bradley beal

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

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

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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Sloppy Sixers drop 10th straight road game to Wizards

Sloppy Sixers drop 10th straight road game to Wizards

BOX SCORE

Something about Washington, D.C., that causes the Sixers to play bad basketball.

They dropped their 10th straight in the nation’s capital, falling to the Wizards, 119-113, at Capital One Arena Thursday.

The combination of turnovers (21) and a red-hot, 19-point second quarter from Davis Bertans sunk the Sixers as they played Washington’s up-tempo style and not the "bully ball" we’ve seen.

Josh Richardson (right hamstring tightness) missed his sixth game of the season while the Wizards were without starting center Thomas Bryant (right foot stress reaction).

The loss drops the Sixers to 15-7 and 5-7 on the road. They return to the Wells Fargo Center Saturday night against the Cavaliers.

Here are observations from the loss.

Simmons shines on D but struggles on O

If it wasn’t for Bertans going absolutely nuts from three in the first half — 6 of 6 — this game would’ve looked a lot different early. Bertans cooled off in the second half, but rookie Rui Hachimura picked up the slack (27 points).

Ben Simmons' defense on All-Star Bradley Beal was excellent. Simmons chased Beal around and continued to play at an All-NBA level on defense. Before Bertans erupted, Washington’s offense looked stagnant with its focal point kept in check. For the game, Beal was held to 7 of 24 from the field.

Offensively, Simmons did not have a banner night. He had seven turnovers, far too many against a team in the Wizards who have the lowest-rated defense in the NBA. His unwillingness to shoot and stopping drives short without a plan continues to be issues. He had 17 points, 10 assists, five rebounds and three steals.

Not enough from Embiid

With the Wizards missing their starting center, it made sense for the Sixers to feed Embiid early and often. And that’s exactly what they did early on. Washington doubled frequently but Embiid had a double-double in the first half, putting up 17 points and 10 rebounds.

One knock on Embiid has been him not running rim to rim. To close out the first quarter, there were two sequences where Raul Neto knocked corner threes. On both plays, the attention that Embiid drew led to good ball movement and space.

In the second half, Embiid looked sluggish at times. He also had issues with turnovers, committing eight. On a night when Embiid should've dominated, he put up 26 points on 7 of 12 shooting. Part of that is on the Sixers and Brett Brown for not getting it into Embiid enough. He did have 21 rebounds.

Tobias the scorer

We’ve heard Brown talk a ton about Tobias Harris needing to have a “scorer’s mentality.” Even after practice Wednesday, Brown again said that he felt like Harris was passing up a couple looks a game that he should be taking.

Harris was feeling it early and looking awfully confident with 16 points in the first half (2 of 4 from three, 7 of 14 overall).

And another example of Harris attacking.

Harris did all he could, putting up 33 points on 13 of 28 (3 of 8 from three). He just didn’t get much help. 

Thybulle looking comfortable

We all understand what Matisse Thybulle brings on the defensive end of the floor. He continued to be his usual disruptive self and helped cool off Bertans when nobody else on the Sixers could. As the Sixers made a run in the fourth quarter, it was Thybulle who had a series of impressive plays — including a couple on Beal. He had a pair of steals and blocks.

Thybulle has shot the ball well lately, but on Thursday, his driving and passing were on display. He dished a season-high six assists.

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

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

The Sixers (15-6), winners of four in a row and eight of their last nine, will look to get to the .500 mark on the road when they visit the Wizards (6-13) Thursday night.

Josh Richardson (right hamstring tightness) remains out. He did individualized workouts the last two days at practice, but the team is being cautious as Richardson will miss his fourth straight game. Shake Milton (right hip discomfort) will be available.

Washington will be without starting center Thomas Bryant (right foot stress reaction) and veteran wing C.J. Miles (left wrist). Backup bigs Ian Mahinmi (right Achilles strain) and Moritz Wagner (left ankle sprain) are available. 

Here are tonight's essentials:

When: 7 p.m. ET with Sixers Pregame Live at 6:30 p.m.
Where: Capital One Arena
Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia+
Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports MyTeams app

And here are three storylines to watch:

The competition

Rookie Matisse Thybulle has wreaked havoc on the defensive end in almost every one of his appearances this season. He leads all rookies with 29 steals and is third among them in deflections — despite playing far less minutes than the other first-year players at the top of the list.

But it hasn’t just been Thybulle that’s been so disruptive. Ben Simmons, who looks well on his way to earning some type of All-Defensive team honors, leads the NBA in steals and is second in deflections.

A competition has formed.

“I’d say it’s me, him and J-Rich when it comes to steals, trying to see who can get the most, within reason, without trying to put guys in tough positions,” Thybulle said after practice Tuesday. “I think it’s cool that we have that competitiveness. You’ve seen it with Ben, he’s changed games — he’s won games — with steals down the stretch. I think it’s cool to have that little competition within ourselves.”

The caveat of not “trying to put guys in tough positions” is important here. Thybulle has been walking the fine line all season of being disruptive and not leaving his teammates out to dry. To Thybulle’s credit, you can see the improvement. And to Brett Brown’s credit, he admitted before the Jazz game that he needs to be more tolerant with Thybulle.

Despite playing at the fastest pace in the NBA, the Wizards are one of the better teams in the league at taking care of the basketball. Something will have to give Thursday night.

Feed Embiid

Joel Embiid is the focal point of the Sixers’ offense and that shouldn’t change against Washington. He’ll likely see plenty of rookie Rui Hachimura playing the five with the Wizards’ frontcourt so banged up. With that, Embiid is likely to see plenty of double teams and possibly even some zone.

It’ll be on the other Sixers to make plays and shots around Embiid, who has improved greatly in navigating double teams. They should be able to expose Washington’s defense. The Wizards have the worst-rated defense in the NBA and give up the third-most points per game.

Beal is the real deal

News flash: Bradley Beal is really freaking good. And he’s having one of his best seasons. He’s averaging 28.7 points and 7.2 assists a game — both marks would be career highs. He’s taking the most threes he ever has so his percentage is down, but he’s getting to the line just a little under seven times a game. 

And Beal’s supporting cast is no joke on the offensive end. The Sixers will have their hands full with how Davis Bertans (44.6 percent) and Isaiah Thomas (41 percent) are shooting from three. With that said, both players can be exposed on the defensive end.

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