Preview: Wizards look to bounce back in Game 2 Wednesday night in Philadelphia
The Wizards and Sixers meet again on Wednesday night at 7:00 P.M. in Philadelphia in Game 2 of their first round playoff series. Washington trails the series 0-1 after being defeated 125-118 on Sunday, despite a standout performance from Bradley Beal.
Wells Fargo Center | 7:00 P.M. | NBCSW & NBATV | 1500 AM
Wizards: G – Russell Westbrook, G – Raul Neto, G – Bradley Beal, F – Rui Hachimura, C – Alex Len
Sixers: G – Ben Simmons, G – Seth Curry, G – Danny Green, F – Tobias Harris, C – Joel Embiid
Wizards: Deni Avdija (right ankle fracture – out), Thomas Bryant (left ACL injury – out)
Wizards use two days of rest to adjust, prepare for Game 2
The Wizards are coming off a Game 1 performance in which they shot 55.7% from the field, 40.0% from 3-point range, scored 76 points in the paint and were within five points late in the fourth quarter. Washington has plenty of reasons to take a glass-half-full look at the loss if they can shore up some of their struggles, like 12 combined turnovers from Beal and Russell Westbrook and foul trouble for their centers. Playoff series are often defined and won by teams who are able to pinpoint mistakes that can be quickly fixed and adjust to what their opponent shows as a series goes along.
“Our film session today was really good,” Wizards head coach Scott Brooks said after practice on Monday. “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.”
Brooks added on Tuesday that there’s nuance in the art of playoff adjustments. With an entire season’s worth of data, overreacting to one result and swaying too far to what got you to that point could be more costly than not adjusting at all.
“You also have to take into consideration that you’ve done things for the entire season and if it’s worked, you continue to do it,” Brooks said Tuesday. “Our defense has been pretty good over the last three and a half months. I think we’re top-10. There are games where it wasn’t as good, but we’ve been pretty good…We’ll make a few adjustments – and we have. We’ll see how it goes in Game 2. We know we have to play better.”
Healthy, happy Beal looks for another big performance in Game 2
After fighting through a hamstring injury late in the regular season and the Play-In Tournament to help Washington qualify for the postseason, Beal is coming off a big performance in his first playoff game in over three years. With 33 points, 10 rebounds and six assists in Game 1, Beal became the third player in franchise history with at 30-plus points, 10-plus rebounds and five-plus assists in a playoff game and the first since Jeff Ruland in 1984. With his hamstring “trending in the right direction” and aided by extra days off between games, Beal looked close to full strength on Sunday. He said postgame he felt “like a kid in a candy shop” having the opportunity to compete in the postseason once again.
With another 30-point performance on Wednesday, Beal would become just the second player in franchise history with 10-plus postseason games with at least 30 points. He’s now just 60 points shy of becoming the fourth player in franchise history to score 1,000 career playoff points.
“This is where I belong,” Beal said after practice on Tuesday. “This is the type of basketball I need to be playing. This is the stage I want to be on. This is the stage we all deserve to be on. That’s something that I was happy about. It’s an unbelievable feeling to be back on this platform and hopefully we can continue to make noise.”
Combatting Philadelphia’s depth
“They are the number one team in the East for a reason” was a common refrain from Brooks and Wizards players in the days leading up to Game 1. Like any one seed, Philadelphia has a number of ways to beat its opponent and isn’t overly dependent on any one method. Washington’s efforts to slow down Joel Embiid, a clear priority going into Game 1, were moderately successful in the early going. Embiid scored just two points in 5:32 of action in the first quarter and went to the bench after picking up his second foul. However, with the MVP candidate sidelined, the Sixers didn’t miss a beat. Tobias Harris kept Philadelphia afloat, scoring 28 of his 37 points in the first two quarters until the team could get Embiid back in the rotation without risk of fouling out. Embiid was fully unleashed in the second half, scoring 21 points on 6-10 (.600) from the field and 9-10 (.900) from the free throw line.
In Game 2, the Wizards know their defensive performance will have to be more well-rounded. Keeping Harris in check will be a priority and minimizing foul trouble for Alex Len, Robin Lopez and Daniel Gafford will be vital keep the Sixers’ deep rotation contained.