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Sixers-Wizards preview: Sixers seek bounce-back victory over another shorthanded opponent

No Bradley Beal in this one, but Sixers can’t afford to take anyone lightly

NBA: Playoffs-Washington Wizards at Philadelphia 76ers Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Hopefully you had a great Christmas and the chance to process then move on from the Philadelphia 76ers’ last 98-96 loss to the Atlanta Hawks. After a huge road win over the rival Boston Celtics, the Sixers failed to build momentum, fizzling against a barebones Hawks unit. Doc Rivers group has now dropped five of their last seven games and continue to miss their second best player, Ben Simmons, whose absence has helped derail what could have been a very exciting season.

Rich Paul and the rest of the Klutch team wants you to vote for the former first overall pick to be an All-Star this holiday season:

Last week, the dirty birds were without Trae Young, Kevin Huerter, and Clint Capela, among others. The Sixers had low energy to start that one and it seemed like maybe they took a shorthanded opponent lightly. But this club hasn’t been good enough to take anyone lightly. Rivers and his staff will try to motivate their players another way now. The red, white, and blue are back in action to take on the Washington Wizards tonight.

The Wiz (17-15) are one game ahead of the (16-16) Sixers in the Eastern Conference standings. Washington sits in the sixth seed, Philly the seventh. The magicians started off hot, but have since cooled off considerably.

With a win, Joel Embiid and company can tie the Wiz and possibly take temporary possession of that sixth seed with a tie-breaker. The matchup is a far cry from the first round of the 2021 playoffs when the Sixers were the one seed with a major talent advantage. Now things are closer to even.

The Wiz have won two games in a row, but dropped seven of their last ten. They notched a solid win over the New York Knicks despite missing superstar Brad Beal, unvaccinated, now dealing with his second bout of Covid within the last six months.

It was Spencer Dinwiddie whose 21 points, 12 assists, and seven rebounds hurt the Knicks. Dinwiddie has a history of hurting Philly, going back to his days with the Brooklyn Nets. They’ll need to slow him down. The Los Angeles native did a good job getting into the paint to ignite the Wizards offense. Washington had 30 assists and some nifty ball movement in a well-rounded effort. Seven players scored in double digits, and you can expect Wes Unseld Jr.’s squad will try to duplicate that recipe versus Embiid and company.

If you play fantasy, you may know that only three teams allow more fantasy points to opposing centers. That means this could be a game where Joel Embiid really fills up that boxscore.

But getting back to Bradley Beal for a moment. Washington’s franchise player has struggled this season. The Missouri native is averaging 23.3 points per game, 5.9 dimes, and 4.6 boards per game. He’s shooting a chilly 28.3 percent from deep and has matched his career high in turnovers per game with 3.4. By most measures, Beal is having a down year per his lofty standards.

Nevertheless, Beal is one of the few All-Stars we know Philadelphia GM Daryl Morey has his eye on in a potential Ben Simmons deal. The problem for the Sixers is that Beal is headed for unrestricted free agency. So paying whatever price the Wiz might command for the former Gator would put the Sixers’ future title hopes in major jeopardy if Beal then bolted come July. The Sixers will have a better shot at a bounce-back victory without Beal, as he dropped 37 on Donovan Mitchell and the Utah Jazz the other night in a win before entering protocols.

As is the case in almost every NBA game right now, both teams have some key absences to work around.

Absence report (these days I find “absence report” works better than injury report)

This is going to be a Christmas that Tyrese Maxey remembers, but not for good reasons. The second-year pro, just back after suffering a quad contusion, was placed into Covid protocols, just hours after his house reportedly caught on fire. He’s listed as questionable, as is Georges Niang, leaving a glimmer of hope those two might test out of protocol ahead of the match.

That’s apparently not the case for Andre Drummond, Shake Milton, and Danny Green, it seems they’ll miss Sunday’s tilt in protocol.

Ben Simmons is of course still out (mentally not ready to play, seeking trade).

The injury report for the Wizards looks like this:

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Bradley Beal are both out, while in health and safety protocols. Rui Hachimura has yet to play for the team so far, he’s been listed as out with conditioning dealing with an off-the-floor incident. Thomas Bryant is out with a knee injury.

These days, injury reports are fluid, as a rule. Don’t be surprised if a couple names are added or subtracted to the list.

Game Info

Who: Philadelphia 76ers at Washington Wizards

When: 6:00pm ET

Where: Capital One Arena, Washington

Watch: NBC Sports Philadelphia

Radio: 97.5 The Fanatic

Follow: @Liberty_Ballers