Philadelphia 76ers at Washington Wizards Preview
Philadelphia, one of the Eastern Conference’s title contenders, will travel to Washington for a matchup against the Wizards, one of the more entertaining teams in the East, on Thursday night. The Sixers have been one of the most up-and-down teams this season and I don’t think we can expect anything different from this team considering the roster construction. It’s rarely pretty, but the results are ultimately what matters. Philly has won four straight, are the fourth seed, and have a record of 10-2 against the East. They’ve been excellent at home (10-0) but have struggled on the road (5-6). The Wizards can’t guard anyone, but they have the league’s fourth-best offense and they have one of the more dynamic scoring guards in the league in Bradley Beal.
Philly is going to have to start winning games on the road. This will be a good test for them, and hopefully, they take it seriously because the Wizards can heat up in a split second.
Time: 7 PM ET
Arena: Capital One Arena, Washington, DC
Channel: NBCSWA, NBCSP
Sixers: Trey Burke (Q), Josh Richardson (Q)
Wizards: Thomas Bryant (O), Ian Mahinmi (Q), C.J. Miles (O), Moritz Wagner (Q), John Wall (O)
Sixers Starting Lineup
The Philadelphia 76ers were last in action on Monday when they squared off against the Utah Jazz. Philly won the contest 103-94 behind 26 points and nine rebounds from Tobias Harris.
Joel Embiid had 16 points, 11 rebounds, and four assists on a night where he struggled shooting the ball (5-for-13). Al Horford had the perfect “Al” stat line: 17 points, eight rebounds, five assists, and two blocks to go along with three made 3s. Ben Simmons filled up the stat sheet; the Australian star had 14 points, eight rebounds, nine assists, and four steals.
The win was the eighth in nine games for Philly and it moved them to 15-6 on the season.
“We say every game before we get out there to protect our house,” Harris said. “Our crowd, our energy, our atmosphere, it’s real.”
Philadelphia has a lot of work to do if they want to find themselves playing deep into the postseason. They were my pick to come out of the East this season after they assembled a roster I thought was going to be too difficult to score against. The problem has been their inconsistencies on the offensive end of the court. They are 17th in the league in offensive rating (107.3) while every other title contender is in the top 10. I didn’t expect this team to be an offensive juggernaut–in fact, I anticipated problems on that end–the problem is what seems to be stagnation from their two stars.
Simmons is still one of the best defensive players in the league. He averages 2.4 steals per game, tied for the top spot in the league with his old teammate Jimmy Butler. He’s still an excellent playmaker who excels in the open court. But he is still a near zero when it comes to being a scoring option. He finally hit a 3-pointer but he’s still afraid to shoot outside of nine feet. Through the start of the season, Simmons has attempted 14, that’s right 14 shots outside of nine feet, and two of those shots were heaves beyond 30 feet. No matter how talented Simmons is, he has to develop some semblance of a jumper, even if it’s just in the midrange. Embiid is actually the more worrisome case. The dip in his scoring numbers isn’t concerning as the decline in his shooting efficiency. He just had a scoreless game against the Raptors and is posting career lows in field goal percentage (45.4), effective field goal (49.1), and true shooting (57.2). Philly needs both guys to find their groves again, and preferably soon.
Washington Wizards Starting Lineup
The Washington Wizards’ last game was a 127-120 loss to the Orlando Magic on Tuesday night. Washington is currently 6-13 on the season and is fourth in the league in offensive rating. The latter of which is wild to me. The Wizards are actually fun to watch because of their offensive firepower but just like their game against the Magic they just end up giving too many points.
Beal, who is averaging 28.7 points per game this season had 42 against the Magic on 16-for-30 shooting from the field. He also had six rebounds and four assists. The revitalized Isaiah Thomas scored 20 points and dished seven assists. Thomas Bryant’s injury replacement in the starting lineup, Davis Bertans stepped in and scored 21 points to go along with five rebounds.
The loss was the fifth loss for the Wizards in the last six outings. They allowed the Magic to shoot 51.1 percent from the field, the first time Orlando has shot 50 percent or better in a game all season.
And that leads to the Wizards biggest problem. They are terrible on defense. Just awful. If they could manage to get their defense up to the late teens they would be right in the playoff hunt. Unfortunately, I don’t see their defense getting better. The Thomas/Beal backcourt has been a lot of fun to watch. Especially as a fan of both guys, but one is a 5-foot-9 guard who even at his physical peak was a defensive liability and the other hasn’t tried on the defensive end in about a season and a half.
Washington will get up their shots in this matchup–they average a league-leading 94.4 field goal attempts per game–the problem will be keeping Philly from doing whatever they want on the other end.
Key Player Matchups
Bradley Beal vs. Ben Simmons
I expect Simmons to guard Beal tonight, and what a matchup this should be. I’ve been super critical of Simmon’s scoring deficiencies, but it can’t be understated just how good of a defender he is. His anticipation, mixed with his length and quickness are a nightmare for opposing offensive players. Beal has seen his share of lockdown defenders and he’s no stranger to playing the Sixers. He’s taken yet another leap from his 2018-19 campaign and is the primary reason for the Wizards efficient offense.
Davis Bertans vs. Joel Embiid
Man, what is going on with Embiid? He doesn’t seem to have a lot of energy, he’s still committing erroneous turnovers, and he’s still relying heavily on jumpers. If you were to just peer over his counting stats you’d think I was freaking out for no reason. He’s still averaging a double-double, 22.4 points and 12.2 rebounds per game, and when he wants to he can get real physical, forcing his matchup into foul trouble–Embiid averages 8.3 free-throw attempts per game. But along with his dip in shooting efficiency I’ve already covered, his defense hasn’t been great. He’s slow to react and he’s only blocking 1.4 shots per game, a troubling number considering he averaged 1.9 blocks last season and 2.5 during his rookie season. Bertans is a sneaky good defender despite being a stretch big man. He’ll be tasked with forcing Embiid out of the paint and on the other end trying his best to force Embiid into long-distance attempts.
Rui Hachimura vs. Al Horford
I’m a big Rui Hachimura fan. He never seems hurried, which is impressive for a rookie. He never tries to do too much and he’s always in motion, either cutting to the basket or setting a screen to free up a ballhandler. If he can start knocking down his 3s–21.1 percent on 2.0 attempts–he’ll be a problem. Good chance that he lines up across Horford for this one. The big free-agent signing for the Sixers has been great. He’s averaging 14.5 points, 7.1 rebounds and 4.1 assists all while knocking down 37.3 percent of his 3s on nearly four attempts per game. This matchup doesn’t have the fanfare attached to it, but keep it on your radar.
You can’t go wrong with picking up Beal this season. He’s scoring at an insane rate while filling up the other counting categories. The 6-foot-3 guard is going for a salary for $9.9k on FanDuel with fantasy projections for 47.2. Beal is honestly the best fantasy option on this Wizards team, and real-life option. A nice value pickup is rookie Hachimura. He’s going for $5.8k and is projected to post 27.4 points.
The Sixers pair of Embiid and Simmons are always safe bets for big fantasy performances. Embiid isn’t cheap, he’s available for $10.7k and is projected for 44.4 fantasy points. Simmons is a tad cheaper, with a salary of $9k with fantasy projections for 40.4.
Bet on Matchup
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