The 76ers, coming off a dominating 120-95 win on Wednesday to take a 2-0 lead in their first-round playoff series against the Washington Wizards, now take to the road after holding serve at home.
Saturday’s Game 3 at Capital One Arena is the pivotal matchup, because the Wizards could either get back in the series or face a near insurmountable deficit.
The Wizards have looked overmatched, unable to deal with Joel Embiid and Tobias Harris, who are combining to average 54 points.
Washington has also struggled to shoot, evident by the 2-for-22 display from three-point range in Wednesday’s loss.
With the way things are going, it would be easy for the top-seeded Sixers to get complacent, but coach Doc Rivers said that isn’t going to happen.
“We have done nothing,” Rivers said after Friday’s practice. “We have won two games, you don’t get anything until you win four, so we have accomplished nothing as far as we’re concerned.”
Now they hit the road, where they were 20-16 during the regular season, which included a 127-101 win at Washington on March 12.
Rivers was asked about the theory that role players don’t particularly play well on the road.
“You know it is somewhat true, on the road, I guess, role players don’t play (well),” Rivers said. “I watched a role player from Denver play pretty well yesterday on the road so that was fun.”
Rivers was referring to his son Austin, who scored 21 points in Denver Nuggets’ 120-115 win over Portland on Thursday.
He then got back to how role players perform on the road.
“You really don’t know...they are far more comfortable at home, there’s no doubt about that, but there is no speech I will give them,” Rivers said. “One thing you know about role players, it’s not urgency, they are going to come with that, they are going to come intense. They just have to be comfortable and understand it’s the same baskets, the same distance, it’s just that you’re getting booed instead of cheered.”
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The reserves might have more of a role depending on the status of starting shooting guard Seth Curry, who left Wednesday’s game in the third quarter with ankle soreness.
In addition, Harris left the game in the second quarter when it appeared he rolled his ankle, but he returned before halftime.
After Friday’s practice, when asked about his ankle, Harris said “I’m good.”
Rivers seemed to agree.
“Tobias I think will be good, he went through most of the stuff today,” Rivers said. “Seth didn’t go through anything, but we think he will be good.”
Rivers shouldn’t be too concerned about his starters. In the two games, they have outscored the Wizards’ first-stringers 176-144.
After Tuesday’s win Embiid said he loves playing on the road, saying he gets motivated by the boos. He should get his wish.
The Sixers played at 50% capacity, before 11,160, in Game 2. If there is a Game 5 on Wednesday, they would be able to play at 100% capacity, it was announced on Friday. Washington will be able to play at half capacity, slightly more than 10,000.
Wizards guard Ish Smith, a former Sixer, praised the Philadelphia fans.
“Philly felt like it was 100 percent (capacity),” Smith said on Friday. “We’re excited to be back home, you get that extra juice, that extra energy. I thought the Philly fans did a great job with an exception of stupidity that one fan did, but bringing the juice, bringing the energy for the team feeding off it, that’s what we’re hoping...for when we come here for Game 3.”
The stupidity Smith was referring to occurred when a fan threw popcorn on Wizards guard Russell Westbrook while he was on his way to the locker room to get his injured ankle checked.
Rivers understands the noise level could motivate the Wizards, but only to a point.
“They (the fans) can’t guard us, we go to go out and play and execute and focus and have a sense of urgency,” Rivers said. “On the road, you get a chance to control the noise by the way you play, I really believe that.”