The Philadelphia 76ers’ lead dwindled in the second half and Bradley Beal torched them with a 60-point performance, but they prevailed to beat the Washington Wizards on Wednesday, 141-136. The Sixers’ offense was electric. Joel Embiid led the way with 38 points (including 11 in the fourth quarter), Seth Curry barely missed and scored effectively all over the floor with 28 points on 11-of-14 shooting (6-of-7 from three), and the team overall shot 61.7 percent and went 18-of-29 (62.1 percent) from three-point range.
On Thursday, the Sixers will be wrapping up a back-to-back by going straight on the road to face the Brooklyn Nets.
Thursday’s matchup would have been a fantastic game (and test for the Sixers) if Kevin Durant was available. Durant is going through a seven-day quarantine after being exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19 and won’t be playing against the Sixers, and will also miss the Nets’ following two games against Memphis and Oklahoma City.
The Nets have faltered somewhat after their strong start, going 2-4 over their last six games to take them to 4-4 for the season. They’ve picked up recent losses against the Hornets, Grizzlies, Hawks and Wizards, but bounced back in their first game without Durant with a 130-96 win against the Jazz.
Kyrie Irving has had a terrific start to the season, averaging 27.1 points, 5.3 rebounds and 6.1 assists per game with a 63 True Shooting Percentage through eight games. The Nets’ depth is a major asset as well, from complementary pieces like elite shooter Joe Harris, to another creator in Caris LeVert, to Jarrett Allen (who started the Nets’ last game, and should continue to do so over DeAndre Jordan).
However, Spencer Dinwiddie is out for the season after suffering a partially torn ACL, which is a big loss for the Nets and takes away some of their ball-handling and offensive firepower. They’ve also struggled on defense recently, with a 113.1 defensive rating over their last four games (21st in the NBA in this span). Rebounding has been an issue as well, and they now rank 29th for the season in defensive rebound percentage at 68.6.
The Sixers’ offense and ball movement has been clicking recently, and they might be able to capitalize on some of the Nets’ interior/rebounding issues with the likes of Embiid and Dwight Howard. Neither Jordan or Allen are capable of containing Embiid, particularly with the big man in MVP-level form while passing out of double teams better than ever to start the season.
Matisse Thybulle has been part of the Sixers’ rotation during Furkan Korkmaz’s absence, and will likely get a shot to guard Irving at times. Against the Wizards, Doc Rivers opted to keep Ben Simmons guarding Russell Westbrook most of the time rather than putting him on the red-hot Beal. Rivers explained after the game that he liked the freedom this gave Simmons to operate as a roamer defensively, grab rebounds, and push the pace. Irving is by far the toughest assignment the Sixers will have to deal with on Thursday, so whether Rivers puts Simmons on Irving (and for how long) will be a key matchup to look out for.
This game will be easier for the Sixers with no Durant or Dinwiddie, but they’re still on a back-to-back, while Irving and Brooklyn’s remaining collection of complementary talent can’t be taken lightly. Especially if the Sixers want to get another win before their schedule gets harder in the coming weeks.
Who: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Brooklyn Nets
When: 7:30pm ET
Where: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, NY
Watch: TNT, TNT OT
Listen: 97.5 The Fanatic