SHORTHANDED SIXERS BATTLE TO 125-119 2-OT LOSS IN HOME OPENER

Dario Saric, the 22-year old Croatian, finished with 14 points and four boards in 18 minutes.

By Annie Ross

The Sixers played their first home preseason game last night at the Wells.

Trouble is, they were without Cat Barber (right wrist, right hand), Nerlens Noel (left groin), Jahlil Okafor (right knee), and Nik Stauskas (left hamstring). were all sidelined.

Brandon Paul (right groin) was lost along the way. Joel Embiid and Gerald Henderson were each limited to 12 minutes.

The remaining players bowed to the Washington Wizards, 125-119, in double-overtime.

“We have multiple banged up players,” said Brown. “For them to get through it was a real credit to them.”

The Sixers trailed by nine points with five minutes to go in the fourth quarter. T.J. McConnell was the lone starter still being used at that stage, and he helped lead a push that got the Sixers a lead, 99-98, with 11.2 seconds remaining.

The Sixers were then whistled for an away-from-the-play foul, which set Washington up for a game-tying free throw that sent the tilt to overtime.

The first extra period was played at a see-saw pace. The Sixers quickly established a four-point margin, only to see the Wizards pull in front by three with 10.0 seconds to go. As time was winding down, Hollis Thompson netted at triple that knotted the score at 110-110. Another five minutes were subsequently needed.

The Wizards tallied the first five points of the second overtime, and never looked back.

“They don’t go away, they don’t roll over,” Brown said, praising the Sixers’ second-stringers. “You just see that they continue to fight.”

Several back-ups were impressive: Richaun Holmes, the second-year forward out of Bowling Green, was one of them, pacing the Sixers with 20 points (8-14 fg, 4-4 ft) and 12 rebounds.

“He is a determined, competitive young man, and you see it all over his face,” said Brown. “We’ve seen his basketball skill displayed [tonight].”

Jerami Grant, entering his third season with the team, connected on his first six shots of the evening, en route to tallying 17 points (7-9 fg). The Syracuse product posted four rebounds and five assists as well.

Dario Saric, the 22-year old Croatian, finished with 14 points (5-7 fg, 2-3 3fg) and four boards in 18 minutes.

“It was something special for me, because I will spend here 41 games during the regular season,” said Saric. “I get the chance to feel the atmosphere, how it will be for our games. I feel how the people are patient, are tough here in Philly. I think that will be like our sixth man on the court.”

A constant hustler with seemingly endless energy, Saric, much like he did versus Boston, delivered a “do-all” effort. Especially at the outset of the night, he was a spark, punching in the first two field goals – a powerful transition lay-up, then a smooth 18-foot mid-range jumper – that fueled the Sixers’ game-opening 11-0 burst.

“First two games, I think I did well,” Saric said. “It doesn’t mean now I’m 100 percent ready. It’s one step forward to find myself here.”

Following a script similar to Tuesday, Embiid logged all of his playing time in the first half. His final line read five points (2-6 fg), three rebounds, and one block in 12 minutes, six seconds. He too appeared at The Center for the first time in a Sixers’ uniform.

The crowd of nearly 10,500 responded accordingly with a strong ovation during pre-game introductions, and cheered when Embiid got early touches on the block.

“That’s Philadelphia, isn’t it?,” said Brown. “They extended a big hug to Joel. We’ve heard this name for all these years, and he’s been sort of tucked away. He’s been not a part of us. For the city to be able to look out on the floor and see a very large man, a big man, an incredible athlete, [the response] didn’t surprise me.”

On Sixers fans getting to see Joel Embiid and Dario Saric take the floor at The Center for the first time, coach Brett Brown said:

“It’s very important because these two players were that mystery, redshirt year, where we draft them and nobody sees them. And we talked a lot about them and now here they are. Both Dario and Joel come on the court and we all can see they are for-real players. They are young, and I expect them to be around a long time in this league.”

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