Friday night’s victory over Portland was one of those games that rewards perseverance as a sports fan. The Sixers trailed the Blazers by double digits for the majority of the night, and logically, you might chalk it up as a loss and use that last hour or so of your time Friday evening more productively. But in sports, you never know! Stick around and you just might bear witness to magic from Joel Embiid that you’ll remember for years to come.
That game-winner with one second left capped off a 21-point comeback effort and marked the fourth straight win for Philadelphia. The Sixers now find themselves closing in on Milwaukee and (particularly) Boston atop the East. Worries about the Cavaliers climbing into the three spot have all but faded, with Philadelphia currently holding a 3.5-game edge over Donovan Mitchell and company.
Having dispatched the president of the “I’m too loyal to run from the grind” club on Friday in Damian Lillard, the Sixers will next take on the vice president, Bradley Beal, and his Wizards teammates in South Philly this evening. While everything is clicking for Philadelphia right now, Washington is just hanging in the play-in tournament picture by the skin of their teeth. Toronto, Washington, Chicago, and Indiana are all tightly bunched up for the last two remaining spots. Not a good time then for the Wizards to hit a skid; they have lost four of their last five contests, including consecutive games to Atlanta at home on Wednesday and Friday night.
Washington is 2-1 against Philadelphia this season, with the two teams splitting a pair of games around Halloween, and the Wizards winning, 116-111, in the District in late December. The Wizards enter today’s proceedings with a clean injury report. Monte Morris was the only player listed for Friday’s contest against Atlanta, drawing a questionable designation with back soreness that caused him to miss the six prior games, but he ended up starting and playing 26 minutes in the loss.
The Sixers are pretty healthy as well, although Tobias Harris and P.J. Tucker were both banged up earlier in the week and haven’t looked great in the two games since getting Monday off. Philadelphia’s next game isn’t until Wednesday in Cleveland, though, so I wouldn’t anticipate any load management this evening.
As has been for the last decade, the central focus of the offense for Washington is Beal. This is actually a spot where De’Anthony Melton would make a lot of sense in the starting group, but we are not going back to Tyrese Maxey coming off the bench. (You hear that, Doc? We’re not!) Maybe Starting Lineup C could make its long-awaited debut? A three-guard alignment would be tough for (presumably) Harden to guard Kyle Kuzma, however. More likely, we’ll see Beal guarded by Maxey from the jump. Tyrese was praised for his defensive effort against the Blazers on Friday night. Melton might have a quicker entrance than usual depending upon how things go.
It should be noted, though, that the Wizards offense is more balanced than in some past years. Both Kuzma and Kristaps Porzingis have joined Beal above the 20 points-per-game threshold, with Beal averaging his fewest field goal attempts per game in six years. Porzingis has had success against Philadelphia this year, averaging 28.7 points across the three prior meetings, although Joel Embiid only played in one of those games (the Wizards’ win in December where Porzingis scored 24 points).
Embiid, himself, certainly had no trouble scoring in that previous meeting, scoring 48 points with 10 rebounds, three steals, and three blocks (he was a plus-8 in the five-point loss, naturally). With how he has been playing lately, I have no reason to suspect much to be different tonight.
Embiid in his last 7:— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) March 11, 2023
39 PTS (65% FG)
39 PTS (59% FG)
42 PTS (69% FG)
31 PTS (50% FG)
35 PTS (62% FG)
27 PTS (59% FG)
41 PTS (57% FG)
The Sixers are at home, comfortably the better team, and had yesterday off and a couple off days coming up, so all energy levels and minutes can be ramped up. Just don’t get caught looking ahead to Cleveland on Wednesday in a nationally-televised game, and we should be discussing a five-game winning streak this time tomorrow.
Who: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Washington Wizards
When: 6:00 pm EST
Where: The Center, Philadelphia, PA
Watch: NBC Sports Philadelphia
Radio: 97.5 The Fanatic