For the third straight seeding game, the 76ers will be facing a depleted lineup when they meet the Washington Wizards in Wednesday’s 4 p.m. matchup at the Wide World of Sports Complex in Kissimmee, Fla.
Unlike the first two teams, Indiana and San Antonio, the Wizards have not been able to make up for the loss of key players.
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Point guard John Wall, a five-time All-Star, has missed all season recovering from a torn Achilles tendon. In addition, two-time All-Star guard Bradley Beal is out with a right shoulder injury. Sharp-shooting forward Davis Bertans, an upcoming free agent, has opted out of playing according to a team official.
Bertans was outstanding in the Wizards’ 119-113 home win over the Sixers on Dec 5. He came off the bench to score 25 points, shooting 7 of 13 from three-point range. Beal has averaged 21.6 points in 22 career games against the Sixers.
At 24-43, the Wizards by far have the worst record among the 22 remaining NBA teams. So this game should be a breeze for the Sixers, right?
During the NBA restart, the Wizards are 0-3 and have lost to Phoenix, Brooklyn and Indiana by an average of 10.6 points.
“We are trying, fighting and clawing and just not getting rewarded yet,” Wizards coach Scott Brooks said on a Zoom interview following Monday’s 111-100 loss to Indiana. “We have five more games and we will play the same way.”
So the Wizards aren’t laying down, but it is a team that the Sixers should not have to take down to the wire.
Washington has some impressive young players, including rookie forward Rui Hachmura, a first-round draft choice from Gonzaga and center Thomas Bryant. Hachmura is averaging 13.3 points and 6.1 rebounds, and Bryant averages 12.7 points and 7.1 rebounds.
The Sixers (40-27) have shown an ability to play down to their opponents. In their first two games, their biggest problem has been fourth-quarter defense, where they have been outscored 89-67 in the final period.
For what it’s worth, the Wizards have only been outscored 92-88 in the fourth quarter of their three games. In the 125-112 loss to Phoenix, Washington trailed 89-81 after three quarters. During the 118-110 loss to Brooklyn, the Wizards led 85-83 after three before being outscored 35-25 in the final period. Against Indiana, the Wizards were down 90-68 after three quarters before outscoring the Pacers, 32-21 in the fourth. Washington cut the deficit to 107-100 with 1:16 left, showing the type of fight that Brooks discussed.