It’s an Eastern Conference showdown Thursday night in the nation’s capital, as the Philadelphia 76ers take on the Washington Wizards. The 76ers (15-6, fourth in the East) are riding a four-game winning streak, while the Wizards are trying to snap their three-game losing streak.
Here is a preview for Thursday night’s game in D.C., along with odds and a pick.
By The Numbers
The 76ers, contrary to their solid record, are not a team that is elite on offense. Philadelphia is 18th in points per game with 108.6, playing at one of the slower paces in the league. The 76ers don’t take or make a lot of threes, averaging just 10.6 makes from beyond the arc per game. Philadelphia is a team that dominates near the basket, as it ranks seventh with a .466 field-goal percentage and has a solid rebounding rate.
Where the 76ers really thrive is on defense. Philadelphia allows the fourth-fewest points per game at 103.7 and holds opponents to a league-low 39.4 rebounds and 20.1 assists per game. The 76ers also average the second-most steals per game and rank fifth in defensive rating.
Meanwhile, take everything said about the Sixers, reverse it, and you have the Wizards. Washington is third in the NBA in points per game with 118.9. Playing at the league’s highest pace, the Wizards are third in field-goal percentage at .478, sixth in three-point percentage at .371, and fourth in free-throw percentage. They’re also the league leaders in assists per game.
However, it’s fair to say the Wizards have the worst defense in the NBA. Washington is allowing 122.9 points per game, over four points more than the second-worst team. Opponents playing the Wizards make 49.4 percent of their shots, another mark that’s the worst in the league. While it does get a few steals a night (7.4), Washington has by far the league’s lowest defensive rating.
Who To Watch
We’ll start with the 76ers, who are led by Joel Embiid. The All-Star center is averaging 22.4 points and 12.2 rebounds a game, leading the team in both categories. Playing alongside him is point guard Ben Simmons, who is averaging nearly 8.5 assists and 2.5 steals per night. While Josh Richardson is still recovering from a hamstring injury, Philadelphia will count on the quartet of Embiid, Simmons, Tobias Harris (18.4 points per game) and Al Horford (14.5 points per game) to score points against the league’s worst defense.
For the Wizards to win, Bradley Beal will need to put up points in bunches. The All-Star guard is having a career year, averaging 28.7 points on 47.2 percent shooting with 7.2 assists per game. Beal is far and away the number one option for Washington, especially with some key players out. Big men Thomas Bryant (13.9 points, 8.5 rebounds) and Moritz Wagner (12.0 points, 5.6 rebounds) are each out with an injury, meaning Davis Bertans and the rookie, Rui Hachimura, will each have to play huge roles in guarding Philadelphia’s lengthy starters.
Horford/Embiid vs. Bertans/Hachimura: With Bryant and Wagner both down, the 6-8 Hachimura and 6-10 Bertans have the unenviable task of going up against Horford and Embiid. These are two All-Stars in Philadelphia who are starting to figure out how to play alongside each other. Meanwhile, the Wizards will have just three players in total dressed for this game who are taller than 6-6, meaning Bertans and Hachimura will get a lot of action, for better or worse.
Odds and Pick
The 76ers are the favorite at -8 in Washington. In a game that’s projected to have around 236 combined points between both teams, expect Philly to roll to victory. It’s bad enough of a mismatch where a team with high levels of talent like the 76ers have to go up against the league’s worst defense in the Wizards. But when you factor in how shorthanded Washington will be, it is all the more reason to expect a blowout. Beal will give a heroic effort, but I’m picking the 76ers -8 to win their fifth straight.