Sixers look to exploit struggling Wizards

The Philadelphia 76ers hope to continue to take advantage of a soft spot in their schedule when they take on the Washington Wizards in the NBA bubble near Orlando on Wednesday afternoon.

After suffering a loss to Indiana in their Florida opener that dropped them behind the Pacers in the race for the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference, the 76ers (40-27) responded with a 132-130 victory over the San Antonio Spurs on Monday.

That game began a stretch in which the 76ers play five consecutive games against teams currently seeded seventh or lower in their respective conference. The Wizards (24-43) have the worst record among all teams in Orlando.

All told, the 76ers were the beneficiary of landing the second-easiest schedule following the coronavirus break, with their eight opponents having a cumulative .506 winning percentage at the time. Only the New Orleans Pelicans (.495) of the Western Conference were given a smoother road to the postseason.

That’s not to say there was anything easy about Philadelphia’s win over the Spurs on Monday. They needed all of Joel Embiid’s 27 points and Shake Milton’s 3-pointer in the final seconds to pull out the win.

Afterward, 76ers coach Brett Brown blasted his team’s defensive effort.

“I think it stinks,” he told reporters. “It’s not anything that we are, or believe in, or talk about. We were very lucky to win.”

The 76ers have allowed 127 and 130 points in their two games at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex. They were scorched to the tune of 50.5-percent shooting (41.2 percent on 3-pointers) in the loss to Indiana, before the Spurs put up similar numbers (49.5 percent overall, 46.2 percent on threes) on Monday.

Philadelphia has countered with nearly equal firepower, led by Embiid, who has averaged 34 points and 15 rebounds in the two games. Tobias Harris has chipped in with an average of 27.5 points per contest.

In the Wizards, the 76ers will see a team on the verge of playoff elimination, one that seems to be leaking oil offensively in the absence of John Wall, Bradley Beal and Davis Bertans.

Washington has gone 0-3 in Florida as their scoring output has dropped from 112 against Phoenix to 110 against Brooklyn to 100 in an 11-point loss to Indiana on Monday.

Wizards coach Scott Brooks assured after the Indiana game that his team is not about to give up, even though the schedule gets tougher. Washington still has Milwaukee and Boston looming.

“I like this group because they care. I like this group because they take losses hard,” Brooks told reporters. “We’re trying, we’re fighting; we’re just not getting rewarded yet. But we’re going to keep doing it. We’ve got five more games; we’re going to play the same exact way.”

Big man Thomas Bryant has led the way for the Wizards in Florida, averaging 20 points and 10.3 rebounds. He has recorded double-doubles in his last two games.

The clubs split two earlier games this season, with each winning at home.

The Wizards overcame a 26-point, 21-rebound effort by Embiid to win 119-113 in December behind Beal’s 26 points. He’s since been lost to a shoulder injury.

The 76ers won the rematch 16 days later, 125-108, with Embiid recording another double-double (21 points, 13 rebounds).

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