Preview: Wizards look for second straight win Wednesday in Game 5 vs. Sixers
Coming off a win on Monday night, the Wizards take on the Sixers in Game 5 of their first round series on Wednesday night at 7:00 P.M. in Philadelphia. The game will be broadcast nationally on NBATV and locally on NBC Sports Washington.
Wells Fargo Center | 7:00 P.M. | NBATV & NBCSW | 1500 AM
Wizards: G – Russell Westbrook, G – Raul Neto, G – Bradley Beal, F – Rui Hachimura, C – Daniel Gafford
Sixers: G – Ben Simmons, G – Seth Curry, G – Danny Green, F – Tobias Harris, C – Dwight Howard
Wizards: Deni Avdija (right ankle fracture – out), Davis Bertans (right calf strain – out), Thomas Bryant (left ACL injury – out)
Sixers: Seth Curry (left ankle sprain – probable), Joel Embiid (right knee soreness – out), George Hill (left knee contusion – probable)
Hachimura looks to build on Game 4 performance
In his fourth career playoff game, Hachimura came up huge for the Wizards. The second-year pro scored 20 points on 8-12 (.667) from the field, 3-6 (.500) from 3-point range and grabbed 13 rebounds, giving him his first career playoff double-double. Hachimura’s biggest shot of the night came from deep, putting the Wizards up six with 45 seconds left in the game, giving him three 3-pointers in a game for the first time since March 15. That ability to stretch the floor will be crucial for Hachimura’s development and the Wizards’ chances of getting back in this series, but coaches and teammates say Hachimura’s success is more predicated on his ability to make an impact on defense.
“Rui has a chance to do a bunch of different things on defense,” Wizards head coach Scott Brooks said after practice on Tuesday. “I think he can guard multiple styles of players. That helps. Not only does it help him more importantly, it helps us. I always think, the more stops he can help us get, the more chances he can get out in transition and use some of his speed and athleticism. When he has his best games…it’s the defense that he impacts the game with and helps us have success.”
Updates on key injuries
Both the Wizards and Sixers lost key starters in Game 4. Davis Bertans suffered a right calf strain in the third quarter of Game 4, an injury that will sideline him for at least Game 5. After shooting 1-9 (.111) from 3-point range in Games 2 and 3, Bertans got off to a red-hot start on Monday night, hitting 3-6 (.500) from deep before exiting the game early in the second half. With Bertans sidelined, Washington’s struggles to generate consistent 3-point shooting grows even more pressing. As a team, the Wizards are averaging just 6.8 threes per game on 25.3% from beyond the arc in this series. Hachimura’s improved 3-point shooting, Bradley Beal and role players like Raul Neto and Garrison Mathews will be vital to the Wizards’ efforts keep up the 3-point production without their greatest shooting threat.
Joel Embiid, who averaged nearly 30 points per game in the first three games of the series went down with right knee soreness in the first half of Monday night’s game in D.C. Embiid, considered a top candidate for this season’s MVP award, has been ruled out for at least Game 5. With Embiid possibly sidelined, the Sixers will have to get creative. Philadelphia has no shortage of size at just about every position across their roster, but has just one remaining true center with Embiid out: Dwight Howard. Against a Wizards team that plays at least one of their three centers almost at all times, the Sixers’ decisions on when to go small – and how to go small – will create matchup decisions that will play a large role in deciding the outcome of the rest of the series.
Gafford, Lopez excel in increased workload
With Embiid out and Daniel Gafford coming off his first start with the Wizards, focus will again turn toward Washington’s center rotation as an inflection point in Game 5. After months of balanced usage from Gafford, Robin Lopez and Alex Len, the Wizards leaned mostly on Gafford and Lopez in Game 4. Gafford got the start, played 26 minutes, made all four of his field goal attempts and recorded five of the Wizards’ 12 blocks. Lopez played 19 minutes and scored 16 points on 8-11 (.727) shooting, half of which came in the second quarter. As Philadelphia pivots to smaller lineups, Gafford’s ability to get up and down the court and Lopez’s ability to get to his spot and score from the post should mean plenty more opportunities in Game 5.