Covington, Simmons shine as Sixers fight hard in opening loss to Wizards

Markelle Fultz shoots over the Washington Wizards' Marcin Gortat during the second quarter.

WASHINGTON  — 76ers coach Brett Brown thinks it’s unintelligent to make a judgment on his squad after one game.

He thinks folks will get a better sense of his team after the first third of the season. Perhaps we will learn more then.

The Sixers looked like a team worthy of all the offseason hype before ultimately falling, 120-115, to the Washington Wizards  in the season opener for both Wednesday night at the Capital One Center.

“We see what we’re capable of,”  Robert Covington said. “Overall, it’s one game. We’ve got to build on it.”

The Sixers  had their chances.

After trailing by 12 point late in the third quarter, they pulled within two points with 1 minute, 18 seconds remaining. However, Jerryd Bayless and Covington turned the ball over on ensuing possessions. They later pulled within three-point on a Covington layup with 2.1 seconds remaining.

However, Bradley Beal hit a pair of foul shots to give the Wizards  their five-point cushion with virtually no time left.

Covington led all scorers with 29 points and tied his career-high with seven three-pointers. The forward also finished with seven rebounds, two blocks, one assist, and one steal.

“My teammates were finding me in open spots,” Covington said.

But his effort didn’t prevent the Sixers from dropping their fourth consecutive season opener. The squad also extended its losing streak to nine games dating back to last season. It will get a chance to snap the skid against the Boston Celtics in Friday’s home opener at the Wells Fargo Center.

But it’s hard to compare this team with the Sixers squad of last season.

Ben Simmons, the 2016 first overall pick, and  Bayless are healthy. The Sixers traded up to select Markelle Fultz first overall in the June’s NBA draft. And they acquired J.J. Redick and Amir Johnson in free agency.

All of them contributed in the opener. But on this night, Joel Embiid had the biggest story line.

The franchise center finished with 18 points, 13 rebounds, three assists, one block, and four turnovers in 26 minutes, 57 seconds. He made 7 of 15 shots in his first regular-season game since Jan. 27 after suffering  a torn meniscus in his left knee. Embiid said he was surprised by the amount of minutes he played.  He was told Tuesday that he would only play around 16 to 17. But it turned out that they listened to his negotiating more minutes.

“They listened to me,” Embiid said. “That’s the partnership you got to have.  You got to understand each other. They got listen to me. I got to listen to what they have to say and work on that.

“But I was happy and excited. Hopefully [the minutes] keep going on up.”

Simmons finished with 18 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, two steals and one after missing last season with a Jones fracture in his right foot. He said his performance was “OK.”

But Brown thought the 6-foot-10 point guard was “really, really exceptional.”

Bayless played only three games last season because of torn ligaments in his left wrist. On Wednesday, he finished with 13 points while making 3 of 7 three-pointers. Redick, who went 4 for 8 on threes, had 12 points.

Fultz, who’s from Maryland, came off the bench to score 10 points in front of several family members and friends. Johnson had five points and five rebounds off the bench before fouling out with 6 minutes, 54 seconds left.

On this night, they all took a backseat to Covington.

John Wall finished with a team-high 28 points for the Wizards. Beal added 25 points.

The Sixers kept battling and pulled within two points of a Washington team that went to the Eastern Conference semifinal.

“That’s Philly,” Simmons said of the Sixers’ battling back. “That’s how we are going to play. We are going to play tough hard. That’s just Philly.”

Simmons added that he knows the Sixers can be special.