Sixers Face Struggling Wizards in Search of Second Win

The Sixers will look to bounce back from their blowout loss to the Houston Rockets with a very winnable game at home against the 2-7 Washington Wizards.

The Sixers take on John Wall and the Washington Wizards in preseason action tonight | Dale Zanine, USA TODAY Sports

The Sixers take on John Wall and the 2-7 Washington Wizards tonight. | Dale Zanine, USA TODAY Sports

There are some outcomes that are entirely too predictable in sports, and the Sixers struggling to contain James Harden in Mike D’Antoni‘s fast-paced offensive system was one of them. Harden went off for 33 points — the most by a 76ers opponent so far this year — in a 115-88 victory over the 76ers on Monday night, with 23 points coming in the first quarter.

The 76ers will look to rebound tonight against a struggling Washington Wizards team that is just 2-7 on the season and have lost four of their last five games, and could be without starting shooting guard Bradley Beal (hamstring).

The Details:
What: Sixers (1-9) vs Wizards (2-7)
Where: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia
When: Wednesday, November 16th at 7 PM Eastern
Watch: Comcast SportsNet

Projected Starting Lineups:
Sixers: Sergio Rodriguez, Gerald Henderson, Robert Covington, Ersan Ilyasova, Jahlil Okafor
Wizards: John Wall, Sheldon McClellan, Otto Porter, Markieff Morris, Marcin Gortat

John Wall has been sitting out in the second half of back-to-back games this year, and the Wizards play the Knicks tomorrow night. The Sixers are the first game in the back-to-back and Wall will play tonight, but his minutes will be limited.

Likewise, the Sixers have been sitting Joel Embiid on the second night of back-to-backs as well, and the Sixers play in Minnesota tomorrow night. With the Wolves game on national television there has been some speculation Embiid could play against the Wolves instead, and the Sixers today confirmed that Embiid will sit out tonight’s game against the Wizards, but will play tomorrow night in Minneapolis. Okafor has also typically not participated in both ends of back-to-backs, but he will play today and also be available for tomorrow’s game.

Bradley Beal has a right hamstring injury that has kept him out of the Wizards last two games and will not play tonight. Sheldon McClellan will start in his place.

Injury Report:
Ben Simmons (out, fractured right foot), Nerlens Noel (out, knee), Jerryd Bayless (out, left wrist), Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot (out, D-League assignment).

About The Opponent:
The Washington Wizards have been one of the most disappointing teams in the league, limping out to a 2-7 start to the season. It has gotten to the point where starting center Marcin Gortat has called their bench one of the league’s worst.

Much like the 76ers, the Wizards have been somewhat competitive when their starting unit has been on the floor, only being outscored by 2.1 points per 100 possessions with the starters on the court. The Wizards have a -4.4 net rating on the season.

That problem only gets worse with Beal out of the lineup and Wall on a minutes restriction. Wall is averaging 22.3 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 8.3 assists per game, and will be a very tough matchup for either Sergio Rodriguez or T.J. McConnell to handle, both more than a little overmatched from an athleticism standpoint.

Beal has struggled a bit so far, shooting just 36.6 percent from the field and 29.4 percent from three on the young season. Still, as has become a trend over the years, the Wizards are significantly better with the threat of Beal’s perimeter shooting on the court, with a 102.9 offensive rating (points scored per 100 possessions) while Beal has been on the court compared to just 97.3 when he’s been off of it. On the season the Wizards have played practically even with their opponent (-0.2 points per 100 possessions) when Beal’s been in the game compared to a getting run out of the gym (-9.3 points per 100 possessions) when Beal’s been on the bench. The loss of Beal for tonight’s game will be a big hurdle to overcome for the Wizards.

Fourth-year small forward Otto Porter has made a huge jump in play this season, with averages of 15.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 1.7 assists, all career highs, while also maintaining a career-high in efficiency with a 61.4 percent true-shooting percentage.

Washington doesn’t do much from the perimeter, with just 21.5 percent of their field goal attempts coming from three-point range, the lowest amount in the league. On top of that they don’t get to the free-throw line a very much, with their 21.8 free-throw attempts per game being the third fewest in the league, and they can become turnover prone. That’s a tough combination to overcome, and a big reason for their 22nd ranked offense.

What To Look For:

The Sixers made a change to their starting lineup. putting newly-acquired Ersan Ilyasova at the starting power forward spot in place of rookie Dario Saric. Brett Brown spoke before the game, saying that he wanted to take pressure off Saric and put him in lineups where he has the opportunity to be more of a playmaker.

With Joel Embiid out of the lineup, the focus shifts to a more all-around game from the Sixers. The Sixers will need not only a big night out of both Jahlil Okafor (24-minute playing time restriction) and Richaun Holmes, but they’ll also need their perimeter shooters to be on from outside and punish the Wizards undisciplined perimeter defense.

This should be a game that the Sixers can win. The Wizards have struggled mightily this year, there’s indications of a lack of unity among Wizards teammates all over the place, and the Wizards have pronounced weaknesses that the Sixers should be able to exploit, namely an offense that struggles to space the floor and a defense that allows opponents to shoot 38.6 percent from three, the second highest opponent three-point percentage in the league.

Derek Bodner covers the 76ers for Philadelphia magazine. Follow @DerekBodnerNBA on Twitter.