2021 Playoffs: East First Round | 76ers vs. Wizards
Sixers' offense continues to click in Game 2 rout
Joel Embiid continues to come up big in the playoffs, carving up Washington's frontline in Game 2.
Game 1 was a little too close for the Philadelphia 76ers’ comfort, but Game 2 against the Washington Wizards looked very much like that of a No. 1 vs. No. 8 series. The Sixers scored 71 points on 51 first-half possessions, totaled 68 points in the paint (tied for their second highest mark of the season), and cruised to a 120-95 victory on Wednesday to take a 2-0 series lead.
Bradley Beal scored 33 points in less than 35 minutes and the game was close for most of the first half. But the Wizards shot 2-for-22 from 3-point range, led for only 43 seconds total, and lost Russell Westbrook to a right ankle injury early in the fourth quarter.
The Wizards just couldn’t stop a Philadelphia offense that ranked 13th in the regular season. The Sixers scored just four points over the final 5 1/2 minutes of the third quarter, but still had 107 points on 82 possessions (130 per 100) before garbage time set in. Games 1 and 2 of this series are just the fifth time this season that they’ve scored more than 120 points per 100 possessions in consecutive games.
Playing through Embiid
While the Sixers can’t look past this series, the rest of us can. And the Sixers’ success going forward will be determined, in part, by their ability to get Joel Embiid the ball near the basket and execute from there.
Future opponents could have better individual defenders for Embiid than the Wizards have had. But the Kia MVP finalist will still see plenty of double-teams. According to Second Spectrum tracking, the Sixers scored 1.17 points per chance on Embiid post-ups when he wasn’t double-teamed in the regular season, but only 0.95 per chance when he was. He had an assist/turnover ratio of 0.91, the third-worst mark among the 48 players with a usage rate of 25% or higher.
The Wizards, for the most part, haven’t allowed Embiid to play one-on-one, basically sending a second defender on any touch inside the 3-point line. And thus far, Embiid has read the defense well and made the right play.
Embiid’s first post touch on Wednesday came 2 1/2 minutes into the game. Raul Neto immediately came with a double-team from the baseline, leaving Seth Curry alone in the opposite (right) corner (from where he shot 18-for-28 in the regular season). With Ben Simmons hovering at the right elbow, Bradley Beal had to sink into the paint. Embiid fired a pass (that Beal tipped) to Curry for an open corner 3 …
Two possessions later, Beal came with a stronger double-team and Neto was able to rotate down to Curry. Beal then got all the way back to contest Danny Green’s 3 from the top …
Embiid did have one bad turnover, throwing the ball out of bounds off a post-up double-team midway through the third quarter. And his post-up volume was low in Game 2: just five (according to Second Spectrum) in his 26 minutes, down from 13 in 30 minutes in Game 1. The Wizards did a decent job of denying his catches or at least pushing them away from the basket.
But Embiid doesn’t necessarily need to catch the ball in post position. Sometimes, he’ll just dribble there. And on the Sixers’ third possession of the third quarter, he caught the ball beyond the 3-point line, started backing down toward the post, and made a nice read as Westbrook left Green to come with the double-team …
More reps, more execution
This series moves to Washington for Game 3 on Saturday (7 p.m. ET, ESPN), but the venue shouldn’t matter much. What does matter is how the Sixers execute offensively as they prepare for whatever’s coming next. Future opponents will be longer (the Wizards go 6-foot-1, 6-foot-3 and 6-foot-3 on the perimeter) and stronger defensively, able to double and rotate with more length and cohesion. Simmons’ positioning will be important in regard to how far the next guy has to rotate when the ball moves.
Embiid is a matchup problem for any defense, and when he has the ball within 15 feet of the basket, the Sixers have the upper hand. How well they take advantage of it will determine how far they do in these playoffs.
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