Things to Watch: Sixers versus Wizards
After seven games the Sixers find themselves atop the NBA at 6-1. They are back in action at home on Wednesday night, facing off against Bradley Beal and the Washington Wizards.
When these teams first met, the Sixers walked away with a 113-107 victory. Here are three things to watch in the matchup tonight.
Controlling the pace
When Doc Rivers refers to pace, he doesn’t mean he wants the team playing super fast. He constantly refers to pace as playing the game at their speed, not their opponents. That is going to be a major focus in this matchup.
Heading into the matchup, the Wizards are currently playing at the third-fastest pace in the NBA. Not letting Westbrook and the rest of the Wizards turn the game into a track meet needs to be a point of emphasis for the Sixers defensively.
This is not going to be easy, as transition defense has been a weak point for the Sixers at times. Looking back at the first matchup between the teams this year, the Wizards swung the momentum in their favor when they got to push the pace in the open floor.
If the Sixers want to walk away with the victory again in this matchup, they are going to need to maintain control of the tempo.
Defending the perimeter
One area that Washington stood out in during the first matchup was three-point shooting. They shot just under 50% from deep in the season opener, while the Sixers shot under 30%.
Whether it’s Bradley Beal or Davis Bertans, the Wizards have a lot of firepower from deep. The Sixers are going to have to improve their defense on the outside this time around and limit the number of clean looks the Wizard’s outside shooters get.
The Sixers have shown that they intend on being one of if not the best defensive team in the league this season. It would be shocking if their defense doesn’t change to address the areas where Washington saw success in the first meeting of these teams.
Dominating the paint
Looking on the Sixers’ side, one thing that led them to victory against the Wizards was their control of the paint. In large part to the play of Joel Embiid, the Sixers would outscore the Wizards 52-26 in points in the paint.
Washington had no answer for Joel Embiid the first time around, and that is a matchup the Sixers should ride again in this game. When all was said and done, Embiid finished the game with 29 points and 14 rebounds.
One lineup we might see again in this game is the Embiid + four shooters combo. Doc Rivers used it for the first time against the Wizards, and it saw great success. With all the shooting around him, Embiid was able to take his matchup one on one and single-handedly erased a double-digit deficit.
Thomas Bryant was no match for Joel Embiid around the rim, and the Sixers should look to open up the floor again and let Embiid continually attack that mismatch.