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Sixers take win streak into rematch with Wizards

Sportsnaut
May 6, 2022; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia 76ers guard James Harden (1) talks with guard Tyrese Maxey (0) during the third quarter in game three of the second round for the 2022 NBA playoffs against the Miami Heat at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Going into Wednesday’s matchup at Philadelphia, the Washington Wizards and 76ers ride mirror-opposite trajectories.

Philadelphia’s 118-111 victory over Washington on Monday, in the first game of consecutive contests between the teams, was the 76ers’ third win in a row overall.

Tyrese Maxey scored 28 points with Joel Embiid sitting out due to illness, and James Harden added 23 points and 17 assists as the 76ers continued to shake off a season-opening lull. Philadelphia lost its first three games but has since won four of five.

With Monday’s loss, Washington dropped its third straight and fourth in the last five after a 2-0 start to the season.

Kristaps Porzingis scored a game-high 32 points for the Wizards on Monday, but the defense struggled, giving up 55.4 percent shooting from the floor to the 76ers.

The Wizards shot 46.9 percent as a team, although offensive catalyst Bradley Beal failed to reach 40 percent individually. He shot 7 of 18 from the field (38.9 percent) en route to 20 points, playing more point guard than his natural two-guard, to help fill in for Delon Wright.

Wright suffered a hamstring injury in last week’s 120-99 rout of Detroit, which is Washington’s most recent win. Wright is expected to miss the next six to eight weeks.

“We need him to score,” Kyle Kuzma said of Beal, according to NBC Sports Washington. “We’re putting him in the point-guard position, and he can do it, but he’s a scorer. … He’s one of the few guys on our team that can actually get into the paint and that have an emphasis of getting to the paint.”

As Washington searches to adjust its offensive approach, Philadelphia looks to continue on its current arc, specifically with contributions from Maxey.

Embiid suggested recently that Maxey should be shooting as many as 15 3-pointers per game. Maxey is a career 40.2 percent shooter from distance, with that mark up to 45.3 percent this season.

And while Maxey made only two 3-pointers on six attempts Monday against Washington, his team-leading scoring effort was integral to the win. So too is the ability for others to pick up the scoring load, with defenses keying on Embiid and Harden.

Harden’s 17 assists were the most by any player in an NBA game this season.

“He draws so much attention, he’s pretty much getting double-teamed, triple-teamed out there,” Philadelphia’s De’Anthony Melton said. “So we’re just out there trying to find open space, keep moving the ball, and just keep hitting open shots.”

Effective scoring has been one marked difference for Philadelphia during its wins. The 76ers are averaging 116 points per game in victories and just 104.8 in losses.

Washington’s defense, meanwhile, has allowed 118.5 points per game in the Wizards’ losses. Opponents are scoring only 102 points per game in Washington’s wins.

In looking for defensive solutions, Wizards coach Wes Unseld Jr. used Anthony Gill in the starting lineup and played him a season-high 26 minutes against the 76ers.

“We have a lot of talented scorers on our team. We don’t need to add another one with me,” Gill said, according to The Washington Post. “I think my ability to help other people and be unselfish contributes to (the starting lineup).”

–Field Level Media