He stepped up against Chicago, not only snagging nine defensive boards, but also becoming the youngest player in franchise history to haul in more than 10 rebounds overall in a single game. The company that Okafor now keeps in having registered a 21 point, 15-rebound performance prior to his 20th birthday? Chris Bosh, Dwight Howard, LeBron James, and Anthony Randolph!
By Barbara Harrison
There are two ways to look at last night’s Sixers’ 111-88 loss to the Chicago Bulls at the Wells:
It was the 7th straight defeat for the young and dinged-up Sixers; or
It was the night when rookie center Jahlil Okafor officially silenced his critics.
Nerlens Noel, the team’s leading rebounder, was injured and couldn’t play, so Okafor rose to the occasion, with 21 points and 15 rebounds.
Okafor, the third overall selection in the 2015 NBA draft, became just the fifth player in league history to reach those statistical marks before turning 20 years old.
Taking on a Bulls’ frontline that featured All-Star Pau Gasol and 2015 NBA Rookie of the Year runner-up Nikola Mirotic, Okafor battled away. A steady rebounding presence throughout the night, he managed to hit just two of his 12 field goal tries in the first half. He then settled in following intermission, converting 7 of final 13 attempts from the floor. Jerami Grant, Richaun Holmes, and Phil Pressey all finished with 11 points. T.J. McConnell had eight assists.
While the Sixers strung together a 22-4 run to jump in front by three points mid-way through the second quarter, Chicago clamped down from there. The Bulls outscored the Sixers by 14 points in the second half. Derrick Rose produced 12 points and seven assists, while Mirotic tallied 20 points and 10 rebounds. Doug McDermott totaled 18 points.
Even more so than usual in these early days of his NBA career, Okafor found himself under the microscope, due to the wrist soreness that kept Nerlens Noel out of the game.
He stepped up against Chicago, not only snagging nine defensive boards, but also becoming the youngest player in franchise history to haul in more than 10 rebounds overall in a single game. The company that Okafor now keeps in having registered a 21 point, 15-rebound performance prior to his 20th birthday? Chris Bosh, Dwight Howard, LeBron James, and Anthony Randolph.
On the Sixers’ three rookie frontcourt players, Richaun Holmes, Jahlil Okafor, and Christian Wood, Sixers coach Brett Brown said:
“What I saw [Monday], the two young bigs [Holmes, Wood] were impressive. I was most pleased with Jahlil. We talked to him a lot about the few areas that can make him great, because he has the gift of scoring. But his rebounding, to have 15 rebounds…and play 31 minutes, I think he responded to us trying to help. For me to see him respond the way he did, and make a great effort to get better at that, I’m proud of that.”
Brown also updated the timeline of Robert Covington’s recovery from his second right knee sprain, saying the sharp-shooter could be back by Saturday’s game at the Spurs.