Preview: Wizards face league-leading Sixers Wednesday in Philly
Coming off consecutive wins against the Timberwolves and Nets, the Wizards are looking to stay hot on Wednesday night, taking on the Sixers at 7:00 P.M. at the Wells Fargo Center. The game marks the third of four straight road games for the Wizards.
Wells Fargo Center | 7:00 P.M. | NBCSW | 1500 AM
Wizards: G – Russell Westbrook, G – Bradley Beal, F – Deni Avdija, F – Rui Hachimura, C – Thomas Bryant
Sixers: G – Ben Simmons, G – Seth Curry, F – Danny Green, F – Tobias Harris, C – Joel Embiid
Sixers: Furkan Korkmaz (left adductor strain - out), Mike Scott (left knee contusion - out)
Wizards’ progress since opening night
At tip-off on Wednesday night, it will have been exactly two weeks since the Wizards and Sixers met on opening night. In that time, Washington has endured a five-game losing streak, seen key players return to normal rotation roles and now rides a two-game winning streak. Most importantly, regarding their matchup with the Sixers, they’ve improved in areas they did not perform well in on December 23. In the opener, the Sixers dominated in the paint, outscoring the Wizards 52-26. Philadelphia shot 26-43 (.604) from the paint while Washington was just 13-35 (.371). On Sunday against the Nets, the Wizards showed progress in that department, scoring 58 points in the paint, their second-highest total of the season and their second consecutive game with 50-plus paint points. On the offensive boards, where the Wizards were outdone by Philadelphia 10-5 on opening night, the Wizards dominated the Nets, allowing just seven and winning the game on a basket that resulted directly from a Thomas Bryant offensive rebound.
The Wizards have progressed from a personnel standpoint as well. Rui Hachimura did not play in the opener and Davis Bertans played just 20 minutes. Both are expected to play key roles on Wednesday night.
Brooks says rotation roles still up for grabs
As injuries, rest and minutes restrictions jumbled the Wizards’ lineup through the first week of the season, head coach Scott Brooks preached competition and opportunity for players looking to crack the regular rotation. As things have stabilized with Hachimura returning from injury and Bertans nearing full strength, Brooks says there are still plenty of minutes up for grabs. Players like Troy Brown Jr., Isaac Bonga and Jerome Robinson have all seen their minutes fluctuate on a game-by-game basis.
For Brooks, it’s all part of the early season experience – one that’s only been amplified by an unconventional offseason. After ranking second league in bench scoring last season, the Wizards are working to find what they have in this year’s reserve unit and, according to Brooks, will keep experimenting with different combinations.
“It’s something that we’re going to continue to explore,” Brooks said. “And it’s not just the game minutes, it’s the practice minutes. Those are important. I told the guys the other day. Be ready. This is probably going to be like this (going forward). It’s by committee. Be ready and when you play, play well. I thought Jerome (Robinson) missed a couple games and he came in (against Minnesota) and gave us a spark and I like that. He was rewarded the next night and hopefully he continues to do that.”
Scouting the Sixers
Coming into Wednesday’s matchup, the Sixers have won four consecutive games, most recently a 17-point win over the Hornets on Monday night, and have yet to lose a game at home. At 6-1, Philadelphia sits atop the Eastern Conference standings and holds the best record in the league by one game over five teams. Thus far, the Sixers are doing it with defense. They lead the league with a 99.4 defensive rating, the lowest in the NBA by 3.4 points. Their net rating (8.8) ranks third in the league behind the Bucks and Lakers.
Against the Hornets, the Sixers got doubles-doubles from both Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons and a game-high 22 points from Tobias Harris, who shot 10-16 (.625) from the field and was plus-24 in 30 minutes. Such has been the story all season long. While Embiid, Harris and Simmons rank first, second and fourth on the team in points per game, it’s their efforts on the defensive end that set the tone for the team. The trio ranks 1-2-3 on the team in rebounding: 12.3 per game for Embiid, 9.9 for Simmons and 8.0 for Harris. All three average at least 1.0 blocks and 1.0 steals per game. Philadelphia is the only team in the league with three players currently hitting those benchmarks.