On Sunday, the 76ers needed 67 combined points from Joel Embiid and Tobias Harris to hold off the Washington Wizards in Game 1 of their opening-round NBA playoff series.
As shown by Bradley Beal’s driving dunk with 8.3 seconds left, as the Sixers’ celebratory theme song blared from the speakers, Washington was in attack mode until time expired. The Sixers expect much of the same during Wednesday’s Game 2 and until the best-of-seven series is clinched.
It didn’t matter that the Sixers are the Eastern Conference’s No. 1 seed facing the eighth seed. They’re expecting tough competition.
“Washington has been one of the hottest team in the NBA after the All-Star break,” said Harris, who had a postseason career-high 37 points in Sunday’s 125-118 victory at the Wells Fargo Center.
“For us, we know the power that they have and the guys that can make shots on their team,” Harris added. “So that just adds to our focus as a group and knowing how locked in we need to be during this whole series.”
As good as Harris and Embiid were, the Sixers benefited from Washington’s inability to take care of the ball.
All-Star guards Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal each committed six of the Wizards’ 15 turnovers. Westbrook had three in the fourth quarter with his final one coming with Washington trailing, 121-116, with 37.1 seconds remaining. Meanwhile, Beal had two turnovers in the final quarter.
While Westbrook had 16 points and a team-high 14 assists, this wasn’t one of his best overall performances. Beal finished with team highs of 33 points and 10 rebounds. So committing fewer turnovers has to be one of their Game 2 goals.
It will also be interesting to see what type of adjustments the Wizards make on Embiid and Harris.
Harris scored 28 of his points in the first half on a lot of straight-line drives. He also created mismatches on switches. However, he shot just 1-for-7 while scoring four points in the fourth quarter.
That wasn’t a problem due to Embiid’s dominance.
With the Sixers up, 115-108, with 3 minutes, 8 seconds remaining, Embiid scored their next eight points. His final two gave the Sixers a 123-116 lead with 14.1 seconds left.
One has to wonder what type of double-teaming adjustments they’ll attempt to make against Embiid, who scored 21 of his 30 points in the second half. The Wizards took bad angles and were late on the double teams Sunday, leaving the second defender in no man’s land.
Like Harris, Embiid expects this series to remain competitive if the Sixers don’t play to their potential.
“This is the playoffs,” he said. “There’s no bad teams. If you made it to this level, it didn’t matter if you are the first seed. It doesn’t matter if you are the eighth seed. You know teams are good. ... So every game is going to be competitive.
“But then again, that’s on us to make sure we play the right way.”
Embiid thinks the Sixers need to continue to move the ball on offense and play the right way defensively. He said playing that way usually results in a blowout for the Sixers .
“We just got to play that way,” he said. “Play with each other and play as the best defensive team in the league.”