After pulling off a very impressive win without duo All Stars Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid due to contact tracing, the Philadelphia 76ers will head to the Nation’s capital to play the Washington Wizards.
Here are three storylines to look out for Friday night:
Joel Embiid probable to return
Joel Embiid (health and safety protocols) was officially listed as probable on the NBA’s 1:30 P.M. injury report. He’s been required to quarantine after exposure to an individual who tested positive for COVID-19.
Ben Simmons, who was also exposed, could be cleared to return to team activities as soon as Saturday. The Sixers’ first home game with fans in over a year will be Sunday night vs. the Spurs.
In case you forget, the last time Embiid played he posted 40 points and 19 rebounds in the Sixers’ overtime win over the Jazz. Though the Sixers’ backup big men were excellent Thursday without him.
Bradley Beal is the real deal, and the Sixers need to stop him, if he plays
In the first two Sixers-Wizards games of this season, Bradley Beal scored a total of 91 points, which is insane. He’s questionable to play Friday night because of left knee soreness.
Danny Green started as the number starting defender on Beal when the All-Star guard posted a career-high 60 points on Jan. 6. Head coach Doc Rivers stuck with that matchup in a wild game where the teams combined for 277 points.
“Yeah, I guess after 60 we probably could have made the change,” Rivers said that night. “We liked what Ben was doing as a roamer tonight off of (Russell) Westbrook — being able to run. We thought it would allow him to get a lot of rebounds and push the break. We felt strongly that we could get a lot of easy baskets. So that part of it worked, the other part didn’t.”
With Simmons, who is still quarantining, Matisse Thybulle would be a logical choice to defend Beal. He was stellar defensively Thursday, tying his career-high with five steals.
Trying to stay in the winning ways
Rivers usually doesn’t celebrate every win massive, but he thought Thursday’s victory mattered more than most.
“These wins really solidify your team,” Rivers said. “They do. They allow your team to believe that we’re good as a team. Obviously, we need Joel and obviously we need Ben to win a title, but when you can win games without our (top) guys on the floor, it gives everybody confidence that they can play and they contribute. Really important win for us.”
The Sixers are unlikely to repeat what they did in Chicago. Tony Bradley’s seven-for-seven shooting performance was the best of his career. Thybulle’s three-for-three outing from three-point range was only the fourth game this season he’s made multiple long-range shots.