Fresh off their first win in over three weeks, the Sixers are off to the see the Wizards to ask for a winning streak, something they haven’t obtained since a modest three-game stretch January 30th-February 4th. Washington is the polar opposite of last night’s opponent, Golden State, ranking last in the league in offensive rating at 96.1, while sporting a league-average defense. The Sixers defeated Washington 92-84, in the teams’ only meeting thus far, only rookie shooting guard Bradley Beal, who leads the team in scoring was out for that game with a sprained wrist.
Despite their poor record, Sixers’ fans can not assume this will be an easy opponent for Philadelphia. Washington has gone 13-11 since John Wall returned to the line-up, a record which would make the Wizards a playoff team over a full season. However, Nene has missed the last two games with a shoulder injury, both Washington losses, and is questionable for this contest against Philadelphia. The Wizards rely heavily not only on Nene’s rebounding and defensive toughness, but also on his ability to run their offensive sets out of the high post. In fact, Washington is 1-14 on the season when Nene is out of the line-up, making the case that he is even more valuable to the team than John Wall. His absence in this evening’s contest would make things much easier on Philadelphia.
Keys to the Game:
- Take care of the basketball. When John Wall gets the ball in transition off an turnover or long rebound, he can be a deadly scorer, getting to the rim with his blazing speed and athleticism. However, in half court sets, Wall still struggles due to his poor-outside shooting (27.3% from 8-16 ft, 33.3% 16-24 ft, only 1-14 from three on the season). Do not let him penetrate the lane and let him hoist up inaccurate long jumpers.
- Fight through screens to stick Bradley Beal on defense. Given last night’s starting line-up, Holiday and Royal Ivey will likely switch off between Wall and Beal. Beal has come in strong in the 2nd half of his rookie season, now leading the team at 14.2 ppg, and averaging 18.8 points on 48.0% shooting over his last 10 games. That being said, Beal is a pure catch-and-shoot player at this point of his career, as 73.7% of his made field goals are assisted. Make a concerted effort as a team to not allow him open outside looks and he should not do too much damage.
- Bring the effort from last night. Self-explanatory. It was refreshing to see energy out on the court and in the stands, as fans were cheering on the hometown Sixers instead of booing them. I’d like to see some more of that.
If Nene is out again, the Sixers win this one fairly easily as Jrue Holiday outplays the more-celebrated John Wall. With Nene in the line-up, the game comes down to the wire but I’ll opt with a second-straight Philadelphia victory.