Washington is the first victim on our schedule and the two players that need to be focused in on are John Wall and Bradley Beal. These two are obviously the focal points of Washington’s offense as many will remember how bad John Wall beat us up last year. Despite this, the 76ers still rolled out a winning 2-1 record against the Wizards. In order to continue this success, the 76ers will have to continue to shoot well and play good perimeter defense.
In order to be competitive tonight, the 76ers need to avoid getting into shooting slumps. In both of our victories last year against the Wizards, we shot 49.4% and 54.5% from the field. In our loss, we shot 41.4 percent. The additions of JJ Redick along with the improved shooting of Dario Saric’s deep ball should help us. What worries me is the obvious growing pains we may see from our rookies Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz. We have 2 playoff teams in the opening 2 games of the season and it would be huge for this squad to find a way to win early. For the Wizards, it will come down to our shooting. We need to be efficient while also finding ways to slow down Wall and Beal.
Despite beating the Wizards twice last year, John Wall still put up 56 pts in our 2 wins and Bradley Beal had 40 pts in one of the wins as well (he was injured during our first match up). Both of these guys are going to get their points, we just have to force them into 2 point shots, rather than letting them fire it from behind behind the arc.
Looking at John Wall’s shooting chart against Philly last year, the big stat that sticks out is how many mid-range shots we forced him into. 15 mid range jumpers at a 20% clip is a good way to stabilize a star player like Wall. We did not let him take a large amount of 3 point attempts, and he found most of his points in the paint. Embiid will stabilize that aspect with his defensive presence, albeit under a minutes restriction again, but a big factor into the game will be our perimeter defense.
If we can keep force Wall into a good amount of mid range jumpers, it will only increase our chances of winning. In both of our wins, Wall shot under 33% from 3. In our only loss to him, he shot 75% from downtown. My bold prediction here is that T.J. gets a good amount of playing time tonight because of his quickness and defensive skill set.
With Wall only being half the problem, we also have to focus on Beal. Beal is also a player who is going to score in volume as evidenced by his 20 pt and 40 pt performances against us last year. The big difference in between those performances was his 3 pt percentages. In our win, we held him to 25% shooting from behind the arc. With Ben Simmons in the fold, I am hoping to see Robert Covington cover him more, as Ben will provide us another option to cover Kelly Oubre Jr. This will hopefully slow down Beal a bit and keep us in the game.
Against a potential playoff opponent, I would love to see a competitive squad roll out tonight. Embiid’s presence alone should elevate our players. Now it’s time to trust the process.
Featured Image Photo Credit: Rocky Widner, Getty Images