76ers, Wizards Shift Series to Washington
After taking care of business at home, the 76ers have a chance to go up 3-0 in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals Saturday as the series moves to the nation’s capital.
As Doc Rivers indicated throughout the season and into the playoffs, the team will continue to seek steady contributions across the roster and deep into the rotation.
The Sixers’ bench unit in various combinations has delivered when called upon in the series, from future Hall-of-Famer Dwight Howard to rookie Tyrese Maxey.
“[Dwight is] bringing that intense focus,” Tobias Harris said after Friday’s practice. “But at the same time, allowing guys to stay in the present moment and just enjoy this.”
Howard grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds in 15 minutes in the Sixers’ 120-95 Game 2 victory Wednesday.
“[Dwight’s] bringing a force out there, he’s been playing at that high level all year long, being a huge bright spot for us coming off the bench,” Harris added. “His physicality changes the game.”
Another respected Sixer veteran, George Hill, has scored 18 points in his 40 playoff minutes thus far, shooting 7-for-13 overall. But his contributions spread far beyond gameplay:
“He’s special [on and off the floor] - he’s been phenomenal.” Rivers said of Hill. “He played well today, and he’s playing well. His voice, his willingness to share, and speak up. In shootarounds, he’s grabbing guys’ shoulders, and changing their angles on picks. He’s just been great.”
The younger Sixers are also making their mark.
Matisse Thybulle excelled in Game 2, becoming the first guard in NBA history to notch four steals and five blocks in a playoff game. He accomplished the feat in just 19 minutes - the fewest minutes in which any player has reached that stat line in the playoffs.
“As a defensive guy, he can do everything,” Furkan Korkmaz - who scored a bench-high 13 points in Game 2 - said of Thybulle. “I really like his mentality on defense.”
In his first NBA playoffs, Maxey is also leaving a mark, scoring 10 points plus two rebounds, two assists, and three blocks in Game 2.
And if you ask Harris, Maxey’s three Game 1 points were some of his biggest yet.
“In Game 1, when Tyrese comes in and gets that and-one bucket, I was like, ‘Man, he doesn’t even know this - but that was one of the biggest buckets of the game, the way the runs were going.”
Thybulle says he and Maxey have been sharing tricks with one another.
“[Tyrese] brings it on the offensive end, I’m supposed to bring it on the defensive end. We love it. When either of us does something akin to what the other’s specialty is - we get really excited for each other.”
Their head coach has enjoyed watching the young pair’s chemistry develop.
“I love that energy and that synergy,” Rivers said. “The play the other night where Tyrese rocket passed to Matisse, and Matisse racked it to the basket - that’s good stuff. That’s instinctive basketball by both of them. I thought that was wonderful to see.”
Saturday’s Game 3 matchup tips at 7:00 p.m. ET.
The Wizards struggled on both ends in Game 2, shooting 40.2% (37-92 FG) from the field but just 9.1% (2-22 3PT) from long range, while the Sixers shot 55.7% (49-88 FG) from the floor and 42.9% (9-21 3PT) from deep.
Bradley Beal has led the way for the Wizards throughout the series, scoring 33 points in both Games 1 and 2.
Wizards’ head coach Scott Brooks discussed the Sixers’ strong play at his team’s Friday practice:
“They’ve played well. They’re a good team, and they’re loaded. They’ve got a lot of veterans, they’ve got a lot of guys that know how to play. They’ve got, potentially, an MVP. They’ve got high-level All-Stars.”