technicals. … Caldwell-Pope scored 14 points, and Corey Kispert and Rui Hachimura contributed 11 each.
76ers: Host Orlando on Wednesday night.
Wizards: Host Brooklyn on Wednesday night.
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