Good morning, Sixers fans. Many of you have your brooms out for tonight’s Game 4 in Washington against the reeling Wizards at Capital One Arena. Leading three games to none in this best-of-seven opening-round Eastern Conference series, the Sixers are looking for a sweep after Saturday’s 132-103 win over the Wizards, their second straight lopsided victory.
No NBA team has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit, so let’s just say the odds are pretty good for the Sixers to advance to face the winner of the New York Knicks-Atlanta series, which the Hawks lead, 3-1.
Things are going well for the Sixers, although coach Doc Rivers still is experimenting with his bench.
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Maxey moving up
Shake Milton has been struggling this postseason and Saturday, Rivers put rookie Tyrese Maxey into the game ahead of Milton.
Maxey entered the game with 2 minutes, 50 seconds left in the first quarter. Milton didn’t enter until 1:10 remained in the first half.
In the three playoff games, Milton is averaging 3.0 points in 11.2 minutes. He has hit just 2 of 12 shots (16.6%). Compare that to the regular season , when he averaged 13.0 points in 23.2 minutes, shooting 45% from the field.
Milton has been up and down this season, but he did shoot 38.5% from three-point range in 35 games after the All-Star break, compared to 31.3% in 28 games before the break. In his last three games before the playoffs, he shot 17-for-31 (54.8%).
During the Sixers’ opening 125-118 playoff win over the Wizards, he played just 9:39 and shot 1-for-3, including 1-for-2 from deep. Then in Game 2, a 120-95 win, Milton shot 0-for-6. On Saturday he played just 10:30 and shot 1-for-3. If Milton isn’t scoring, then he often isn’t helping the Sixers.
Maxey has been trending the opposite direction. in his last six regular-season games, he averaged 14.8 points. Granted, one of those games was a meaningless season finale against Orlando when he scored 30, but even if that game is taken out, he averaged 11.8 points in the previous five.
He has been effective attacking the basket and gives the Sixers an element of speed that Milton can’t offer.
During Sunday’s media Zoom call, Rivers was asked if using Maxey ahead of Milton is a game-by-game situation.
“Yeah, I mean right now probably Maxey would go in first,” Rivers said. “But we kind of decided that with the way they were subbing anyway.”
Then he gave a hypothetical.
“Let’s say the numbers were different we probably would go that way because we need someone to stay in front of [Wizards guard Ish Smith]. And we need to give Ish some problems on the other end with speed so there is the matchup, but it’s also deserved. Maxey has played great. We need him.”
In the three playoff games, Maxey is averaging 5.7 points and shooting 58.3% in 10.5 minutes.
As for the Sixers reserves, the three leaders in the playoffs in minutes are George Hill (19.7 per game), Matisse Thybulle (17.3), and Dwight Howard (16.7).
The starters haven’t played big minutes because the last two games have been blowouts. After the top eight in the rotation, there won’t be a lot of minutes, especially if the Sixers find themselves in closer games.
It will be interesting to watch if Milton can regain his stature and his minutes off the bench.
Ed Barkowitz provides lots of great statistics with 12 things to know leading into Monday’s Game 4.
Wizards coach Scott Brooks on the Sixers: ‘They are championship ready right now’
Keith Pompey writes that after once questioning his Sixers future, Joel Embiid is now compared to NBA greats during the postseason run.
Pompey offers his best/worst awards for the Sixers’ Game 3 win.
David Murphy outlines why it is important for the Sixers to end the series Monday in Washington.
On Saturday, Washington was able to play in front of 50% capacity (approximately 10,000), the highest total allowed this season. After the game, Wizards three-time All-Star Bradley Beal was asked about playing in front of a bigger audience.
“I loved it,” he said. “I mean we still had a lot of Philly fans here.”
The Sixers fans were heard loud and clear. Beal and anybody who watched the game noticed.
The fan support was certainly appreciated by Embiid, who scored a playoff career-high 36 points and heard plenty of chants of “MVP” from the Sixers fans who made the trip to Washington.
“It felt like this was a Philly crowd,” Embiid said. “It felt like we had more fans. In the past, it has always been that way. Fans have always showed up, and they have always been louder on the road, especially here in D.C.”
Monday: Game 4, Sixers at Washington, 7 p.m., Capital One Arena, NBC Sports Philadelphia, TNT
Wednesday: *Game 5, Washington at Sixers, 7 p.m., Wells Fargo Center, NBA TV
Friday, June 4: *Game 6, Sixers at Washington, TBD, Capital One Arena, TBD
Sunday, June 6: *Game 7, Washington at Sixers, TBD, Wells Fargo Center, TBD
Passing the rock
Question: Teams are looking at Seth [Curry] putting the ball on the floor as a weakness (see Bradley Beal comments). Is there any need to work on those types of sets more in games or at practice to keep defenses honest in their game plan? — Phil Evans from Facebook
Answer: Thanks for the question, Phil. I think the Wizards also suggested that it is better for not only Curry but also for Danny Green to have to dribble more. That is easier said than done.
Washington used a lot of single coverage on Embiid and you saw how that worked out, so with the constant doubling, players such as Curry and Green are going to be open and won’t have to dribble as much. Also, I think that is a part of Curry’s game that he has improved on and both he and Green are capable of putting the ball on the floor.
I think opposing teams have so much trouble dealing with Embiid, trying to limit Tobias Harris in one-on-one situations in which he has been highly effective and keeping Ben Simmons from attacking the rim, that attempting to make Curry and/or Green dribble more won’t work.