Short-handed Sixers fall to Washington Wizards, 111 — 121

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Philadelphia 76ers coach Doc Rivers shouts during the first half on the team’s NBA basketball game against the Washington Wizards, Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2022, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Laurence Kesterson)

The Philadelphia 76ers were set to face Kristaps Porziņģis and the Washington Wizards for the second time in as many games. As was the case in their last game, the Sixers were without star Joel Embiid, who is recovering from a non-COVID illness. Unfortunately, they would also be without defensive spark plug De’Anthony Melton.

The lack of size and length would be felt from the jump as the Wizards made a concerted effort to play through the paint against the small-ball Sixers. Washington would end the night with points scored in the paint.

What went well for the Sixers was the barrage of three-pointers they were able to muster, hitting 19 of 34 from deep against the Wizards. There was plenty of ball movement — a subject head coach Doc Rivers has harped on all season — and it paid off early and often for the Sixers offensively.

It was the defensive deficiencies; however, that sank the Sixers. Outside of Matisse Thybulle and Paul Reed, Philadelphia struggled to find an answer to the Wizards’ simple yet effective offensive scheme.

There were many wondering why Thybulle and Reed both failed to play for almost the entire second half — The former played just over four minutes, and the latter did not register a single second-half minute. Regarding Matisse Thybulle, the answer soon became clear and unpleasant.

According to Head Coach Doc Rivers, Matisse Thybulle is dealing with what is considered to be a potential sprained ankle, though a proper diagnosis is pending.

Once the team pinpoints the injury, a timeline can be set regarding potential time missed. Hopefully, it will be nothing more than a tweak.

Reed, on the other hand, is a much more confusing case. Despite being one of only two Sixers to finish with a positive plus-minus, Bball Paul remained on the bench for the entire second half. When asked if there was something about Reed’s play that Doc didn’t like, he responded:

“I thought Paul was okay. I thought offensively… same struggle with Matisse… in a lot of ways, they start playing off the ball, and that’s something that he’s gonna get better at. I thought he gave us energy though; blocked a couple shots… but again, offensively, I thought we struggled to score on the other end because of the same thing…”

— Doc Rivers

Reed is certainly not as polished offensively as, say, P.J. Tucker, who is effective as both a shooter and a screener. With that being said, there was a clear and present infusion of energy in his far to short six-minute run.

On a night where the Sixers needed every defender possible, it’s disappointing, to say the least, that they were denied that.

Back to the positive, James Harden and Tyrese Maxey continue to cook for a Philadelphia squad in desperate need. Harden followed up his historic 17-assist performance with 24 points and ten assists, while Maxey led all scorers with 32 points.

The play of the two Sixers stars is more than encouraging. Maxey, in particular, is beginning to grow offensively even fast than expected. He’s now up to 4.4 catch-and-shoot attempts from deep (54.3%), double his attempts from last season (2.2 on 42.7%). Even when Joel Embiid returns, Maxey appears primed to maintain some semblance of his early-season offensive success.

Philadelphia ultimately would fall through the game, at times, was closer than the final score would indicate. They will have the night off tomorrow and return to action Friday as they welcome former Villanova Wildcat Jalen Brunson and the New York Knicks to town.