The Washington Wizards went into last night’s game against the 76ers with their backs against the proverbial wall after being thrashed 132-103 in game 3. Many fans and pundits alike had already written off the outcome of the series as a foregone conclusion. The Wizards however, clearly had other plans.
They responded to the noise with an 122-114 win in which nearly every player who received significant minutes was an important contributor. Davis Bertans, who nearly put up a goose egg of box score contributions in game two (two rebounds, fouled out in 24 minutes), had easily his best game of the playoffs so far, scoring 15 points and hitting three of his six 3-pointers. Robin Lopez continued to be absurdly efficient, hitting 8/11 shots and scoring 16 points. Recently acquired center Daniel Gafford was given his first nod as a starter in a Wizards uniform and did not disappoint. He scored 12 points on 4/4 shooting and blocked 5 shots in 26 minutes. He likely would have had more if foul trouble had not forced him to sit. Although Rui Hachimura had a rough night on the defensive end, and Philadelphia frequently hunted matchups against him off picks and switches, he made up for it on the offensive end where he scored 20 points on 8/12 shooting. He tacked on 12 rebounds and three 3-pointers for good measure.
While Bradley Beal and Russell Westbrook did not have the most efficient nights, they did enough to get the job done. Beal scored 27 points on 9/23 shooting, and Westbrook had a triple-double with 19 points, 14 assists and 21 rebounds. He shot just 3/19 from the field but made 13-16 free throw attempts. It was an NBA record for the worst field goal percentage in a triple double.
Worst FT% over a 4-game span in the playoffs.
Worst FG% in a triple double
This Wizards/Sixers series is wonky pic.twitter.com/M2JxoZFZgg
— 📌Quinton Mayo (@RealQuintonMayo) June 1, 2021
The 76ers, on the other hand, had a rough go of it on the offensive end, shooting just 41.7 from the field and 31.6 percent on 3-pointers as a team. Tobias Harris led the team with 21 points, albeit on 8/24 from the field and 1/5 on 3-pointers. Their most efficient offensive performance undoubtedly came from rookie guard Tyrese Maxey, who scored 15 points on 6/12 shooting and hit two 3-pointers. Considering the 76ers had the tenth best team 3-point percentage in the NBA this season at 37.5 percent during the regular season, it is hard to see a cold shooting night like this repeating for them any time soon.
The most interesting development in this game, outside the final score, was that 76ers star center and MVP finalist Joel Embiid left the game with a knee injury about halfway through the first quarter. He fell awkwardly after losing his balance meeting Robin Lopez at the rim. The injury was labeled ‘right knee soreness’ and Embiid will reportedly have an MRI at some point today. Philadelphia had a small lead up to that point in the game, but they were not able to retain it as the Wizards outscored them by 15 points over the next two quarters.
No official word from the Sixers yet on Joel Embiid’s injury, but here’s the fall he took not long before leaving for the locker room.pic.twitter.com/s3NufD3LXs
— Chase Hughes (@ChaseHughesNBCS) June 1, 2021
While seeing an injury befall any player is always an intrinsically bad thing, the NBA does not award teams pity points or wins if their star player is injured. Nobody on the Wizards is wishing Embiid any ill will, but they should still look to capitalize on the opportunity that his extended absence could present them with. This game made it crystal clear that the 76ers need Embiid to make a deep playoff run, and cannot rely on Ben Simmons to carry the offensive load by himself. Simmons had 13 points on 4/5 shooting, but went just 5/11 from the free throw line as the Wizards employed a ‘Hack-a-Simmons’ strategy in the second half. Beal even attempted to play mind games with Simmons at one point by standing directly next to him while he prepared to shoot two foul shots. Viewers were quick to point out the similarities to when LeBron James walked up to Gilbert Arenas at the foul line in a playoff game and said, “if you miss both of these free throws, the game is over.” Arenas missed both free throws, and the rest, as they say, is history. Simmons might have made one of his shots, but repeatedly sending him to the line was a good decision by Wizards head coach Scott Brooks, who is likely coaching for his job right now.
Bradley Beal said when he approached Ben Simmons at the free throw line before one of his attempts in the 4th quarter, he didn't say a thing. He just stood there next to him.
"I wanted to play a little mind game with him."
— Chase Hughes (@ChaseHughesNBCS) June 1, 2021
Other than the result of the game itself, Bradley Beal surpassed 1,000 postseason points and a Wizards fan ran onto the court only to be quickly body-slammed by an on-court security guard.
While the Wizards may have forced game five and the potential continuance of Joel Embiid’s absence due to injury hangs like a dark crowd over Philadelphia, there has never been a team that has come back from being down 3-0 in a playoff series in NBA history, much less in a one vs. eight seed matchup. There being a chance of no Embiid certainly opens a door for the Wizards to steal some games and tire out the 76ers for a later opponent, but it would take an absolutely herculean effort for the Wizards to even tie this series, much less win it. However, Scott Brooks is staring down the barrel of potential unemployment following the conclusion of this season, and you never know what a man will find the strength to do with their back pinned against the wall. Here’s to hoping the rest of this series is as entertaining as game four was.
All stats courtesy of Basketball Reference and ESPN
Thanks for reading about the Washington Wizards vs. Philadelphia 76ers playoff series! You can like The Game Haus on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles from great TGH writers like Andrew!
‘From our Haus to yours’