Good morning, 76ers fans. We’re wondering what your level of comfort is now that Joel Embiid is out for tonight’s Game 5 against the Washington Wizards at the Wells Fargo Center.
Leading three games to one, the Sixers can close things out in this best-of-seven Eastern Conference opening-round series. One player who will draw plenty of attention is Tobias Harris. He is the Sixers’ leading scorer in these four playoff games (24.3 average) after being second, behind Embiid, in the regular season (19.5).
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Harris to the rescue?
Harris had been playing well in the series until Monday, when he shot 8-for-24 in the Sixers’ 122-114 loss at Washington. If you are a Sixers fan, the one positive was that he was able to get any shot he wanted. The negative was that he wasn’t able to convert near the basket.
Among his 24 field-goal attempts, Harris missed three layups and saw four other shots blocked. Harris and his teammates were getting to the rim, but the Wizards blocked 12 shots.
“We got to do a better job making the right plays while going downhill,” Harris said after the game. “Myself, I got my shot blocked a couple of times as well. Just got to evaluate where the defense is at and making the right play.”
Harris will have to be the focal point of the offense, without forcing things. When Embiid missed 10 games because of a bruised left knee from March 14 through April 1, Harris played well. In that span, Harris averaged 21.6 points, shooting 52.4% from the field, including 42.3% from three-point range.
Before Game 4, Harris had averaged 25.3 points in the three postseason games, shooting 57.1% from the field, including 45.5% from three-point range.
He is looking for himself and the team to bounce back. Even without Embiid for three quarters, the Sixers still trailed by just 115-112 when Washington’s Rui Hachimura put things away by hitting a three with 45.8 seconds left.
“We still had opportunities to close out the game,” Harris said. “It didn’t happen, and we move on to where we are at right now, and we get better from it. That’s it.”
Marcus Hayes didn’t agree with the way Doc Rivers defended Ben Simmons after Washington’s hack-a-Simmons tactic worked. Hayes takes issue when Rivers suggests that Simmons’ game isn’t flawed.
As if the Sixers didn’t have enough go wrong Monday, losing at Washington and Embiid getting hurt, Keith Pompey writes that their plane also broke down and they had to bus back to Philadelphia.
The Wizards were able to stay in the series despite some poor shooting from the star backcourt of Bradley Beal and Russell Westbrook.
Ed Barkowitz has 10 things to know about the Sixers and Wizards leading into Game 5.
Pompey offers his best/worst awards for Game 4.
Westbrook among triple-double leaders
Washington’s Russell Westbrook shot 3-for-19 in the Game 4 win, but put up some otherwise impressive numbers. Westbrook had a triple-double, 19 points, 21 rebounds and 14 assists.
It was his second straight triple-double in this series. He had 26 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists during the Sixers’ 132-103 win in Game 3.
The triple-double was Westbrook’s 12th in his playoff career, moving him to No. 3 on the all-time postseason list.
Here are the top career playoff triple-double leaders, courtesy of basketball-reference.com, through Monday.
1. Magic Johnson, 30
2. LeBron James, 28
3. Westbrook, 12
4. Jason Kidd, 11
5. Rajon Rondo, 10
5. Draymond Green, 10
5. Larry Bird, 10
8. Wilt Chamberlain, 9
9. Oscar Robertson, 8
10. Nikola Jokic, 5
10. John Havlicek, 5
Wednesday: Game 5, Washington at Sixers, 7 p.m., Wells Fargo Center, NBC Sports Philadelphia/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: This is courtesy of my brother, Guy: Forget the media and fan rhetoric, someone should ask Doc if he thinks Scotty Brooks was stupid for fouling Ben on every possession? Clearly an NBA coach, not a member of the press, thought Ben was a liability down the stretch and utilized his weakness to help his team win. This is not a media-created narrative. Other coaches are exploiting it to their advantage. — Christopher Jones from Facebook
Answer: Thanks for the question, Guy (and Chris). Rivers knows it was sound strategy. If anybody thinks that Doc is going to throw Ben under the bus, they have another thing coming. He was defending his player and has been consistent in defending Simmons.
As I mentioned on Keith Pompey’s podcast, if Rivers takes Simmons out in key parts of the game, he risks losing his star. Simmons has great trust in Rivers, and vice-versa. Anybody looking for Rivers to criticize Simmons publicly is in for a long wait.
Deep down, I believe Rivers feels that Simmons gives the Sixers their best chance to win, even with his woeful free-throw shooting, and will keep using him in late-game situations.