Sixers eye stronger start in Game 2 vs. Wizards

NBA

The top-seeded Philadelphia 76ers are shooting for a 2-0 series lead when they host the eighth-seeded Washington Wizards on Wednesday.

The opening game was far from smooth but the Sixers pulled away late for a 125-118 victory.

Tobias Harris led the way with a playoff career-high 37 points. After a subpar season under former head coach Brett Brown, Harris has continued to thrive under Doc Rivers.

“You have nights like this and you get in those types of rhythms with the work that’s put in,” Harris said. “I would say like the past two, three months. I’ve been preparing for this type of moment, preparing myself. And just telling the team as well, this is the nitty gritty, this is the playoffs.”

Joel Embiid finished with 30 points despite early foul trouble and Ben Simmons added 15 rebounds, 15 assists and some suffocating defense, especially on Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal.

Embiid looked rested and ready after missing 21 of the 72 regular season games.

The Sixers received contributions from numerous players, something that Rivers talked about with each player before the series began.

“I thought this year every guy needed to know what their value was to this team and how important they were and how important each guy’s role was,” Rivers said.

But ultimately it was Harris who carried the Sixers with 28 points in the first half and 37 overall. Harris believed that he was snubbed from the All-Star Game.

“We see him early on dominating the game and you want to keep giving him the ball because he’s feeling it,” Simmons said of Harris.

The Wizards weaved through the Play-In Tournament just to reach the No. 8 seed. They received 33 points from Beal and 16 points and 14 assists from Westbrook to be competitive in the opening game.

They’ll need even more in Game 2 in order to even the series against the heavily favored Sixers. Not just offense, but defense as well.

“We made some costly mistakes and this team is a veteran-loaded team,” Wizards head coach Scott Brooks said. “They capitalized. They don’t wait for the next time you make that mistake. They don’t have to sniff one out. They know it and they just capitalize on it.”

The Wizards shot 56 percent from the field but gave the Sixers 33 free throws. They also committed some costly mistakes down the stretch when the game could have gone either way.

It’s just one game, however.

“We didn’t play great at all and we were still in the game, still had an opportunity to win,” Beal said. “That’s what kind of keeps me going, keeps me motivated — the fact that I don’t think I played great. I don’t think I had a good game. I think we’ve still got a couple levels we could tap into from everybody across the board.”

Washington will continue to try and slow down Embiid with Robin Lopez, Alex Len and Daniel Gafford. This is clearly a mismatch. The fact that a number of Wizards are inexperienced in the postseason is also a concern.

“A big portion of our guys are playing in the playoffs for the first time,” Brooks said.

–Field Level Media

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