With Embiid cleared to return, 3 Sixers-Wizards storylines to watch


The Nets are off Friday night, meaning the Sixers can move a full game ahead of Brooklyn in the Eastern Conference standings with a win in Washington, D.C.

Here are the essentials for Friday’s game:

  • When: 8 p.m. ET with Sixers Pregame Live at 7:15 p.m.
  • Where: Capital One Arena 
  • Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia 
  • Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the MyTeams app 

And here are three storylines to watch: 

Embiid set to return

Joel Embiid has been cleared to return to action. He’d been required to quarantine after exposure to an individual who tested positive for COVID-19.

Ben Simmons, who was also exposed, could be cleared to return to team activities as soon as Saturday. The Sixers’ first home game with fans in over a year will be Sunday night vs. the Spurs.

In case you forgot, the last time Embiid played he had 40 points and 19 rebounds in the Sixers’ overtime win over the Jazz. Though the Sixers’ backup big men — “Dwight Bradley,” if you will — were excellent Thursday without him, the Sixers would certainly be glad to have their MVP candidate back in the fold. 

A big challenge in Beal 

In the first two Sixers-Wizards games of this season, Bradley Beal scored a total of 91 points. He’d been questionable with left knee soreness but will play Friday.

Danny Green started as the primary defender on Beal when the All-Star guard posted a career-high 60 points on Jan. 6, and head coach Doc Rivers stuck with that matchup in a wild game where the teams combined for 277 points.

“Yeah, I guess after 60 we probably could have made the change,” Rivers said that night. “We liked what Ben was doing as a roamer tonight off of (Russell) 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.”

With Simmons still quarantining, Matisse Thybulle would be a logical choice to defend Beal. He was stellar defensively Thursday, tying his career-high with five steals. 

Trying to sustain momentum  

Rivers isn’t one to proclaim every win massive, but he thought Thursday’s victory mattered more than most.

“These wins really solidify your team,” he said. “They do. They allow your team to believe that we’re good as a team. Obviously, we need Joel and obviously we need Ben to win a title, but when you can win games without our (top) guys on the floor, it gives everybody confidence that they can play and they contribute. Really important win for us.”

The Sixers are unlikely to replicate some of what they did in Chicago. Tony Bradley’s 7-for-7 shooting performance was the best of his professional career (or college, for that matter). Thybulle’s 3-for-3 evening from three-point range was only the fourth game this season he's made multiple long-range shots.

Still, the Sixers will view themselves as perfectly capable of beating the 14-21 Wizards and improving to above .500 on the road. We’ll see if they’re still riding high and playing good team basketball. 

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