The Philadelphia 76ers, who had the NBA’s best record in the month of March, have lost their first two games of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals to the Washington Wizards. And, even worse, the Wizards haven’t let the Sixers off the hook. The Sixers had a chance to tie the series with a win in Game 4, but fell apart in the final minutes.
The Sixers, who were swept by the Washington Wizards in the first round of the playoffs, will next face the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference semifinals. The Celtics will be without Kyrie Irving, who had knee surgery, and Gordon Hayward, who had a broken finger, for the series. You can be certain that the Celtics will be better than the Sixers, but the road to the Eastern Conference Finals goes through Philadelphia. Game 1 of the series is Saturday night, and the Sixers only hope is that they can make the necessary adjustments to defeat the Celtics.
After a great regular season, the Philadelphia 76ers quickly became the favorites to win the title this season. They were expected to easily beat the Washington Wizards in the first round. However, they were unable to close out the series and lost game four 122-114. A quick 4-0 would have been a nice result, as it would have given the Sixers a few days rest. And we know how important rest is in a long playoff game. Things didn’t go well for the Sixers after losing Joel Embiid to a right knee injury. But that’s not the main reason for their shortcomings. There were flaws in the most fundamental aspects of the game. And you could even say that they underestimated the Wizards, which the Wizards took advantage of. With that in mind, here are three adjustments the Sixers need to make in Game 5 after the Wizards survive the sweep.
The Wizards defeated the Sixers 57-48 in Game 4. It was only the second time in the series that the Wizards won a rebounding battle against a bigger Sixers team. The first was in the first race (41:40). We’ve heard countless times from players and coaches how important it is to hit the ball. Rebounding just means more chances to score. And at the end of the day, the team with the most points wins. It’s not like the Sixers are suddenly the smallest team in the NBA after Embiid’s departure. They still have Dwight Howard who can fight and take the shields. But for some reason Doc Rivers only let him on the field for 14 minutes in Game 4. Thanks to Tobias Harris and Ben Simmons for breaking down the shields as best they can. But Rivers had to make an appropriate adjustment, knowing how much they would suffer from rebounding after Embiid’s departure.
Strengthening transitional protection
The Sixers scored just seven points on the fastbreak, but allowed the Wizards to score 21 points. With Russell Westbrook on the Wizards’ roster, Rivers has to constantly remind his guys to get their defense in order as soon as possible. They’ve done well in previous games, which means they can do it again. Simmons boasted that he was the best perimeter defender in the league. Given its size and mobility, no one doubts its claims. But where was his defense in Game 4? Besides Simmons, the Sixers have great, smart defenders in Howard and Danny Green. They all know that it’s not enough to be fast and athletic to defend a fastbreak. It has more to do with work and presence of mind.
Playing with existing games
Everyone knows Joel Embiid is the best player on the field. And his loss in Game 4 certainly had an impact on the Sixers. Simmons himself admitted that they needed Embiid to finish games (via ESPN). Clearly, we need Joel to win. He’s an important part of this team. But that shouldn’t be their attitude. Injuries are part of the game. The right decision would have been to make the necessary changes without Embiid on the field. Given his defensive and rebounding abilities, other players will have to prove themselves, though it’s hard to fill that void. Simmons’ 13 points were about average, but just unacceptable after losing to Embiid. Simmons converted just five attempts and went 5-of-11 from the free throw line. Sure, he has a great defense, but can he develop a scoring mentality like all the greats of today and before him?