The Philadelphia 76ers matched up yet again against the Washington Wizards for their first-round series. The Sixers looked to expand their lead to 2-0 before the series heads to Washington, D.C for the next two upcoming games.
Going into this game, we had a better feel of what to expect after a tight Game 1 finish. Locking up Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal was the main key to ensuring a easy victory. Last game, we saw Joel Embiid get into foul trouble early, keeping Game 1 close for the majority of the time. Tobias Harris building on an incredible offensive performance was also a major talking point.
Here’s what I saw quarter-by-quarter:
The game started off with a lot of activity from Ben Simmons — who has been the subject of recent criticism involving his scoring. Simmons was active on the boards, and kickstarted the Sixers’ offense with two baskets underneath the rim. The Sixers had a balanced early scoring effort, as Ben Simmons, Tobias Harris, Seth Curry and Joel Embiid were on the board in little time.
The Wizards did manage to keep the game close despite the Sixers’ early successes. The Sixers had some trouble defending around the rim, as both Westbrook and Rui Hachimura poured in early points.
The Sixers did begin to slightly pull away, mainly due to Ben Simmons being a huge problem for the Wizards’ defense. He did an awesome job early on in finding his own shots and taking advantage of some of the smaller matchups defending him. After a Simmons’ finish and block, the Wizards called an early timeout to talk things over.
Ben Simmons has been aggressive early on in this one. Great shot & finish: pic.twitter.com/f4pRv97QTm— Harrison Grimm (@Harrison_Grimm) May 26, 2021
Tobias Harris started this game the same way he did in Game 1 by providing instant offense for the Sixers. It seems that the Wizards haven’t found any answers for his driving and post-up offensive game, at least yet. Harris hit four of his first five shots, chipping in an early eight points.
You can’t help but feel good for Ben Simmons, who had a lot of criticism thrown his way after scoring six points in game 1. That appeared to be the main focus for a lot of people, despite him also pouring 15 rebounds and 15 assists. Simmons not only matched his total in the first quarter — he doubled it with 12 early points. While Simmons’ scoring seems to be the popular topic for debate, I also feel the need to mention that he amassed 5 rebounds in this period alone. He did an excellent job of exploiting any and all matchups that the Wizards threw at him.
Ben Simmons has taken advantage of nearly every Wizards’ defensive matchup thrown his way so far. He’s been terrific offensively. pic.twitter.com/3m2GoStDKs— Harrison Grimm (@Harrison_Grimm) May 26, 2021
Doc Rivers hasn’t shown too much willingness to stray away from the all-bench lineup, and this quarter was no exception. I’m very happy to say that the Sixers’ bench unit did a great job of holding their newly found lead, as Matisse Thybulle hit an early 3 and Dwight Howard was aggressive in getting offensive rebounds.
Ben Simmons and Tobias Harris shined early in this one, as they combined for 20 points on 10-of-13 shooting. Russell Westbrook was held to 1-of-6 shooting — mainly due to Ben Simmons as he was the main defender early on. Bradley Beal was the only Wizard to have early success, as he hit four of his first six shots. Sixers finished the 1st quarter up, 35-24.
The Sixers quickly subbed in Tobias Harris to play alongside the bench unit early in this quarter — for Furkan Korkmaz. We’ve seen Harris thrive alongside the bench unit, something that can be reflected in in his plus-minus alongside said group.
The Wizards did manage to put together a small run, mainly from a few free throws. Both Hachimura and Westbrook were fouled, giving the Wizards some easy points to cut the lead to four points. The Sixers struggled with the same problem that has plagued them for most of the season — transition defense. Most of the Wizards’ baskets here came very early in the shot clock, before the Sixers’ defense was set.
Shake Milton has had a rough start to this Sixers’ series, as he hasn’t really found his offensive groove. Counting in the fact that there have been some bad fouls on his behalf, you have to wonder if/when Doc Rivers starts to explore giving his minutes to someone like Tyrese Maxey? Hopefully Shake can bounce back at some point in the near future, but this is definitely a storyline to watch moving forward.
The majority of the Sixers’ starting unit came back in with eight minutes left to go in the quarter. A few baskets, stops, and a Joel Embiid 3 gave the Sixers back their small cushion, forcing Washington to call yet another timeout.
Tobias Harris seemed to roll his ankle on a drive at this juncture of the game, and went straight back to the locker room. Furkan Korkmaz ended up being Harris’ replacement alongside the starters, essentially moving Ben Simmons to the power forward position.
It seems like the injury wasn’t too serious, as Tobias Harris returned to the scorer’s table to check back into the game just a few minutes later. We’ll have to see how this injury affects Harris going forward and if it lead to any complications, but hopefully it isn’t anything major. Harris seemed to move well despite the ankle injury.
Really good to see Tobias Harris moving well after that ankle injury. pic.twitter.com/b1mE7chrzk— Harrison Grimm (@Harrison_Grimm) May 27, 2021
This quarter featured a lot of back-and-forth scoring between the Sixers and Wizards. The Sixers had a well-balanced scoring effort from Simmons, Harris and Embiid, while Westbrook and Beal countered most of the Sixers’ made baskets. Despite the back-and-forth shot making, the Sixers managed to keep the Wizards at an arm’s length away, as they extended their lead to 14 points.
This second quarter was truly impressive. The Sixers managed to remain composed despite Harris’ injury and Bradley Beal’s scoring outburst. We saw many Sixers put together an impressive half. Here were some notable stats after 1 half:
Ben Simmons: 16 points (8/12 FG), 6 rebounds, 6 assists, 1 steal, 1 block
Tobias Harris: 16 points (8/9 FG), 7 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal
Joel Embiid: 13 points (5/9 FG, 2/3 3PT), 4 rebounds, 2 assists
Bradley Beal: 24 points (11/15 FG), 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal
Russell Westbrook: 10 points (2/8 FG), 4 rebounds, 8 assists
The Sixers continued their scoring output into the second period. This is where Joel Embiid began imposing his dominance, as he began hitting some shots and playmaking for others. One of my personal favorite possessions was when he hit Danny Green for a corner 3, after he cleared out for what was going to be an Embiid post-up.
Nice two man game between Joel Embiid & Danny Green pic.twitter.com/Um1UqQPVRy— Harrison Grimm (@Harrison_Grimm) May 27, 2021
The Sixers didn’t let their foot off the pedal with their newfound momentum either. Their offense came alive in this period, with many baskets being generated from assists. The Wizards offense (which was basically Bradley Beal) began to stutter at a bad time, and the Sixers found themselves up 20 after another Embiid 3.
The Sixers found themselves with yet another injured player, after Seth Curry appeared to roll his own ankle. He went to the locker room almost immediately, with George Hill checking in for him. Curry’s injury seemed to be more serious than Harris’, as he had to be helped into the locker room. He later returned to the Sixers’ bench as the third quarter came to a close.
I have to give Bradley Beal a lot of credit too, he was single-handily keeping Washington within striking distance for the majority of this quarter/game. He eclipsed the 30-point marker midway through the period.
Tyrese Maxey had his first minutes of tonight’s game in this quarter as well. This was almost certainly due to the Curry injury, but it’s a welcome sight to see. Maxey has come alive during the final stretch of this season and there’s an argument to be made for him being a part of the active rotation.
It appears Russell Westbrook also had a leg injury of some sort, as he was viewed trying to run off what appeared to be a sore ankle. The Sixers ended the quarter on a high note, as they held onto their 14-point lead headed into the final frame.
The fourth quarter began with a bit of chippiness, as Dwight Howard and Russell Westbrook briefly exchanged some words. This resulted in Dwight getting a technical (?). It was a strange sequence to say the least. Davis Bertans fouled out early in the period as well. The Sixers also announced that Seth Curry was questionable to return to this game. It’s very possible that the Sixers’ lead played a factor in this decision.
Tyrese Maxey showcased some of his skills with the new-found minutes, as he had an impressive and-one and a block on Bradley Beal on back-to-back possessions. I wouldn’t rule out Maxey being featured in an upcoming playoff series, as he’s produced in very limited time.
Russell Westbrook did return after trying to run off that ankle injury, but it appears that he re-injured it by stepping on Furkan Korkmaz’s foot during the beginning of this quarter. It’s a huge bummer to see any player go down, let alone one of Washington’s most important. Hopefully Westbrook’s injury isn’t serious and he’s able to return sooner rather than later.
The Sixers all went over to Russell Westbrook and Joel Embiid tapped him on the back— John Clark (@JClarkNBCS) May 27, 2021
Russell Westbrook just taken to the locker room pic.twitter.com/zWGo68ddAe
What made this situation even worse was when a fan poured popcorn on Westbrook as he was leaving the game to enter the locker room. I won’t repost the video here to avoid giving this person exposure, but there’s zero room for this type of behavior. It’s flat out embarrassing and shameful.
Matisse Thybulle and Tyrese Maxey began taking over the fourth quarter with stellar defensive plays turning into instant offense.
Matisse Thybulle has to be on an All-Defensive team. He has to. pic.twitter.com/Sgp5LHWrKx— Harrison Grimm (@Harrison_Grimm) May 27, 2021
The Sixers’ bench was tremendous as time went on in this final period. Tyrese Maxey began showcasing more and more reasons why he should be a part of the Sixers’ rotation — scoring six consecutive points in the open court. Furkan Korkmaz, who was struggling in his limited time, hit a 3 to push Philly’s lead back up to 24 points with less than eight minutes left in the game.
Matisse Thybulle was a defensive monster in this period, as he amassed four steals and five blocks in less than 20 minutes. Thybulle is 100 percent deserving of an All-NBA defensive team, and he showcased that tonight.
The best part of this game has to be the Sixers’ bench absolutely blowing this game wide open. The Sixers’ starters didn’t need to return at any point in this period, and any additional rest is welcome. Tyrese Maxey and Paul Reed even showcased some of their skills, running an impressive pick-and-roll sequence:
Playoff Tyrese Maxey & Bball Paul pic.twitter.com/ntyGexoywL— Harrison Grimm (@Harrison_Grimm) May 27, 2021
The Sixers cruised to an easy victory for Game 2, which is what you like to see for a first-round matchup, as they won 100-90. The slew of injuries on both sides tonight will be a key storyline to watch as we come closer to Game 3 in Washington, D.C. Here are the final notable stats for tonight’s game:
Bradley Beal: 33 points (14/28 FG, 1/6 3PT), 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal
Ben Simmons: 22 points (11/15 FG), 9 rebounds, 8 assists, 2 steals, 1 block
Joel Embiid: 22 points (8/12 FG, 3/4 3PT), 7 rebounds, 3 assist
Tobias Harris: 19 points (9/13 FG, 1/3 3PT), 9 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal
Russell Westbrook: 10 points (2/10 FG, 0/3 3PT), 6 rebounds, 11 assists
Matisse Thybulle: 5 points (2/5 FG, 1/3 3PT), 4 steals, 5 blocks
Tyrese Maxey: 10 points (4/7 FG), 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 blocks
Game 3 tips off on Saturday at 7:00pm ET on ESPN. Game 3 can be the dagger in this first-round series, as no postseason NBA team has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit.