On Wednesday night, the Sixers played like the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. T
Their talents shone brightly in a 120-95 victory over the Wizards at Wells Fargo Center, giving the club a 2-0 lead in their first-round playoff series.
Ben Simmons finished with 22 points, nine rebounds, and eight assists on 11-for-15 shooting.
Tobias Harris had 19 points and nine rebounds on 9-for-13 shooting. Joel Embiid had a double-double with 22 points and seven rebounds. There was no need for any Sixer to play more than 29 minutes.
Game 3 will take place in Washington, D.C. on Saturday night.
Following are three thoughts on the Sixers’ Game 2 victory:
The Big Three of the Sixers are in a zone.
It took Simmons only eight and a half minutes to match his six-point performance in Game 1.
In the first quarter, the three-time All-Star slammed into and past bodies a lot, notably on a dunk where he pushed over Davis Bertans and then found himself alone at the rim. He hit his first three baskets, got early fouls from the Wizards by pounding the offensive glass, and was virtually unstoppable.
Simmons knocked down three dunks in a 55-second span at one point. He had 12 points and five rebounds in the first quarter.
There’s little doubt that he can have a significant impact on winning even if he doesn’t score, but efficient, aggressive offence doesn’t hurt either.
Harris was fluid and decisive in the first half, executing jumpers with ease over smaller defenders and hitting 8 of 9 field goals.
Embiid carefully handled Washington’s double teams, handing the ball over when he was under pressure and waiting to see how the play unfolded when help was just around the corner. He got a corner three by squeezing an early skip pass through to Seth Curry.
The night’s undeniable highlight was Embiid’s clumsy yet beautiful and-one layup, followed by his Triple H-inspired celebration.
Takeaways in rotation
Unlike on Sunday, Sixers head coach Doc Rivers did not have to deal with Embiid’s foul issues.
However, determining his preferred rotations is difficult. From game to game, he tries to go with his gut, but will he eventually settle on particular patterns?
Before garbage time on Wednesday, Rivers went 11-deep, starting George Hill, Shake Milton, Matisse Thybulle, Furkan Korkmaz, and Dwight Howard from the bench late in the first and early in the second quarter.
Korkmaz’s inclusion could have been influenced by the Sixers’ poor start from three-point range (1 for 6).
Hill is clearly a favourite of Rivers’ among his best players, and he believes his second unit can compete in the playoffs. Rivers appears to be adaptable beyond that. In the third period, with the Sixers leading by a comfortable margin, he even went against his policy of avoiding lineups that had Thybulle, Howard, and Simmons.
Rivers must still determine how much he can play his stars without overworking them. They’ll play more minutes (in non-blowout games) than in the regular season, but can Harris play effectively for 38 minutes every game? What is the maximum amount of time Embiid can play without becoming fatigued?
For a little while, it appeared that those questions were unimportant. Harris left the game with an apparent ankle injury, and Korkmaz took his place.
Shortly after, he emerged from the locker room and returned to the court to relieved shouts.
Curry left the game with 6:16 left in the third quarter due to left ankle pain and did not return. Curry was listed as questionable by a Sixers official early in the fourth quarter, but he appeared to be good for Game 3. We’ll have to wait and see.
Tyrese Maxey, a fan favourite, played 14 minutes in the second half, scoring 10 points and blocking three attempts. Even if he doesn’t have a defined function currently, he’ll undoubtedly be involved in the future.
The one-man show of the Wizards isn’t quite enough.
At halftime, the Wizards were behind 14 points. If Washington didn’t have Bradley Beal, the score would have been much worse for them much sooner.
Beal scored 24 points in the first half on 11-of-15 shooting. He couldn’t keep up that pace, and the Sixers began to pull away after Beal starting missing a couple close-range baskets. Despite this, he scored 33 points in the game. Beal was 1 for 6 from three-point range, while his teammates shot 1 for 16 from beyond the arc.
Russell Westbrook had 11 assists and drew ten free throws, but he was only 2 for 10 from the field. Early in the fourth quarter, he seemed to injure his right ankle.
Westbrook was rightfully enraged when a fan dumped popcorn on him as he walked down the tunnel. This should never happen to anyone, never alone an injured player.
The Sixers’ offence was so good that Beal’s great night didn’t matter. In the first half, many transition defence breakdowns didn’t help matters. Daniel Gafford sealed Milton deep in the paint after a Howard layup and completed a and-one layup, a play that irritated Milton.
In the first half, Washington had 11 fast-break points, but the Sixers improved in the second. Any opponent’s game plan against them will undoubtedly include attacking early in the shot clock. The Sixers were better at stopping the ball and communicating before the Wizards ball handlers entered the paint in Game 2 than they were in Game 1.
Thybulle was a defensive star, recording five blocks and four thefts, both of which were more than the Wizards. Thybulle’s performance isn’t out of the ordinary, but it’s nonetheless impressive.