Embid had an Early Exit
The Washington Wizards live to fight another day as they manage to beat the Philidelphia 76ers in what was a true battle. With the commencement of game five in this series things have started to turn in favor of Washington. The 76ers suffered a major loss by losing their star player Joel Embid in the first quarter of this game. This is absolutely critical, considering the fact that Embid is responsible for single-handedly obliterating the Wizards in the previous matchups. Before last night he has consistently scored 25+ in games one through three. This is a result of the Wizards not having anybody capable of guarding the offensive threat that Embid presents. When on the floor against this current Wizards roster any shot is obtainable as no one can contest quick enough.
Not only has Embid been torching Washington from range, but it’s also nearly impossible to stop him from driving and finishing at the rim. Washington’s big men Robin Lopez, Alex Len, and Daniel Gafford have all proven to be too light for Embid. With the absence of the 76ers big man, Washington now has a larger chance of grabbing those rebounds that seem to elude them in this series. With Ben Simmons only being able to drive to the rim, Washington has been able to contain his scoring recently. Holding Simmons to under 15 points these past two games but he hasn’t had to carry the responsibility of scoring. The 76ers helping cast of Tobias Harris, Seth Curry, Danny Green, and George Hill have helped cover that category.
Does Embid even Matter?
Furthermore, with Embid’s early first quarter exit, it still came down to the wire at the bottom of the fourth. The game was not decided until a clutch three from the Wizards breakout performer Rui Hachimura with 45 seconds left. This put the Wizards in a two-possession game and made it possible to just run out the clock to decide the game. With this game being such a close battle, even with the absence of the 76ers big man, does it matter? Is Embid’s presence even required? In short, the answer is yes, but it’ll be difficult. The 76ers do not need Embid to beat Washington in game 6. Philadelphia has had other players to do exactly what Embid has been doing as far as rebounding and scoring are concerned. Philly’s guard Simmons and forward Harris lead this series in rebounds grabbing nearly 30 boards this series apiece.
Philly’s Biggest Offensive and Defensive Threats
Harris has also taken the role of being the main scorer for Philadelphia averaging 24.3 points. Over the course of these past 4 games not only has he averaged the most points but also scored a career-high 37 in game 1. With the threat that he has shown to be, Washington has its hands full. Not to mention the assistance from sharpshooting teammates such as Green, Curry, and Hill. The obstacles to overcome, however, don’t cease to stop on offense. As Simmons’s shooting ability may have cost them game 4 with the inability to make free throws his defense has been impeccable. Matisse Thybulle as well has been pestering the Wizards throughout this series showing his ability to guard positions 1-3. Thybulle displayed his defensive abilities in this four-game stretch breaking up plays throughout.
How can Washington Continue to Win?
With these challenges ahead, how can Washington manage a comeback against this team with so much depth on its roster? For starters, the most apparent stat when you look at the box score for game 4 was the triple-double Russell Westbrook recorded with 19 points, 21 rebounds, and 14 assists. It appears as though this was a great game from the Wizards star, yet looking closer he shot 3-19. In other words, Westbrook shot 15.8% from the field last night recording the worst triple-double shooting percentage in NBA history. Westbrook’s 21 rebounds were greatly appreciated but that percentage is unacceptable. It is understood that he is battling some ankle issues, but to miss that many shot attempts means that he scored 13 of his points from free throws. This output cannot continue in hopes of a comeback.
Is there really any chance?
Although a 3-0 comeback has never been accomplished, history is in their favor as the 76ers head coach is the only one that has managed to lose 3 different series up 3-1 out of 7. Doc Rivers is a great coach, but victory can be slippery when it’s in his grasp. 2003 was the first 3-1 lead that Rivers blew with the Orlando Magic when he first started coaching vs. the Detroit Pistons. Then again in 2015 when Rivers was coaching for the Los Angeles Clippers over the Houston Rockets in the second round of the playoffs. Most recently squandering his last opportunity with a 3-1 lead in the second round again vs. the Denver Nuggets last year in the 2020 season. Interestingly enough, Doc Rivers holds the record for the most game 7 losses in the playoffs with eight.
Another thing that has to come to fruition is Davis Bertans ability to shoot. His previous showcases of barely being able to score from three, that just won’t cut it. Thankfully the sharpshooting forward got it going early in the game. He did however leave with an injury and is questionable to return for game 5 just as Embid. If Bertans does return he too needs to step up to the plate.
What can stay the same
The only thing that doesn’t have to change is the way that Hachimura performed last night. With him hitting threes consistently and being a force defensively and on the boards, that is critical for the sake of winning. Hachimura dropped in 20 points and 12 rebounds for the undersized Wizards. With this contribution from the young buck, the Wizards could make things difficult in the city of brotherly love. Hopefully, Beal can deliver as well and surge his team to another victory away from the Verizon Center.