bradley beal

Sixers vs. Wizards: 3 storylines to watch and how to live stream the game

Sixers vs. Wizards: 3 storylines to watch and how to live stream the game

Updated: 1:40 p.m. 

We’ve got just one more game before the real thing as the Sixers host the Washington Wizards at the Wells Fargo Center Friday.

It’s the Sixers’ fifth and final preseason game before they welcome the Boston Celtics next Wednesday in the season opener.

The good news for fans watching tonight’s game: This is NOT like the NFL preseason. If anything, this is more like a dress rehearsal.

Here’s everything you need to know.

When: 7 p.m. ET
Where: Wells Fargo Center
Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia
Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports MyTeams app

And here are a few things to watch.

Injury update

Ben Simmons (back tightness) is out for Friday night's game. The team has described his absence as precautionary. At practice Wednesday, Simmons said he was “confident” that he’ll be 100 percent by the opener.

Raul Neto (left hamstring tightness) is questionable and James Ennis is available after missing Tuesday night's game with right calf tightness.

Joel Embiid is not on the injury report and is expected to play. Brett Brown had said he expected to play the rotation he plans to use against the Celtics, though he'll obviously have to change things with the absence of Simmons. That rotation will include impressive rookie Matisse Thybulle, who has more than earned a prominent role off the Sixers’ bench.

Who backs up Simmons?

The top eight players in the rotation are set. It’ll be the five starters plus Thybulle, Ennis and Mike Scott — you’ll also see plenty of Kyle O’Quinn sprinkled in there. But the backup point guard role remains somewhat of a mystery.

GM Elton Brand brought in veterans Trey Burke and Neto to compete for minutes. Brown has been quick to point out that second-year guard Shake Milton is still in that mix. The best candidate, however, may be Josh Richardson. Brown started Richardson there against Detroit and seems to like Richardson’s capabilities in that spot. It also allows him to keep a crazy big lineup on the floor at all times.

If there is any type of roster drama in tonight’s game, this will be it.

Bradley Beal’s extension

Wizards All-Star guard Bradley Beal inked a two-year, $72 million max extension Thursday. With two years still left on his current deal, it will begin with the 2021-22 season and include a player option for 2022-23, per ESPN.

It’s interesting because Beal is an excellent player just entering the prime of his career at 26 and his supporting cast is not very good. When healthy, there aren’t many backcourt duos better than Beal and John Wall. The issue is Wall, whose game is predicated on his lightning speed, is recovering from a ruptured Achilles and will likely not play this season. In 2020-21, he’ll be 30 and making over $40 million.

The Wizards will lose the contract of Ian Mahinmi and perhaps have a little flexibility next offseason.

Good for Beal for showing loyalty to the team that drafted him, but it seems like he may be stuck in NBA purgatory in Washington. Then again, that contract likely wouldn’t be difficult to move, and they’d get a nice return for Beal if things do go south.

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Sixers vs. Wizards: 3 storylines to watch and how to stream the game

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Sixers vs. Wizards: 3 storylines to watch and how to stream the game

The Sixers (26-14) will look to keep their winning streak intact Tuesday night with the Wizards (14-26) in town. 

• 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

The Wizards are coming in with some confidence, coming off a huge win on the road, beating the Thunder, 115-98, behind a 25-point night from Bradley Beal.

The Sixers should have a couple of extra bodies as Jimmy Butler and Wilson Chandler both participated in Monday’s practice after sitting out the last two games with an upper respiratory infection. 

Here are three storylines to watch for in tonight’s game:

Thomas Bryant vs. Joel Embiid

Bryant has a tough challenge ahead of him, starting against the Eastern Conference Player of the Week. Embiid has been on an absolute tear this season, especially in first halves. The reason I make the first half distinction is because that is where Bryant has struggled going up against the likes of Steven Adams and Hassan Whiteside in his last two matchups. 

This isn’t Bryant’s first go at Embiid. In their first matchup, he limited him to 4 of 10 shooting while on the floor together, but Embiid dominated the boards, finishing with 15 rebounds. As a team, the Sixers outrebounded Washington, 58-42. No reason to veer from that game plan.

Not giving up big leads

It’s been a theme of this season. The Sixers get out in front with a huge lead, only to see it dwindle, and as Embiid likes to say, "make it interesting" at the end. Brett Brown said after last game that the connection between this in previous games has been two-fold:

1. “Purpose-less offense,” (i.e. just dumping the ball to Embiid and expecting him to take them home), which produces turnovers. 

2. Disconnect defensively on switches, which has especially led to opponent threes. 

The Sixers were able to hold on to a big lead against the Wizards in the first matchup, which allowed for some rest for the starters in the fourth. Will they be able to do it again?

Will the Ben Simmons jump shots continue?

Simmons taking jump shots — though in small doses — has been a welcome addition to the offense. Brown has said it’s needed to get it to where it wants to go, but that it’s going to come on Simmons’ terms. It’s looking like it’s the beginning of it coming on his terms. I’m not worried about whether Simmons makes them right now. As long as he keeps shooting them, that’s a good sign. 

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3 things Sixers fans should know about the Washington Wizards

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3 things Sixers fans should know about the Washington Wizards

The Wizards and 76ers are about to become rather chummy.

The two squads are poised for a home-and-home set beginning Tuesday in Philadelphia. Those of you paying attention to Washington this season are probably aware it’s been a rough ride through 40 games. The Wizards, a team with hopes of conference title contention when the season tipped, are 3.5 games out of a playoff spot.

The ceiling lowered following news John Wall required season-ending surgery for bone spurs in the back of his left heel.

Nobody told that to their other All-Star guard, Bradley Beal, or the other players. Washington improved to 3-2 in the last five games without Wall including Sunday’s stunning 116-98 win at Oklahoma City.

Some thoughts on what’s working and what to watch for during this two-game showdown.

1. They’re very different without John Wall offensively, but different doesn’t mean worse

Washington learned late in 2018 that Wall would miss the remainder of the campaign. Considering the Wizards’ struggles this season even with its five-time All-Star point guard, assuming the season would go kaput isn’t a major leap.

Hold that thought.

Similar to last season when the explosive, but ball-dominant Wall missed 41 games with injuries, the Wizards are finding a new path with a sharing-is-caring approach. In the five games since Wall’s last appearance, Washington leads the NBA in passes per game (331), one slot ahead of Philadelphia, while averaging 27 assists. On the season, the Wizards average 284.9 passes and 25.2 assists. The team’s offensive net rating, 108.3 on the season, jumped to 111.8 in the recent stretch.

Tomas Satoransky embodies the pass-first approach and cohesive vibe. The 6-foot-7 guard has 21 assists with only seven turnovers since replacing Wall in the starting lineup.

2. Otto Porter, super sub

Not every team brings their highest-paid player off the bench. The Wizards have done that in three games since Otto Porter returned from a knee injury that cost the small forward 10 games. There’s a good chance the status holds even as Porter rounds back into shape.

Among the NBA’s most efficient scorers and three-point threats over the previous two seasons, Porter labored through the early portion of the season along with his teammates. Among the primary issues were limited shot attempts and usage. A team player to a fault, Porter averages only 9.9 shots. His usage rate of 16.3 compares with Philadelphia’s supporting cast, namely Shake Milton (17.0) and Amir Johnson (16.4). That’s wild for a career 40 percent three-point shooter two years into a four-year, $106 million contract.

Playing with the second unit puts Porter in the focal point role. It’s also bringing out his aggressive side. Despite minutes restriction limiting him to fewer than 25 minutes in each of the last two games, Porter attempted 14 and 17 field goal attempts respectively. In 24 minutes against the Thunder, he had 20 points on 7 of 17 shooting (4 of 6 from beyond the arc) with six rebounds, five assists and three blocks. Following the win, Wizards coach Scott Brooks hinted at Porter remaining on the bench for now.

3. Boards battle

The Wizards remain dreadful on the glass this season. Their negative rebounding differential of 7.2 easily ranks as the league’s worst. The 76ers dominated the boards, 58-42, in the first head-to-head meeting this season, a rousing 123-98 romp.

Some blame goes to playing without center Dwight Howard (back surgery) for all but nine games, but mostly the effort inconsistency has plagued the team much of the season.

Here’s the thing: When they rebound, they win. Including the win in Oklahoma City, Washington is 9-0 this season when out-rebounding its opponent. With their lack of size, rebounding truly is a team effort for the Wizards. Seven players snagged at least five rebounds against the Thunder.

Winning the rebounding statistic isn’t necessary assuming they take advantage of opponents on the perimeter and in the open court. It just helps if they can keep the margin close. Just know if they flat out finish with more rebounds, they also are likely walking away with the win.

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