3 Observations From Underwhelming Loss to Beal-less Wizards Team

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By Matt Gregan, Sports Talk Philly Staff Writer

The Philadelphia 76ers fell short of having a perfect home stand, falling to the Washington Wizards 106-103 at the Wells Fargo Center.

It was a disappointing loss for the Sixers, who were facing a Wizards team without Bradley Beal (left wrist sprain) and Thomas Bryant (right ankle sprain). Philadelphia was without Furkan Korkmaz (left knee soreness), Shake Milton (back contusion) and Seth Curry was a late scratch due to back spasms.

Joel Embiid had a rare off night shooting the ball, knocking down just 11 of his 27 shots from the field. He still finished with 27 points, 14 rebounds and six assists. Tyrese Maxey finished with 22 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. Tobias Harris added 18 points and nine rebounds.

Kyle Kuzma led the Wizards with 24 points, seven rebounds and three blocks, including a key block on Embiid that practically sealed the game at the end.

The Sixers are now 31-20 on the season and take on the Dallas Mavericks on Friday night on ESPN. Here are three observations from the loss:

Maxey proves to be lone positive in Sixers' otherwise poor first quarter

The Sixers got off to a slow start in this one, falling behind 19-13 midway through the first quarter. However, Maxey flipped a switch towards the end of the quarter, scoring 12 of the team's final 15 points in the opening frame. His quick scoring spurt kept the team in it, they were down 29-28 heading into the second quarter.

Maxey has done a good job lately finding the right balance between playing like a traditional point guard and pushing the pace by attacking the basket. He has an impressive ability to get to the rim, and he used it multiple times to help an otherwise stagnant Sixers offense in the first quarter.

The most stunning piece of his offensive game, however, is his improved three-point shooting ability. He showed he has the step-back jumper in his toolkit, draining multiple of those shots throughout the game. His outside shooting combined with his ability to get to the basket presents a lethal combination for opposing defenses.

His shooting percentage from beyond the arc, heading into the game against the Wizards, jumped from 30.1 percent as a rookie to 40.1 percent on double the attempts per game. He made two of his four attempts from three-point range tonight in what has become just another night for the Rising Stars Challenge selection.

Embiid's inefficient shooting performance

It is not often Embiid has a poor shooting performance, but he looked mortal tonight in the loss to the Wizards. Coming off a one-game planned absence due to rest, the big man lacked his usual touch on both jumpers and shots around the rim.

He had an up-and-down scoring game, never really getting into a consistent groove against the Wizards. He scored only two points on 1-of-6 shooting from the field in the first quarter before turning it on a bit in the second frame and again coming out hot and physical to begin the second half. However, it was clear he was out of rhythm, shooting only 2-of-6 from the field in the fourth quarter. The back-to-back Eastern Conference Player of the Month was due for a down game, but he still did make huge positive impacts on multiple other areas of the game.

Embiid finished with 14 rebounds and six assists, and he did not turn the ball over a single time. His playmaking has been much improved from prior seasons, and it showed up tonight in a variety of occasions. He connected with Isaiah Joe multiple times, including a brilliant cross-court pass to set up a wide-open three. His improved passing combined with an improved ability to read the court has really helped him handle double teams better.

One of the highlight plays he made in the fourth quarter came on this pass to Georges Niang for an open layup. This play was just one example of both his improved passing and improvisational ability as he had to adjust mid-move to handle the double team.

Lack of depth and poor rotations

It was readily apparent heading into the game the Sixers would have to rely more on their depth, specifically at the wing positions with Curry, Korkmaz and Milton all being out.

Matisse Thybulle, outside of hitting a catch-and-shoot three in the team's opening possession, was an offensive zero. Danny Green did what he usually does, hit a couple of threes throughout the game and play decent defense. He was hampered by foul trouble throughout the contest.

Head coach Doc Rivers went to Myles Powell for the backup point guard minutes early in the second quarter, and it did not go well. The team looked completely out of sync on both ends of the floor when Powell was in the game. Needless to say, he did not see more time on the court after that stretch.

Niang had a solid game off the bench, scoring 12 points on 5-of-11 shooting and knocking down two of his six attempts from beyond the arc. Joe showed he should start receiving some more consistent minutes off the bench with another hot-shooting performance. He finished the game with 11 points, including shooting 3-of-5 from three-point range, in 25 minutes off the bench. An important thing to note about Joe's performance: He showed good chemistry on the floor with Embiid, something which should help his case for more minutes throughout the rest of the season.

Was Rivers going to get creative with the team's rotations considering the injuries heading into the game? Unfortunately the answer continued to be no. He consistently fails to stagger Maxey and Embiid, something that would help the team in a plethora of different ways. Maxey would be great leading the bench unit, especially on a night like tonight when the team was shorthanded behind him.

Rivers multiple times went to the Harris-led bench unit, which usually works alright. However, it became clear early on that lineup was struggling. Harris would need to be excelling as a creator in order for him to successfully anchor the bench unit. Rivers went to this unit multiple times, including for an extended run to begin the fourth quarter when the game was tight. Who knows how much having Maxey out on the floor early in the fourth quarter would have helped.

In the end, the Sixers would lose against the Wizards. The game came down to the wire, and Rivers should learn from this game and improve his rotations in the future.

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