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Scorching hot Sixers take on the reeling Wizards at home

First place is oh so close

Philadelphia 76ers v Washington Wizards Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

The Philadelphia 76ers are coming off arguably their most exciting game of the season, Monday night’s 122-119 overtime victory over the Memphis Grizzlies. The win over a quality opponent was made even more remarkable in that it came without Joel Embiid, who sat out his first game since mid-December. That rest for Embiid means bad news for tonight’s opponent, the Washington Wizards.

In the previous meeting between these two teams on the afternoon of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the Wizards easily handled Philadelphia, 117-98, in what was one of the Sixers’ most lackluster efforts of the season. Embiid and Tyrese Maxey combined for 50 points, but no other Sixer reached double figures. However, following the victory over Philadelphia, Washington has lost six straight games, including last night’s 112-98 loss in Milwaukee. At 23-27, the Wizards are currently out of the play-in tournament, and you could easily make the argument that they should at long last enter full rebuild mode rather than clinging to Bradley Beal as a team centerpiece.

Let’s talk about Beal, who has long been one of the most high-profile trade targets in Ben Simmons musings. First, we received an injury update on the 28-year-old guard yesterday.

Wrist issues aside, Beal is having a down year in many respects. He is shooting just 30.0 percent from three, the lowest mark of his career, and his eFG% of .492 is his worst since the 2013-14 season. Maybe the wrist is some of the problem, and there’s reason to believe Beal’s numbers would improve playing alongside Joel Embiid rather than having to carry a moribund Wizards franchise, but it’s still enough to give you pause. I don’t know how much the Wizards would expect in return for a hypothetical Beal package, but last offseason you might have thrown out a deal around both Simmons and Tyrese Maxey, and I’d have to say that’s completely out of the question now.

Because, folks, Tyrese Maxey is not someone you want to let get away. If people didn’t know that before Monday, they know it now after watching him go electric drive for electric drive with Ja Morant and total 33 points, eight assists, and four blocks in the win. Alongside his Mach 1 speed and unquestionable competitive drive, Maxey’s improved shooting has continued to expand his ceiling. Maxey is shooting 40.1 percent from downtown, including over 40 percent of the pull-up variety. Doc Rivers, start staggering Joel and Tyrese to keep at least one on the court at all times, and let’s watch this offense really hum.

The Sixers have won five straight and now found themselves just one game out of first place in the Eastern Conference. Odds place the Sixers as 9.5-point favorites tonight. Philadelphia has the rest advantage for the teams as a whole and in regard to their superstar, while Beal is unavailable for Washington. Time to climb another rung against a Wizards club circling the drain.

Game Info

Who: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Washington Wizards
When: 7:00 pm ET
Where: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, PA
Watch: NBC Sports Philadelphia
Radio: 97.5 The Fanatic
Follow: @Liberty_Ballers

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