76ers move to the next round; Wizards have questions about future

The Philadelphia 76ers are moving on to the Eastern Conference semifinals after defeating the Wizards 129-112 in Game 5 of their first-round series on Wednesday night at Wells Fargo Center.

Philadelphia wins the series 4-1.

The 76ers will begin their second-round series with the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday in Philadelphia.

Without Joel Embiid, who is day-to-day with a small tear in his right meniscus, Philadelphia had six players in double figures. Seth Curry led the way with a playoff career-high 30 points, Ben Simmons had a triple-double with 19 points, 11 assists, and 10 rebounds, and rookie Tyrese Maxey added 13 points off the bench.

“It was what you would call an all-hands in, team win, for sure,” 76ers head coach Doc Rivers said after the game.

Philadelphia will continue to need all hands in if Embiid can’t play against the Hawks. He’s their best player, and makes this team go.

The 76ers have a team that can make the Finals, but that won’t be possible without a healthy Embiid.

Regarding 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.

This team overcame COVID, injuries, and everything else to make the playoffs, but there could be some changes in the offseason. Head coach Scott Brooks five-year contract has expired, and his future with the team is uncertain.

Russell Westbrook, who started his career with Brooks in OKC, would like him to return, while Bradley Beal said, “That’s out of my hands.”

Beal, 27, can become a free agent after next season(player option), so they have to convince him to stay, but as he said after the loss to Philadelphia, he is in control.

Ultimately, I’m in control,” Beal said. “I think that’s my biggest thing. People are going to report whatever they want, but I know where my mind is, and I know if it’s not coming from the horse’s mouth, then it’s going to be rumors. I expect them. S—, they’re starting now.”

Washington is stuck at this point. They are too good to get a high lottery pick but not good enough to contend. It’s almost like they have to determine what direction they want to go in. If Beal is committed to staying, they need to try to get players to win now. However, if Beal wants out, they need to move him, Westbrook(if possible), and try to rebuild. 

What happens next for the Wizards should be very interesting, and whatever Beal wants could determine Washington’s future.

Embiid to miss Game 5 against Wizards with meniscus tear

Philadelphia 76ers C Joel Embiid has been ruled out of Game 5 against the Washington Wizards in their first-round series after the team announced on Wednesday that Embiid has a small lateral meniscus tear in his right knee.

The four-time All-Star had an MRI on Tuesday, which revealed the injury. The team listed Embiid as day-to-day, and the injury will be managed through therapy and a treatment program.

Embiid left Game 4 after the first quarter when he lost his balance and fell to the ground after getting his shot blocked by Robin Lopez.

Philadelphia fell to the Wizards 122-114 in Game 4 and have a 3-1 series lead. The 76ers are hoping to close out Washington in Philadelphia on Wednesday night.

In the regular season, Embiid missed 21 games for the 76ers, and in those games, Philadelphia was 10-11.

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.

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’ Brook on Game 1 loss against 76ers: ‘I’m surprised we didn’t win’

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.

Notes:

-Harris and Embiid became the first Philadelphia teammates with at least 30 points in the same playoff game since 1990.

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.

 

Brooks on Tatum: ‘He’s gonna be an MVP in this league soon’

With Jaylen Brown out for the season, Jayson Tatum has to be the guy for the Boston Celtics, and on Tuesday night against the Washington Wizards in the Play-In Tournament, he was all of that and then some.

Tatum scored 23 of his 50 points in the third quarter as the Boston Celtics routed the Wizards 118-100 at TD Garden. Boston now claims the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference and will play the second-seeded Brooklyn Nets in the first round of the playoffs, starting on Saturday.

Washington still has an opportunity to make the playoffs if they defeat the Pacers on Thursday night in D.C. 

Bradley Beal led the Wizards with 22 points, and Russell Westbrook added 20 points, 14 rebounds, and five assists.

Washington had a 54-52 lead at halftime, but then Tatum and Kemba Walker took over in the third. Tatum shot 7-10 from the field, including 2-3 from three-point land, while Walker scored nine of his 29 points in that quarter, all from downtown. Boston would take a 90-80 lead into the fourth quarter, and the Wizards never really threatened after that. 

“Be the best player on the floor,” Tatum, who was 17/17 from the free throw line, said after the game. “That’s what I told myself coming into this game. Do whatever it takes to win and be the best player on the floor.”

According to Wizards head coach Scott Brooks, Tatum is a special player and will be an MVP down the line.

“He’s a great player. He’s not a great young player,” Brooks said. “He’s a great player. He’s gonna be an MVP in this league soon.”

Tatum was clearly the best player on the floor, and Boston needed that to advance. 

Regarding the Wizards, they were red-hot coming into this game as Washington won 17 of its final 23 games. However, Beal was still not himself on Tuesday night as he continues to deal with a hamstring injury, and Westbrook struggled from the field(6-18). Also, Washington made a season-low three(3-21) three-point field goals.

“We had a bad game; there’s no question,” Brooks said. “We haven’t had one of these in a long time. I think the last one was at Phoenix, and that was almost two months ago. We’ll regroup – we’ve got a lot of confidence that our guys are going to bounce back.”

Fortunately for Washington, they have an opportunity to redeem themselves on Thursday night against Indiana, who they swept(3-0) in the regular season. If the Wizards defeat Indiana, they will be the eighth seed and will battle the number-one seeded 76ers in the first round of the playoffs, which starts on Sunday.

Now, it’s officially win or go home for Washington. We’ll see how they respond on Thursday night.

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.