With Joel Embiid in foul trouble in the first half, the eighth-seeded Washington Wizards had a golden opportunity to steal Game 1 of their first-round series against the number one seed in the East, the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday.
However, they could not stop Tobias Harris in that first half. Harris scored 28 of his game and career-playoff high 37 points in the first half, Embiid added 21 of his 30 points in the second half, and Ben Simmons had six points, 15 rebounds, and 15 assists as the 76ers defeated the Wizards 125-118 at Wells Fargo Center.
Game 2 will be in Philadelphia on Wednesday night.
Washington had six players in double figures led by Bradley Beal’s 33 points.
“I’m surprised we didn’t win,” Wizards head coach Scott Brooks said after the game. “We went to the game thinking about winning… We were solid but not good enough.”
Despite Harris; heroics in the first half, Washington led 62-61 at halftime. However, Philadelphia started to gain control in the third behind Embiid’s 13 points in the quarter, and Philly would take a 99-93 lead into the fourth. Washington would get the lead to as low as five points with just under one minute left. With a chance to slice the lead to three, Russell Westbrook stepped out of bounds, and Philly would hold on for the victory.
According to Beal, who scored 17 points in the third quarter, Washington did not play their best basketball on Sunday.
“I don’t think I played great,” Beal said. “I don’t think I had a good game. I think we still got a couple levels we can tap into.”
Beal is correct. The Wizards can play better. While Westbrook had 16 points, 14 assists, and five rebounds on Sunday, he did have six turnovers and shot 7/17 from the field, so they can get more from him.
Harris will probably not score 28 points in a half again in this series, but if Embiid stays out of foul trouble, he probably scores more than 30. The Wizards will have to limit everybody else not named Embiid because they have no answer for the All-Star center.
Philly was a little rusty in this contest after a week off, so this was the perfect game for the Wizards steal. However, this is the playoffs, so both teams will make adjustments, but it’s clear after Game 1 that the Wizards, who shot 55 percent from the field, can hang with the 76ers.
Now, in terms of winning this series, Washington will have to play better than they did in Game 1 to get that done.
-Harris and Embiid became the first Philadelphia teammates with at least 30 points in the same playoff game since 1990.