Game Preview: Sixers head to Washington to take on the Wizards

Philadelphia 76ers’ Joel Embiid, left, and James Harden watch a free-throw attempt during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Toronto Raptors, Monday, Dec. 19, 2022, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

The Sixers are heading to Washington to take on the Wizards having now gone 8-0 over their last eight games.

Sixers vs Wizards: How to watch

Who: Philadelphia 76ers (20-12) @ Washington Wizards (13-21)

When: 7:00 pm EST

Where: Capitol One Arena, Washington DC.

Betting odds

Spread: Sixers -5
Total: Over/Under 225
Moneyline: Sixers -195 / Wizards +165

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Team spotlight: Sixers

Joel Embiid and a recharged James Harden have been dominating teams throughout the streak, with Harden averaging 21.6 points, 12.8 assists, and 6.1 rebounds. His shooting has really gotten better since he returned from his foot injury. He’s shooting 45% from the field and 41% from three-pointers over the streak.

Embiid, after a bit of a slower start to the season and missing a few games himself, has been otherworldly averaging 35.6 points and 10 rebounds a game through their streak. He’s back to playing at the MVP level he’s displayed over the past two seasons and with Harden healthy and on the floor, it doesn’t seem like anyone will be able to slow him down.

Everybody eats

Critical to the Sixers, other than the aforementioned two, has been the play of Tobias Harris and De’Anthony Melton. Harris, on the year, is averaging 16.7 points to go along with 6.2 rebounds and 2. 8 assists. Where he’s really excelled is his shooting. Currently, he’s at 49.3% shooting with 40.5% on three-pointers, which has helped his team time and time again. He’s developed quite the niche for himself on a team that features three stars, as he’s settling into a much more capable “fourth star” that isn’t feeling the pressure that has been put on him in the past.

De’Anthony Melton has been the other star in recent weeks. His play has people questioning whether guard Tyrese Maxey should be coming off the bench when he returns from his injury. He’s allowed the Sixers, who do miss Maxey, to soldier on without missing too much in the way of production. Melton is averaging 12.1 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 3.2 assists. Where he’s truly excelled is defensively where he’s averaging 2.1 steals on the year, currently second in the league behind Toronto’s O.G. Anunoby. Melton, as I’ve said repeatedly this year, is everything that the Sixers thought Matisse Thybulle would develop into.

Team Spotlight: The Washington Wizards

The Wizards are coming into the game at 13-21, currently 12th in the Eastern Conference. They’ve been able to put together some good games but aren’t talented enough to really get to that next level. Bradley Beal is leading the team with 23.7 points per game to go along with 3.7 rebounds and 5.2 assists.

Behind him, Kristaps Porzingis is seeing a resurgence of sorts this season, as he’s started all 30 games for the Wizards and is averaging 21.9 points and 9.0 rebounds per game. It’s good to see Porzingis healthy and playing well after quite a few seasons battling injuries.

Kyle Kuzma is having himself a great season with 21.8 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per game to give the Wizards a strong top three.

Their issues come, after the three “stars”, with only Power Forward Rui Hachimura averaging over 10 points per game for the rest of the roster. The Wizards have to continue to do a good job of protecting the ball, as they’re turning it over at the fifth-lowest rate in the league. The Sixers are averaging 8.5 steals per game which is good for third in the league.

The Sixers are also holding the second-best defensive rating in the league, at 108.7, and shooting third-best in the league from three-pointers at 38.6%. This game, even though the Wizards do have three very good players at the top of their game, seems like it should be an easy one for a Sixers team that’s rolling. Their current eight-game win streak is the second longest in the league behind the nine games the Nets are on.

The way the Sixers have been playing of late, there doesn’t seem to be any way that the Wizards will get in their way and interrupt their streak. They seem to be getting better each time they take the floor. That’s a good sign for a team that started off poor and has faced two long-term injuries to stars Harden and Maxey. This game should have the Sixers extend their win streak to nine games with Harden and Embiid again putting up the numbers that have become commonplace over the past few weeks.

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Prediction: Sixers 127 – Wizards 109

AP Photo/Matt Slocum