Good morning, 76ers fans.
The Sixers lead the Washington Wizards, two games to none, in their Eastern Conference opening-round playoff series after Wednesday’s 120-95 win, but many in the nation are talking about the Russell Westbrook popcorn incident.
The teams are receiving plenty of rest during this series, which resumes Saturday in Washington. For the Wizards, it is a must-win situation.
After being highly competitive while losing to the Sixers, 125-118, in Game 1, the Wizards had no answers Wednesday. Have they already run out of answers?
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What’s left for the Wizards to do?
Wizards coach Scott Brooks tried after the Game 2 loss to put a positive spin on things.
“We got a chance to play in front of our home crowd. How exciting is that?” Brooks said. “It’s what you play for; we’re going to get juice from our crowd. They’re going to pump us up, and we’re going to be ready to play and we got to play better.”
Of course, one can look at it through Joel Embiid’s eyes. After Game 2, he talked about how much he loves playing on the road. Embiid says he gets extra motivated when he hears boos from the crowd.
Whether it’s home or away, the Wizards haven’t shown they can slow Embiid. He averaged 30 points in three regular-season games (all wins) over the Wizards. In the playoffs, he is averaging 26 points in just 28 minutes. Foul trouble limited his minutes in Game 1, and the blowout kept the minutes down in Game 2.
Here is what else is going wrong for the Wizards:
Westbrook has not been able to hit outside shots. He is shooting just 9-for-27, and just one of his field goals has come from beyond 12 feet. (He is 0-for-5 on three-point shots.) To make matters worse, he suffered an ankle injury, which caused him to go to the locker room in the fourth quarter, leading to popcorn being dropped on him. Westbrook said he will do his best to be ready for Game 3, but even though he has shot poorly, if he is unable to go, it would hurt an already struggling offense.
The Wizards also have been unable to stop Tobias Harris, who is averaging 28 points in 30.2 minutes. Harris has been able to create and get to the basket at will.
The Wizards have shot 10-for-42 (23.8%) from three-point range. They were 2-for-22 (9.1%) in Game 2. As good as Bradley Beal has been, averaging 33 points in the two games, he has shot just 2-for-12 (16.7%) on threes. “We haven’t been great [shooting threes], but we haven’t been a 9% three-point shooting team,” Brooks said. “We’re due.”
Could a lineup change help Washington? Brooks basically suggested that anything is on the table. One change that Washington should consider is to have former Sixers guard Raul Neto come off the bench. Neto has started both games, giving the Wizards a small three-guard lineup. He is a minus-31 in the two games.
David Murphy writes that denial isn’t a solution for Philly sports fans after the Westbrook popcorn incident.
Westbrook was frustrated after popcorn was thrown at him, and he didn’t hold back his emotions when asked about the incident.
Keith Pompey writes that the fan who dumped popcorn on Westbrook had his season-ticket membership revoked and is banned indefinitely from the Wells Fargo Center.
Rob Tornoe compares how the Westbrook popcorn situation was covered on the Philadelphia, Washington and national broadcasts.
Murphy writes that for all the criticism that Ben Simmons receives, Wednesday’s performance again showed his true value to the Sixers.
In Game 2, the Sixers had 14 blocked shots, the most in team history for a playoff game, according to Stathead.
Matisse Thybulle had five blocked shots (and four steals) in less than 20 minutes. Tyrese Maxey, of all players, contributed three blocks, a season high for the rookie first-round draft choice. The rest of the Sixers with blocked shots were Danny Green with two, and Ben Simmons, Shake Milton, Dwight Howard and Paul Reed each with one.
Imagine getting 14 blocked shots and Embiid having none of them.
The Sixers are averaging 9.5 blocked shots in their two postseason wins. During the regular season, the Sixers were second in blocked shots, averaging 6.2. Indiana (6.4) led the NBA.
In the two playoff games, the Sixers hold a 19-6 edge in blocked shots. The Wizards have one fewer block in the two games than Thybulle, who has seven.
Saturday: Game 3, Sixers at Washington, 7 p.m., Capital One Arena, NBC Sports Philadelphia, ESPN
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: Do you think Maxey should start in place of [Seth] Curry or Green? He can get his own shot and create problems for Washington’s defense. — Edward Robinson on Facebook
Answer: Thanks for the question, Edward. If Curry is healthy after leaving Game 2 with a sore left ankle, I think he and Green should start. The Sixers were 27-5 during the regular season, and of course now 2-0 in the playoffs, with their starting lineup. I would keep that unit intact.
Now, another question is whether Maxey deserves more minutes off the bench and whether he should be a regular rotation player. That one would make a better argument. With Milton struggling (1-for-9 shooting), there could be a chance for Maxey to earn some of those minutes. I think with Maxey’s energy, he should see rotation minutes every playoff game.