Preview: Wizards look to avoid elimination in Game 4 Monday night vs. Sixers
The Wizards and Sixers meet in Game 4 of their first round series on Monday night at 7:00 P.M. at Capital One Arena. Washington trails 0-3 in the best-of-seven series and will look to extend their season with a win against Philadelphia on Monday. The game will broadcast nationally on TNT and locally on NBC Sports Washington.
Wizards head coach Scott Brooks announced pregame that Daniel Gafford would start in place of Alen Len. Brooks also said that Ish Smith (left groin strain) would play after being listed as questionable. Russell Westbrook (right ankle sprain) will also play after being listed as a game-time decision.
Capital One Arena | 7:00 P.M. | TNT & NBCSW | 1500 AM
Wizards: G – Russell Westbrook, G – Bradley Beal, F – Davis Bertans, F – Rui Hachimura, C – Daniel Gafford
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), Ish Smith (left groin strain – available), Russell Westbrook (right ankle sprain – available)
Beal, Westbrook emphasize one-game-at-a-time mentality
On Monday night, the Wizards will begin their efforts to become the first team in NBA history to overcome a 3-0 deficit to win a series. Between the NHL, MLB and NBA, which all follow roughly the same best-of-seven postseason series structure, the NBA is the only one to have never had such a comeback. Four times in NHL history and once in MLB history has a team come back from trailing three games to none.
The Wizards are looking to avoid what would be their first series sweep since the 2006-07 season against Cleveland. That year also marked the last time they trailed 3-0 in a series. For Bradley Beal, who is facing the first three-game deficit of his career, the key is to not overthink things.
“I’ve never been in a 3-0 situation, so it’s different for me,” Beal said. “I would say just try not to think about it…the situation you’re in is 0-0, as crazy as it sounds. The main objective is to get one (win). You get one and go from there. I think that’s all I’m focused on, that’s all we’re focused on…They’re a tough team. They’ve got star players, but this is the playoffs. They put their shoes on just like we do.”
Russell Westbrook’s extensive postseason resume means no playoff scenario is entirely new.
“I do know how hard it is to close a team out,” Westbrook said. “I also know (how hard it is) to come back from 3-1 or 3-0. I’ve been on both sides. For me, just trying to make sure my team knows it’s one game. You can’t win four games in one night. We’re at home and we need to take advantage of that – use our crowd, use our youth and our speed and make sure we utilize it and leave everything on the floor and see what happens.”
Wizards look to improve 3-point shooting
The Wizards’ best opportunity to swing the series in their favor likely rests at the 3-point line on both ends of the court. Through three games against the Sixers, the Wizards have shot 18-77 (.233) from deep, including a 2-22 (.091) performance in Game 2. On the defensive end, Washington has been unable to keep Philadelphia in check from three. The Sixers have seen their 3-point percentage increase in each of the three games so far, peaking with a 17-33 (.515) night on Saturday in Game 3.
“If we just focus on a couple of the things that we have to do better – in transition, we struggled.” Brooks said after practice on Sunday. “We struggled making the correct reads and we gave them a lot of threes…All those things add up. Those are the things we focused on today in our film session.”
A bright spot from the Wizards beyond the arc has been Rui Hachimura, who is 5-6 (.833) from 3-point range in three games so far this postseason. Despite the small sample size, it’s a sharp increase from the 32.8% clip he shot at from deep during the regular season.
“It’s great,” Brooks said of Hachimura’s threes. “We need them. We need more of them…He’s stepping up and making them. I still think he can take more. As he gets more experience and he figures out where some of these shots could be had, he’s going to be able to get to those shots quicker. His 3-point shooting has definitely improved.”
Embiid continues dominant series
On Monday, the Wizards will get their fourth chance to slow down Sixers’ center Joel Embiid, who has been dominant in all three outings so far this series. Through three games, he has averaged 29.3 points on 67.4% shooting, highlighted by the best postseason performance of his career in Game 3. Embiid scored a playoff-career-high 36 points Saturday against Washington despite playing the fifth-fewest minutes he’s played in his 26 career playoff games (28). Embiid was overwhelmingly efficient, shooting 14-18 (.778) from the field, 3-4 (.750) from three and 5-7 (.714) from the free throw line, and finished plus-29. As a capable passer and shooter in addition to his bruising post presence, Embiid is able to operate as Philadelphia’s primary offensive initiator, despite his seven-foot, 280-pound size.
“He’s about as good as they can possibly be at that position,” Brooks said Sunday. “I was fortunate enough to play with (Hakeem) Olajuwon for almost three years and he’s doing things that I haven’t seen since then.”