Ultimately, the Philadelphia 76ers did exactly what they needed to by defeating the Washington Wizards in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference first-round playoff series — but it wasn’t necessarily convincing.
As the top seed in the conference, the Sixers allowed the Wizards to hang around due to a combination of poor shooting from deep and an initial inability to wrangle in Washington’s lightning-quick transition game.
“I didn’t like it at all in the first half; the second half, it was great,” head coach Doc Rivers. said of his team’s transition defense “First half, I’m gonna say 20 of their points came off of our mess-ups in transition. Guys running back to their own man, guys not loading to the ball. This team, over all the teams, they’re going to force you to load to the ball, and then get back out to your guy.”
While there’s plenty to work on, Rivers was especially thrilled by the play of point guard Ben Simmons, even though he shot 3-of-9 from the field and 0-of-6 from the free-throw line. That likely stemmed from 15 assists from the star whois one of the motors of the Sixers.
“It’s funny, I thought he was special,” Rivers “Whoever he guarded struggled scoring. He created so many points for us — off the glass to three; off transition to three; creating switches that they didn’t want to have.
“He’s a treasure. He’s something that you don’t see a lot in this league, and he has such a skill set that is so different. There’s a lot of people that can’t make what of him. All I see is greatness in him, and I just want him to keep doing what he’s doing.”
On the Wizards’ side, it appears as though star guard Bradley Beal — who led the NBA in scoring this season — is nearing 100%; or at least feels good enough to play without restrictions. He was dealing with a hamstring issue that held him out of three of the final four regular-season games.
After returning for the season finale, Beal put up a strong showing in Game 1 against the Sixers, dropping 33 points in 40 minutes.
“It’s trending in the right direction, so that’s always a positive,” Beal said. “I’m definitely utilizing every single day and moment to treat it and make sure it’s close to 100% as possible when I step on the floor.”
While he and his Wizards are sizable underdogs, the ability to hang with the Sixers thanks to their slow start is helping the No. 8 seed’s confidence.
“We didn’t play great at all and we were still in the game, still had an opportunity to win,” Beal said. “That’s what kind of keeps me going, keeps me motivated; the fact that I don’t think I played great. I don’t think I had a good game. I think we’ve still got a couple levels we could tap into from everybody across the board.”
Wizards at Sixers, Game 2 odds
Spread: 76ers -8
Moneyline: 76ers (-110), Wizards (-110)
Figures courtesy of Bovada