WASHINGTON — The Sixers’ 58th game of the regular season very well could have had playoff implications, or even been a preview of a postseason pairing.
The Wizards (35-25) hold the fourth seed in the East, a coveted position for the last shot at home-court advantage. The Sixers (32-26) are two games behind them in seventh, a close but still significant differential with a tight battle among several teams.
The Wizards kept their distance by snapping the Sixers’ seven-game winning streak, 109-94 (see observations).
“It’s a chance, depending on how the year plays out, we might cross match,” Robert Covington said. “You’ve got two unbelievable atmospheres with Washington and Philly. Home court is going to play a big part in it.”
The Sixers had reaped the benefits of a rare five-game homestand heading into the All-Star break. In fact, they have not lost at the Wells Fargo Center in 2018, feeding off the energy of their fans and the vibe in the city since the Eagles won the Super Bowl.
The Sixers are embarking on a three-game road trip, though, against playoff-contending teams. They will have to play through adverse environments as they face the Heat on Tuesday and Cavaliers Thursday.
“We’ve been undefeated at home for quite a bit now,” Joel Embiid said. “If you want to be a playoff team you’ve got to win those type of (home) games. But at the same time, you’ve got to go on the road and try to steal one.”
Stealing one on the road against the Wizards is something the Sixers have struggled to do in their last eight trips. They have not won in Washington since Nov. 1, 2013.
They fell flat in their efforts Sunday. The Wizards led by as many as 23 points and squashed the Sixers’ late-game comeback attempt. Bradley Beal (24 points), Otto Porter Jr. (23 points) and Kelly Oubre Jr. (19 points) led the way as the Wizards improved to 9-3 without John Wall (left knee surgery).
The highlight stat lines of Embiid (25 points, 10 rebounds) and Ben Simmons (16 points, eight rebounds, eight assists) were outweighed by the team’s overall shooting struggles (36 percent from the field, 27.3 percent from three).
“I think we were never into the game, honestly,” Embiid said. “We didn’t make threes, we didn’t share the ball, we didn’t execute.”
The season series between the Sixers and Wizards is tied up at two apiece. If they do face off in the playoffs, the Sixers will have to take care of business in Capital One Arena, home-court advantage or not.
“Sometimes it’s hard to explain,” Saric said of the Sixers’ struggles in Washington. “But I think if we play against them in (the) playoffs, I think we can beat them and we can beat them on their court.”