The Sixers (20-10), now the losers of three straight, will look to get well against the Wizards (8-19) at the Wells Fargo Center Saturday night.
For the third straight game, the Sixers come into play with a healthy roster. That's not the case for Washington. The Wizards will be without standout rookie Rui Hachimura (groin), starting center Thomas Bryant (right foot stress reaction) and reserve big Mo Wagner (sprained left ankle).
Here are the essentials for tonight's game:
When: 7 p.m. ET with Sixers Pregame Live at 6:30 p.m.
Where: Wells Fargo Center
Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia
Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports MyTeams app
And here are three storylines to watch:
Will they respond?
The Sixers ripped off 14 straight home wins to start the season, but have now lost two straight. Miami head coach Erik Spoelstra deployed — and stuck with — a zone defense that clearly frustrated the Sixers. Two nights later, Dallas head coach Rick Carlisle did the same.
The result has been two brutal losses and a frustrated basketball team. Brett Brown wasn’t happy but measured.
I think that the influence that our inability lately to be put on our back heels against the zone has crept into our defense, our psyche, our spirit — and I can't stand it. This is not who we are. It's not who we are. As we've discussed as a team, that there's enough body of work, you just respect the heck out of the locker room. I love coaching these guys because I respect them.
The team’s two newcomers, Al Horford and Josh Richardson, both voiced their frustrations, saying the team is “not being connected” defensively and needs to “play a little more for each other” on both ends.
Joel Embiid was even blunter.
I don’t know, I feel like especially tonight, we were playing scared. Basketball is easy — just shoot it, pass it, move it. If you don’t got a shot, just pass it. But tonight, like I said, we didn’t make shots. And defensively, we were pretty bad.
No, the Wizards aren’t the best team in the league, but this is still a bit of a character test for the Sixers. Will they respond to each other’s criticisms? Will they fix their issues? We’ll see.
Breaking the zone
Speaking of the zone, it’s been quite the bugaboo for the Sixers over the last two games. They look lost when they’re trying to move the ball. On top of that, they’re not making the open looks they’re getting.
When there was concern over the Sixers’ shooting even before the season started, Brown brushed it aside. He felt like his team had enough capable shooters to spread the floor. Over the past two games, none of those players have stepped up.
Tobias Harris (2 of 10), Richardson (5 of 15), Horford (1 of 7), and Mike Scott (4 of 11) have all been off. James Ennis (2 of 8) and Matisse Thybulle (1 of 3) have cooled from their recent hot stretches.
There are strategies to beat a zone, but knocking down wide-open looks would go a long way.
Can’t take this team lightly
While Washington has the look of a team you can get right against, the Sixers are not in a position to take them lightly. It was just a couple weeks ago that they went down in D.C. because of sloppy play and the ridiculous shooting of David Bertans.
You may not remember this, but it was also the Wizards that gave the Sixers their only loss of the preseason. That could be insignificant, but in that game, Washington used a zone to stifle the Sixers’ offense and it worked.
The Wizards are banged up, but they’re still dangerous. They still have All-Star Bradley Beal and the aforementioned Bertans. Former Sixer Ish Smith, who went for 19 points and eight assists in the last meeting between the teams, is coming off a 26-point performance in Toronto Friday.
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