Wizards reflect on Game 1, prep for Game 2
Coming off a Game 1 loss to the Sixers, the Wizards have two days to gather intel from the loss, review film and implement adjustments heading into Game 2. Below, we take a look at what Wizards head coach Scott Brooks, Bradley Beal and other players are saying about the series opener, slowing down Joel Embiid, general adjustments and more heading into Wednesday night’s game.
One of the Wizards’ primary goals going into Game 1 was to find ways to contain the Sixers’ MVP candidate Joel Embiid. The Philadelphia center was in foul trouble early, but put forth a dominant second half on his way to a 30-point performance. Heading into Game 2, Washington will once again put significant defensive emphasis on slowing down Embiid.
SCOTT BROOKS: We had a couple different ways (of double-teaming Embiid). We tried it from the baseline, from the top, square him up, on the dribble, front him. He’s good, man. He’s strong. He’s athletic. He’s wide. He’s not a skinny athlete, he’s a well-built athlete. He puts his arms out and he’s covering a lot of room. We did our best. We’ve got to be a little better.
DANIEL GAFFORD: This may be hard to do, but I’m up for the challenge if my teammates are up for the challenge – just trying to bring (Embiid) out of his comfort zone. He can’t get comfortable when it comes to either playing one-on-one defense or double-teaming him…He’s a great player. It’s not just going to take one thing to stop him…He’s the MVP. You’ve got to give him credit because he worked his ass off to be in this position he’s in. He’s for sure going to figure things out and adjust to it. We just have to throw a lot of things at him.
BROOKS: (Embiid) made every shot that was needed – and they were contested. We did a few different things defensively on him. That’s why great players are great. They figure things out.
The Wizards have two days off between Games 1-2 and 2-3, a welcome change from the densely packed regular season schedule littered with back-to-backs and very few instances of two days of rest. With that time, the Wizards will have an opportunity to implement adjustments based on what they learned in the previous game(s).
BROOKS: Our film session (on Monday) was really good. There was a lot of communication from our leaders and from everybody. I open it up for everybody. I don’t have all the answers and neither do the players, but we can find some really good answers together and we’ve done that pretty well. Today was no different. We’ve got some adjustments we can make that we worked on…We have to do a couple things better. We have to keep Simmons off the offensive glass. We can wrap him up too, we can put him on the free throw line. We don’t want to give him easy buckets. And then we turned the ball over…It wasn’t just Brad and Russell turning it over six times each. It was the spacing, it was the bigs…That’s the fun part about this time of year. I know our players love it as well.
BRADLEY BEAL: We’ll definitely have a different mindset and mentality in Game 2. Each game, you make adjustments. Tobias Harris had it going early (on Sunday). In the second half, that wasn’t the case. It’s a matter of just staying with it, staying engaged and knowing that Joel is going to be their horse who leads them. They’ve got a lot of pieces around him who can really fill up the stat sheet too.
RUI HACHIMURA: It reminded me of when I was in college. In college, we’d always watch film and focus on one team. In the NBA, since we play (a different team) every game, we watch film and stuff, but not in so much detail…It’s very interesting. It’s a different experience for me.
BEAL: You understand who their guys are and what they’re capable of doing. Obviously, as the series goes on, we become more acclimated with guys and their tendencies and what they want to do.
Sunday’s game marked the playoff debut for a handful of Wizards players, including Hachimura, Gafford and Alex Len – their first look at the elevated intensity, both on the court and throughout the arena, of postseason basketball.
HACHIMURA: It was different. A lot of people, the players, the coaches, they’re always telling me how the playoffs are different. The games are more physical and more intense. They always keep saying that positions matter. Last night, I felt that. It was a different intensity. It was fun to play.
GAFFORD: The energy here in Philly was crazy. It’s been a while since you’ve seen an arena that full…the level of intensity around the arena from the fans to the players. I ain’t going to lie to you, it’s been a minute since I heard an arena where I almost had to cover my ears – and I played in Bud Walton Arena. This is totally different.
BEAL: A lot of our guys haven’t been in this situation. This is very – I don’t want to say shocking – but it’s new for our guys. It’s a whole new level and understanding that level has to be played every single possession.
BEAL: The crowd definitely plays a factor, especially here in Philly. You know their fans are rowdy so it’s tough. You’ve got to settle in and know that it’s just another game. As big and intense as it is, it’s just another game. We all have the skill and ability to go out here and play at the highest level, so enjoy it…This is what we all worked hard for throughout the year.
For Beal, the return to the postseason brought a smile to his face. After three consecutive years missing the playoffs, Beal didn’t let the loss get in the way of sharing how much joy he felt being back in the postseason.
BEAL: I’m excited. I was like a kid in a candy shop (on Sunday). I just felt really happy and excited to be on the floor, having fun, being back on this stage and embracing the journey that we’ve been on to get to where we are now. It was just fun. It was fun to be back on the floor…Obviously we want to win and we want to do well, but we took a tough one on the chin tonight. But we always get better and that’s where I come in and am more comfortable and confident in my game and where it needs to be. I’m a lot more prepared to lead the team in the playoffs now than I was a couple years ago.
The Wizards qualified for the postseason thanks to a few memorable performances from Beal while playing through a strained left hamstring that sidelined him for three games near the end of the regular season. With five games under his belt since returning from the injury, Beal seems to get closer to 100% every time he takes the court.
BEAL: It’s trending in the right direction, so that’s always a positive when you’ve got a couple days off. And we’ve got two days off before we play again. That’s always beneficial. I’m definitely utilizing every single day and moment to treat it and make sure it’s as close to 100 as possible when I step on the floor.
BROOKS: He’s definitely moving better. When he came back in that Charlotte game, that’s obviously a sign of his commitment and toughness. He was healthy enough to be on the court, but he wasn’t 100% healthy. Every day that passed by, every game that passed by, he’s gotten a little bit better and confident in it. I think he’s in a good place right now.
Despite Sunday’s loss, the Wizards have exuded plenty of optimism over the last 36 hours about the rest of the series.
BEAL: We didn’t play great at all and we were still in the game, still had an opportunity to win. I think that’s what keeps me going and keeps me motivated. I don’t think I played great…I think we’ve still got a couple levels we can tap into.
HACHIMURA: We know who we’re playing. We’re at least going to play four games against them. And we already played them four times this year. We know what they do and what they don’t like. We’ve just got to execute how we’re playing.