Wizards’ Beal on Game 4 win over 76ers: ‘We played with more spunk, a little bit more attitude, and then some excitement’

The Washington Wizards kept their season alive on Monday night when they defeated the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 4 of their first-round series 122-114 at Capital One Arena.

Game 5 will be Wednesday night in Philadelphia as the 76ers lead the series 3-1.

The Wizards caught a little break on Monday night when 76ers star center Joel Embiid left the game after the first quarter due to knee soreness, which happened when Embiid lost his balance after getting his shot blocked by Robin Lopez. Embiid stayed in the game and completed the first quarter before leaving and heading back to the locker room. Embiid is scheduled to get an MRI on Tuesday.

No Embiid opened many things up for the Wizards, especially in the third quarter, where Washington outscored Philadelphia 32-19. Washington led by as many as 14 near the end of the frame and took a 92-80 lead into the fourth quarter. 

In the fourth quarter, Philadelphia would get back into the game, and took a lead with under three minutes to go.  Washington would use the hack-a-Ben Simmons strategy down the stretch, which Wizards head coach Scott Brooks said was a possibility in pregame. The strategy worked. Simmons was 4-8 from the free-throw line in the fourth, and with Washington leading 115-112, Rui Hachimura hit a dagger three to put the game away with 45.2 seconds left. 

“We played with more spunk, a little bit more attitude, and then some excitement,” Bradley Beal said after the game. “It just felt like we enjoyed being out there on the floor, we enjoyed playing defense, we enjoyed getting out and running in transition. These are [the things] that make us really good; this is what gave us success at the end of the year.”

Washington got its usual production from Beal, who led all scorers with 27 points, and of course, Westbrook had a triple-double with 19 points, 21 rebounds, and 14 assists, which was his second straight triple-double.

However, the role players stepped up for the Wizards, including Hachimura, who recorded his first career playoff double-double with 20 points and 13 rebounds, Lopez had 16 points off the bench, and Davis Bertans added 15.

The Wizards had seven players in double figures. 

At this point, this series could come down to the health of Embiid. Philadelphia is clearly a different team without the MVP finalist. However, Philly still has the advantage and still has enough talent without Embiid to get by the Wizards, but anything is possible.

Notes:

-Westbrook’s 21 rebounds marked a career postseason high and were the most by a Washington player since Elvin Hayes had 22 on 5/13/79 against San Antonio. Westbrook became just the fourth player since 2000 to record a triple-double with at least 20 rebounds in the playoffs (Tim Duncan-twice, Kevin Garnett, Nikola Jokic).

-Daniel Gafford, who started on Monday night for the first time in this series, finished with 12 points, four rebounds, and five blocks, becoming the fifth player in franchise history to have 5+ blocks in a game and the first to do so since Marcin Gortat on 4/19/17 vs. Atlanta.

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Bertans, who left the game in the third quarter and did not return due to a calf injury, had an MRI on Tuesday, which revealed a grade 2 calf strain. He will need 4-6 weeks for recovery, according to Wojnarowski.

-Tobias Harris led Philadelphia with 24 points(8/24 from field). Philadelphia had six players in double figures on Monday night.

Wizards’ Beal on Embiid: ‘He’s a special talent’

The Washington Wizards had no answer for Joel Embiid in Game 3 of their first-round series on Saturday night; the MVP finalist shot 14/18 from the field, including 3/4 from three-point range to score a playoff career-high 36 points in 28 minutes of action as the 76ers defeated Washington 132-103 on Saturday night at Capital One Arena.

With the victory, Philadelphia takes a commanding 3-0 lead with a chance to sweep the series on Monday night. Every player in Philly’s starting lineup scored in double figures. Tobias Harris had 20 points and 13 rebounds, and Danny Green added 15 points, including five threes. 

Philadelphia shot 58% from the field on Saturday night and shot 51% from three-point range(17/33).

Washington cannot do anything to slow Embiid down. The four-time All-star is averaging 29.3 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 2.7 assists in this series. There was a big crowd at Capital One Arena for the first time this season, and at times, you could hear “MVP’ chants for Embiid in D.C.

“I can’t imagine anybody playing better than him,” Wizards head coach Scott Brooks said about Embiid. “That was MVP-level tonight. Tried different things on him tonight. Good player. He’s definitely a handful.”

Bradley Beal, who had 25 points in Game 3, talked about the greatness of Embiid.

“He’s a special talent,” Beal said. “You gotta respect him and tip your cap to him. Our whole game plan is basically centered around him. He’s a three-level scorer. He can score from outside on the three. He’s not like most bigs in the league; he can put the ball on the floor, shoot 3s, plays like a guard. It’s kind of crazy.”

Russell Westbrook(ankle) was a game-time decision, and to no one’s surprise, the former MVP played in Game 3 and had a triple-double with 26 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 assists.

“I kind of knew after last game he was going to play,” Beal said. “Even if it was for two minutes, he was going to play.”

Now, the Wizards try to avoid the sweep on Monday night, which won’t be easy. Washington has many questions but little to no answers for what Philly is throwing at them. They tried to insert Davis Bertans in the lineup to get more size and shooting, but that did not work as the team shot 8/35 from three-point range. 

Philly is just a bad matchup for Washington. Including the regular season, the 76ers are 6-0 against the Wizards. Even a 60-point outburst from Beal in the regular season was not enough to beat Philadelphia, so it’s going to take an extraordinary performance from a few different players for Washington to get a game in this series.

 

76ers rout Wizards to take 2-0 series

On Wednesday night, in Game 2 of the Wizards, 76ers first-round series, the versatility of Ben Simmons was on full display. Simmons scored 22 points, grabbed nine rebounds, dished out eight assists, and had two steals as the 76ers routed the Wizard 120-95 at Wells Fargo Center.

Philly now leads this best of seven series 2-0. Game 3 is on Saturday night in D.C. Joel Embiid added 22 points, and Tobias Harris chipped in with 19 points for Philadelphia. 

For Washington, Bradley Beal had a game-high 33 points.

Simmons set the tone for Philadelphia early. He scored 12 points in the first quarter, and the 76ers led 35-24 after one. The 76ers pushed their lead to 71-57 at halftime. Philadelphia led by as many as 20 points in the third quarter and by as many as 27 points in the game. 

During the regular season, Washington was third in points per game(116.6), but they were held to 95 points and shot 40% from the field in Game 2, including 2-22 from the three-point range.

There was more bad news for the Wizards as they lost Russell Westbrook, who had 10 points and 11 assists on Wednesday night, to an ankle injury in the fourth quarter. Westbrook did not return.

On his way to the locker room, a fan threw popcorn on the nine-time All-Star. Westbrook had to be held back by security.  Ultimately, the fan was ejected.

“I wouldn’t come up to me on the street and throw popcorn on my head because you know what happens,” Westbrook said after the game about the incident. “In these arenas, you gotta start protecting the players. We’ll see what the NBA does.”

Unfortunate situation, and something we see far too often at NBA arenas. Fortunately for Westbrook, security was able to hold him back.

Washington will have to figure out what they can do to get back into this series. Clearly, Philadelphia is the better team, but maybe the Wizards can make some adjustments to steal a game or two. The Wizards have won 13 of their last 16 home games since March 18, so possibly, there is a little hope. 

Wizards’ Westbrook on playoffs: ‘I made it clear to the guys that we will make it’

The turnaround is complete. After starting the season 17-32, the Wizards won 17 of their final 23 games to get the eighth seed in the regular season, and on Thursday night in D.C., the Wizards clinched a spot in the playoffs after routing the Pacers 142-115 in the Play-In Tournament. 

Washington lost to the Celtics in Boston on Tuesday night, but they had another chance to get it right against Indiana.

According to ESPN’s RPI, the Wizards’ chance to make the playoffs on April 6(Washington: 17-32) was 0.6 percent, but what a difference a few weeks make.

Russell Westbrook, who had 18 points, 15 assists, and eight rebounds, still had faith the team would make the playoffs despite the early struggles.

 “Everybody was doubting us on the outside,” Westbrook said. “We had to figure out a way to knuckle up and make the playoffs, simple as that… I made it clear to the guys that we will make it.”

Washington(8) will face the Philadelphia 76ers(1) in their first-round series, and Game 1 begins on Sunday in Philadelphia. 

Bradley Beal led the Wizards with 25 points, while Indiana was led by Malcolm Brogdon’s 24 points.

“Probably one of the best games we played all year,” Beal said. “Definitely, the most important one of the year.”

Now, the Wizards have a huge task ahead of them. Washington was swept by the 76ers in the regular season, so it won’t be easy. Washington does not have an answer for Joel Embiid. In three games against the Wizards, Embiid averaged 30 points and 9.7 rebounds.

Washington is going to need Westbrook and Beal to be at their best. Beal averaged 36 points per game against Philadelphia, including a 60-point explosion in January, while Westbrook averaged 22 points, 11.6 assists, and 8.0 rebounds a game. 

If Washington can find a way to beat the number one seed in the East, the 76ers, it would be a shocker. However, because of their ability to score, Washington will play Philadelphia tough in this series, but Philadelphia is the better team, and in the NBA, the better team usually wins in a seven-game series. Expect the Sixers to get it done in five.

 

Wizards’ Westbrook on Beal: “He wants to win, and he wants to win bad’

The battle for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference came down to the final day of the season, and what happened between the Wizards(34-38) and the Hornets(33-39) on Sunday, epitomized what Washington has been about all season long.

Washington trailed by 14 points after one quarter and trailed 90-79 entering the fourth quarter. However, just like they’ve done all year long, they fought back. Bradley Beal, who returned after missing three games due to a hamstring injury, scored 13 of his game-high 25 points in the fourth, and Russell Westbrook added eight of his 23 points in the final quarter as the Wizards defeated the Hornets 115-110 at Capital One Arena.

Westbrook also had his 184th career triple-double on Sunday as he added 15 rebounds and 10 assists. For Charlotte, Terry Rozier scored 22 points, and LaMelo Ball added 19.

With the victory, Washington will be the eighth seed and will take on the seventh-seeded Celtics in Boston on Tuesday night in the Play-In Tournament. If Washington wins, they will be the seventh seed. If they lose, the Wizards will play the winner of  the 10th-seeded Hornets and the ninth seeded Pacers for the eighth seed.

This win completed a big turnaround for the Wizards. Heading into their April 7 game against the Magic, Washington was 17-32 and 13th in the Eastern Conference. Washington rallied with the second-best winning percentage in the league from April 7 to finish 17-6 in the final 23 games of the season.

Back to Beal, he was clearly not himself to begin the game, but he started to warm up as the game went along, and despite the injury, Beal got it done, which impressed Wizards head coach Scott Brooks and Westbrook.

“I cannot say enough about Brad’s toughness,” Brooks said. “He is so skilled and athletic, but the four years I’ve been here, there’s not a lot of guys that have his mental toughness, and his focus, and his determination.”

Westbrook added on Beal: “You appreciate guys like him and don’t take his talent, his mental, his anything for granted,” Westbrook said. “He wants to win, and he wants to win bad.”

For the Wizards to get to the playoffs, they need Beal to be healthy, and hamstring injuries are tricky, so it will be interesting to see what he will look like in the Play-In Tournament.

This win over the Hornets and this season is a credit to the veteran leadership on this team, led by Westbrook and Beal. Washington could have quit when they were 17-32, but they didn’t, and now they are one win away from making the playoffs.

Notes:

  • Robin Lopez had 18 points and six rebound, and Ish Smith scored 14 points. Both players combined for 32 points off the Wizards’ bench on Sunday.

  • Beal finished the season averaging 31.3 points per game, the second highest in the league and the second highest in team history.

Listen to Westbrook, Lopez, and Smith as they discuss the Wizards’ win over the Hornets:

Russell Westbrook made triple-double history on Monday night

Russell Westbrook has done it. He broke a record that many thought was unbreakable when he recorded his 182nd triple-double against the Hawks on Monday night, which surpassed Oscar Robertson for the most triple-doubles in NBA history. 

Westbrook had 28 points, 21 assists, and 13 rebounds last night, but he would miss a potential game-winning three at the buzzer, and the Wizards would fall to Atlanta 125-124 at State Farm Arena.

Westbrook, who has a league-leading 36 triple-doubles this season and is averaging 22.0 points, 11.6 assists, and 11.6 rebounds a contest, feels honored to be mentioned with some of the all-time greats in NBA history.

“It’s just a blessing,” Westbrook said after the game. “You put so much into the game, so much time, you sacrifice so much, to be able to just be mentioned with guys like Oscar, Magic [Johnson] and Jason Kidd, those guys is something I never dreamed about as a young kid growing up in L.A. Truly grateful for moments like this.”

Besides Robertson, never in our wildest dreams did anybody think any player in the NBA could average a triple-double for a season, and Westbrook has done it four times. We all thought if there were one player that would have done it, LeBron James would have been the guy, but Westbrook has beaten the odds, and now, he’s the king of triple-doubles.

With the loss on Monday night, Washington(32-37), who was without Bradley Beal(hamstring), is now 1/2 game behind the Pacers(32-36) for the ninth-seed in the Eastern Conference, and they are 1.5 games behind the eighth-seeded Hornets. 

Washington has three games left, including their season finale against Charlotte, so if they can get in striking distance of the Hornets, their last game of the season could be for the eighth-seed, which would be huge because Washington would have to win only one game, instead of two to advance in the Play-In Tournament.

Doncic on Mavs: ‘I think we’re playing better basketball now’

On Saturday night in Dallas, there was a shootout between the Wizards(29-35) and Mavericks(36-27) and a shootout between Russell Westbrook and Luka Doncic.

Doncic finished with 31 points (12-23 FG), 12 rebounds, and a career-high 20 assists, while Westbrook led Washington with 42 points, 10 rebounds, and nine assists, but the biggest shot of the game was made by Dorian Finney-Smith, who hit the game-winning corner three with 09.3 seconds left to lift the Mavericks over the Wizards 125-124 at American Airlines Center.

Finney-Smith finished with 22 points, and for the Wizards, Bradley Beal added 29 points.

Doncic became the fourth player in NBA history with 30-plus points, 10-plus rebounds, and 20 assists in a game. He joined Magic Johnson, Russell Westbrook, and Oscar Robertson as the only players to do so, and what was more impressive is that Doncic had only one turnover in this game.

After the game, Doncic was asked about his triple-double, and according to him, he was more impressed with the one turnover.

“I think I’m more impressed with having only one turnover,” he said. “That never happens. I was more impressed with that.”

Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle was impressed with the triple-double and the one turnover.

“I’m actually equally impressed with both,” Carlisle said… “I thought Luka [Dončić] ‘s poise down the stretch was spectacular. He just was very, very focused, made every single right play, and fittingly got the last rebound off the [Bradley] Beal miss. Look, everyone expects greatness from him every single night. Just think about it, at 22 years old, having that kind of expectation put on you every night. But he’s an amazing player and does an amazing job absorbing all of it.”

With the win, the Mavericks are tied with the Lakers for the fifth-seed in the Western Conference, and according to Doncic, the Mavericks are playing solid basketball right now.

“I think we’re playing better basketball now, but we’ve got to focus every game,” Doncic said. “We’ve got to come out like today and just keep having the same energy.”

If the Mavericks stay at five or six, they will play either the Nuggets(third seed) or the Clippers(fourth seed). Dallas is 2-1 against both of those teams, but who knows how much that will matter come playoff time. However, the most important thing is to avoid the seventh-seed, which keeps you out of the Play-in Tournament, and currently, Dallas has a one-game lead on the Blazers.

The Mavericks play the second game of their back-to-back on Sunday night against the Sacramento Kings, who defeated Dallas two times in April.

Notes:

Back to Westbrook, this is the first time that he has missed a triple-double by one point, rebound or assist this season.

Kristaps Porzingis(knee) missed last night’s contest against the Wizards and will miss Sunday’s night game against the Kings. Porizingis hurt his knee on Thursday night against the Pistons. No timetable on his return.

Cavs’ Bickerstaff on Garland: ‘He’s the spirit of what we do’

Injuries have been a big issue for the Cleveland Cavaliers this season. At times, key players, including Kevin Love and Larry Nance jr. have missed significant time due to injuries, and on Friday night against the Wizards, Cleveland was missing six players, but they did get their leading scorer in Collin Sexton back, who missed the last three games with a concussion. 

These two teams met last Sunday in Washington, and the Wizards defeated the Cavs 119-110.

On Friday night, Cleveland(21-42) competed in the first half against Washington(29-34) and trailed 58-52 at the break, but things went south when their point guard Darius Garland left the game early in the third quarter and did not return after rolling his ankle.  Following Garland’s exit, Cleveland was outscored 33-16 in the quarter, and a six-point lead turned into a 23-point lead at the end of three for Washington, and ultimately, the Wizards would defeat the Cavaliers 122-93 at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.

The Wizards have won two straight and 10 of their last 11 games, while the Cavs have dropped five consecutive games.

Bradley Beal led Washington with 19 points, and Russell Westbrook had his NBA record-setting 14th triple-double in the month of April with 15 points, 12 rebounds, and 11 assists. Sexton had a game-high 22 points for Cleveland.

Garland is Cleveland’s floor general, and without him, Cleveland’s offense sputtered, which Cavs head coach J.B Bickerstaff discussed after the game.

“Darius is our lead guard,” he said. And it’s disappointing, obviously, for him having the injury, but he’s our leader; he’s the spirit of what we do, and he was playing at an extremely high level. It’s sad; it’s disappointing that the injury happened at this point, or at any point because his confidence was growing. He’s playing so well. The best month of his career by far… Obviously, him not being there hurt us a lot.”

Also, Love, who had 10 rebounds on Friday night, did not take a shot and ended the game with zero points in 22 minutes. According to Bickerstaff, Cleveland has to keep Love involved on the offensive end of the floor.

“I think he’s(Love) an important piece of what we do on that end of the floor,” Bickerstaff said. “So, we gotta find ways to get him involved, find ways to get him shots.”

At this point, the Cavaliers are going through the motions. They are not a healthy team, and they are not playing good basketball right now. However, this season was not about winning, it was about the development of young talent, and Cleveland must continue to do that in the final nine games of the season. 

The Cavaliers continue their five-game homestand on Saturday night against the Miami Heat.

 

Wizards’ Westbrook could average a triple-double this season

On Wednesday, Russell Westbrook made his Wizards’ debut on the road against the 76ers, and while he had a triple-double(21 points, 15 assists, 11 rebounds), Washington(0-1) would fall to the 76ers(1-0) 113-107.

The 32-year-old Westbrook, who came over to Washington from Houston in the trade that sent John Wall to the Rockets earlier this month, was disappointed in himself after the game.

“Not good enough. Honestly, I’m kind of disappointed in myself,” Westbrook said. “I had some mishaps and plays where I could have been better and had a better game to try to win. I don’t like moral victories at any point in my career. I always like to go out and try to win the game. I’ve gotta be better, and I’ll be better next game.”

Last season, moral victories were acceptable for the Wizards, who won only 25 games a year ago. However, this year is a different story. With Westbrook, Bradley Beal, and Davis Bertans on the court, Washington is looking to make the playoffs, and like Westbrook, Wizards head coach Scott Brooks is not interested in moral victories.

“The results matter. We’re not happy. There’s no moral victories,” Brooks said. “Last year, I thought we had just a different mindset. Not good or bad, we were just in a different place. This year, there are no moral victories. We have to come out and keep competing.”

Washington played well against the 76ers and had a legitimate chance to win the game, but they could not make the plays and get the stops down the stretch to get the victory.

In a loss, it’s clear that this team is going to put up points. Beal, who led the way with 31 points against Philadelphia, averaged 30.5 ppg last season. Also, Bertans scored 14 points, including 4-6 from downtown. He would only play 20 minutes, which was due to him being on a minutes restriction. So, scoring points won’t be an issue for Washington, especially when the team starts to gel.

On another note, we might be seeing a lot of triple-doubles out of Westbrook this season. The 12-year veteran is second in NBA history in triple-doubles(147). According to Elias Sports Bureau, Westbrook is the 6th player in NBA history with a triple-double in his team debut. With all the scoring they have on this team, Washington could offer Westbrook an opportunity for many assists. Furthermore, without a big-time rebounder on this roster(Thomas Bryant led the team with 7.2 RPG last season), Westbrook will get his rebounds, and he’s most definitely going to score. Based on this roster, if Westbrook remains healthy, he might mess around and average a triple-double this season for the fourth time in his career.

Wizards’ Bertans believes the team will be defined by how well they defend this season

For the Washington Wizards, last season’s struggles came down to the team’s inability to defend. Washington allowed 119.1 points per game, which was 29th in the NBA. In addition, the team was 29th in opponents’ field goal percentage(48.8). 

It isn’t easy to win in the NBA if you’re not defending, and Washington has to improve on that end of the court if they want to have success this season. 

Conversely, on the offensive side of the court, Washington was one of the top-scoring teams in the league. In the 2019-20 season, the Wizards averaged 114.7 points a contest, which was 7th in the NBA. 

Now, Washington will have more firepower with the addition of nine-time All-Star and former league MVP Russell Westbrook. You add that to what you got out of Bradley Beal last season, who was second in the NBA in points per game(30.5). Plus, they have arguably their best shooter back in Davis Bertans, who signed a five-year, $80 million contract this offseason, and was the team’s second-leading scorer last season(15.4 ppg).

With Westbrook and Beal, Bertans expects to get easier looks, and he expects the team to be tough to stop this season.

“I think it’s just going to be easier for everybody in a sense,” Bertans said on Wednesday. “There’s a lot of defensive attention toward Brad(Beal), and now having Russ(Westbrook), too. We got, I think, more shooters. Everybody improved in the summer. You can see that Rui(Hachimura) is making threes. Deni(Avidja) is a pretty good shooter, so I think, in that case, it’s going to be a lot easier for Brad and Russ to attack the rim, and the defense has to pay more attention to them, and everybody else going to be open around the perimeter. So, I think the team is built, offensively, pretty great.”

However, according to Bertans, Washington has to play better defense if they want to have a productive season.

“It’s going to be more on what we going to do on the defensive end,” Bertans said. “How we’re going to talk on defense. How hard we’re going to play on defense. That’s going to be the main differential on whether we’re going to win games or lose games.”

Defense wins championships, and Washington has to be committed to defending this season if they want to make the playoffs and contend in the Eastern Conference, which means the back end of the defense has to be better, especially C Thomas Bryant, who will be called on to anchor the defense. Adding a defensive center in Robin Lopez should help, but time will tell if it will be enough for Washington to improve on the defensive end next season.