Sixers

Beal-less Wizards up next as Sixers try to move on from bad loss

Sixers

The 16-16 Sixers will play the 17-15 Wizards on Sunday night for the first time since eliminating Washington from the playoffs last season.

Here are the essentials: 

  • When: 6 p.m. ET with Sixers Pregame Live at 5:15 p.m. 
  • Where: Capital One Arena 
  • Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia 
  • Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the MyTeams app 

And here are three storylines to watch: 

Facing a much different Wizards team 

Even if both teams had clean injury reports, this matchup wouldn’t resemble the first-round series between the teams.

Washington made dramatic offseason changes. New faces of note include head coach Wes Unseld Jr., Spencer Dinwiddie, Kyle Kuzma, Aaron Holiday and Montrezl Harrell.

With Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in the NBA’s health and safety protocols, rookie Corey Kispert started Thursday and scored 20 points in the Wizards’ win over the Knicks, hitting 4 of 5 three-point shots. The Gonzaga product will now presumably feature a tad higher in opposing scouting reports and be labeled a shooter.

The other Wizard in health and safety protocols is a massive one: Bradley Beal. The three-time All-Star won’t play Sunday. 

The Sixers’ Danny Green, Andre Drummond and Shake Milton remain in protocols and on the sidelines. Tyrese Maxey and Georges Niang were listed as questionable on Saturday night because of the league's protocols but, as of late Sunday morning, were available. 

Joel Embiid was “under the weather” and didn’t attend shootaround, but he's “still scheduled to play,” The Philadelphia Inquirer's Keith Pompey reported.

Needing better from starters, whoever they are 

Plus-minus isn’t a popular stat these days, but head coach Doc Rivers thought it was a revealing one following the Sixers' 98-96 loss Thursday to the extremely shorthanded Hawks.

 

“When you look at the plus-minus tonight and you see every second-unit guy has a plus and every first-unit guy has a minus, it just tells you where we were at as a team tonight,” Rivers said.

Maxey came off the bench against Atlanta in his first game back from a left quad contusion and the Sixers started Furkan Korkmaz, a move that didn’t work. 

Korkmaz is perhaps the best illustration of the idea that the Sixers’ three-point shooting, which has been troublesome after a hot start, is bound to trend up at some point. He’s 2 for his last 24 from long range and has been slumping for about seven weeks. 

The positives for the Sixers’ second unit on Thursday didn’t pertain to outside shooting. Maxey played a strong game despite a 1-for-5 night from three. Charles Bassey gave the team 12 good backup center minutes, chipping in eight points, eight rebounds, a steal and a block. New 10-day hardship signing Tyler Johnson looked competent in his first 11 minutes of the season.

In all likelihood, the Sixers won’t beat Washington if their bench again outshines their starters. 

The road doesn’t stop 

Sunday’s game will be the first of three straight for the Sixers on the road. After meeting the Nets on Thursday in Brooklyn, the team will have played 21 road games and just 14 home games. 

That doesn’t excuse the Sixers’ .500 mark thus far, especially since they’re 6-8 at Wells Fargo Center. Those eight defeats include a blown fourth-quarter lead to the Nets and losses to the Timberwolves, Heat and Hawks in which the Sixers were forced to rally after sluggish-at-best starts. 

Eventually, the Sixers’ schedule will normalize. The team has a three-game homestand between Jan. 7 and Jan 14, plus two stretches of four straight at home between Jan. 27 and Feb. 15. 

Before all that, there’s another business trip and a chance to move on from Thursday's bad loss.