Since wrapping up the regular season, the Sixers have been focused on self-improvement at practice.
They can now turn their attention to the Washington Wizards.
With a 142-115 play-in tournament win Thursday night over the Pacers, the Wizards earned the Eastern Conference’s eighth seed and a first-round matchup with the No. 1 seed Sixers. The series will begin Sunday afternoon at Wells Fargo Center.
The last time the Sixers played Washington in the postseason was a first-round series in 1986. The Sixers beat the Bullets in five games, starting Maurice Cheeks, Julius Erving, Charles Barkley, Terry Catledge and Greg Stokes.
Complete coverage of the Philadelphia 76ers and their rivals in the NBA from NBC Sports Philadelphia.
The much more recent history for the Sixers against Washington is good. They swept the regular-season series this year.
In their season opener, the Sixers missed their first 10 shots of the third quarter but escaped with a win. Joel Embiid recorded 29 points and 14 rebounds, and he was especially successful when surrounded by shooters early in the fourth quarter.
The Jan. 6 game between the teams was played after rioters stormed the Capitol in Washington, D.C., earlier in the day. The Sixers won despite allowing Bradley Beal to score a career-high 60 points. Danny Green was the primary defender on Beal and Ben Simmons the main defender on Russell Westbrook.
“I guess after 60 we probably could’ve made the change,” Sixers head coach Doc Rivers said. “We liked what Ben was doing as a roamer tonight off of 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.”
Embiid suffered a left knee bone bruise in the Sixers’ March 12 win over the Wizards, an injury that forced him to miss 10 games.
He averaged 30 points and 9.7 rebounds this season against the Wizards. Alex Len, Robin Lopez and Daniel Gafford are Washington’s options to guard the MVP finalist. Expect to see plenty of double teams, too.
The Wizards won 15 of their final 20 regular-season games. Their 111.2 defensive rating during that stretch was eighth in the league, according to Cleaning the Glass. Before that, Washington had been 25th in defensive rating.
Beal, the NBA’s No. 2 scorer this season, has been hampered by a left hamstring strain. Westbrook has been working through “nicks and bruises,” he told reporters after the Wizards’ play-in loss Tuesday to the Celtics.
Both big names played well Thursday night, though. Beal had 25 points and Westbrook posted 18 points, 15 assists and eight rebounds.
The Sixers currently have no known health concerns. Matisse Thybulle missed the team’s final four regular-season games with a left hand injury but has participated at practice.
“Check it out,” he said Wednesday, smiling and giving a thumbs up. “It’s doing pretty good. Getting better.”