By Spike Eskin
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The Sixers faced their toughest test of the season on Saturday night in Miami against Lebron James, Chris Bosh and the Heat. They hung in there for three quarters, but didn’t have the firepower to finish the job. Tonight, the Sixers play the Wizards at the Wells Fargo Center, which could be just the thing the home team needs to get back on the winning track.
Washington comes in at 2-14, 0-6 on the road, and losers of two in a row. The Sixers have beat the Wizards four times this season, including two pre-season games, and both games of a back-to-back set earlier this month. The Sixers are 7-1 at home this year, with the only loss coming in overtime to Denver last week.
Though they’re not winning games, the Wizards have played better basketball lately. Last year’s number one overall pick John Wall has been impressive, helping to revive an offense that is currently ranked 27th overall in points scored, and dead last in offensive efficiency.
Wall was picked one spot ahead of the Sixers’ Evan Turner in the 2010 draft. Turner has played very well recently as well, two of his best games in the NBA have come in the last week against Denver and Miami and has been rebounding very well from the guard position. He’s looked more like the confident guy who won the NCAA 2010 National Player of The Year award than the guy who was often times found him out of Doug Collins regular rotation last year.
The biggest challenge for the Sixers will be Wizards center Javale McGee. McGee had 23 points and 18 rebounds in the Wizards last game against the Sixers. He may be an even bigger factor tonight, as the Sixers have been hit hard by injuries in the front court. Spencer Hawes, who has missed the last three games due to a strained back and an injured Achilles tendon is a game time decision, and rookie Nikola Vucevic who was starting in his place, is out with a left knee quad strain suffered in Saturday night’s game against the Heat. McGee will likely see a combination of 35 year-old Tony Battie and Elton Brand for most of the game. Doug Collins may give rookie Lavoy Allen some playing time as well, who played his first meaningful minutes of the season on Saturday after Vucevic went down.
After going 1-2 in their most difficult three game stretch of the season so far (Denver, Atlanta, Miami), the Sixers have a relatively easy week ahead. Home games against the Wizards, Nets, Bobcats and Pistons give them a chance to bank some wins before heading into a February schedule that will have them facing top tier teams almost every game.
The Sixers are 11-5 in their first 16 games, a much better start than last year, when they started the season 3-13 as Dan Majka notes. They lead the Atlantic Division by five games over the New York Knicks.
Listen to Matt Leon’s preview with Marc Zumoff in this CBS Philly Sports Podcast:
Game time tonight is 7:00 pm, and the game can be heard live on 94 WIP.
**UPDATE: As of 1:00pm, Elton Brand is questionable for tonight’s game with a stomach problem.**