On the back of a massive performance from Seth Curry and excellent efforts from almost everyone in the rotation, the Sixers closed out the Wizards with a 129-112 win in Game 5. Philadelphia is back in the second round.
Here’s what I saw.
• It’s not often that we have the opportunity to give Curry featured billing for this team, and getting him to hunt his shot has been one of the biggest challenges for this group throughout the season. But as the Sixers needed a jolt with their MVP on the shelf, it was Curry who rose to the scene of the offense, taking advantage of a friendly matchup with Raul Neto.
This Sixers team has made its money by sticking with what works this season, and the start of the third quarter was a distillation of Doc Rivers’ approach to offense. As Curry began torturing poor Neto, he didn’t even need to call his number – Tobias Harris put two fingers in the air and gave him a twirl, to drive it back if the magicians couldn’t stop it. His universal sign.
For most of the night, they couldn’t. Curry’s ability to hit hard shots from off-the-dribble kept Washington unbalanced all night, opening lanes towards the basket and playing open shots from midrange as he tried hard to stop him from three-up. There are few players on this team who are as fun to watch as Curry when he’s driving it, and he had a little extra sauce to share in a terrific game deep down.
It’s hard to get this exact version of curry when Joel Embiid is in the lineup, of course. There are only so many shots and touches to go around, and she won’t always have a guy she can exploit to the extent she did Neto. But it cannot be denied that he is back in form after struggling to find his footing post COVID-19, and that is a big deal for this group.
• This version of Harris is very close to the version we’ve seen throughout the season, with the memory of Game 4 very quickly left in the dust. It wasn’t all good for Harris—he still had some issues around the basket—but he found his footing thanks to a matchup with Rui Hachimura, a player he had utterly tortured during this series.
Where Harris really changed the game, though, was on the defensive end of the floor. The Wizards looked like they were going to convert a Daniel Gafford block into a fast-break point, the other side in the middle of a possession through third, only for Harris to bolt to the floor, intercept the pass, and make it in the other direction. send back Ben Simmons scored through contact and made the ensuing free throw, a five-point swing in a game that was close all the way through.
It was one of the few examples of Harris buckling to make sure the Sixers got it on the line. He’s not the most consistent defender in the world, but he’s had a bunch of moments of impact this season and a better game-to-game effort than ever. Like many others on this year’s team, he takes his responsibility as a leader seriously.
• The series didn’t quite go what everyone in Philadelphia hoped for, but Tyrese Maxi rising to the occasion has been one of the great first round stories, only a few months after Maxi was originally taken out of rotation.
When maxi are on the floor it is impossible to keep them away from the ball. Even when the Sixers aren’t taking offense to him, he’s the one who ends up with the ball in his hands in late clock situations, with his teammates believing the rookie seconds to end. Can cause some separation.
Here’s the crazy part: Maxi will have an even better chain if the executives are giving him the call he deserves. Maxi attempted a one-handed dunk through the netting in the first quarter, and he was fouled in the middle of the second quarter on a fine finish in the middle of the transition, a fact that did not bode well for the booing fans at the Wells Fargo Center. was left. .
In any case, the Sixers need even more to move forward, especially if they’re in a position where they need to downsize without the ambiance available. Maxi being on the floor really provides the advantage you want from the short ball, mainly shot creation, and he’s been an absolute delight to watch in his first playoff minutes.
• It comes to my mind that Lakers fans watched Danny Green play basketball last season and concluded that he must be the person they should be complaining about on social media for most of the season. His cold spells are brutal on offense, I’ll grant you that, but this guy wins wherever he goes and it’s no accident by any means.
The Sixers locked in a tight fight during the first 24 minutes, with Green riding an avalanche of good vibes alive to send the Sixers into halftime. After clutching Bradley Beal on one right, he nearly charged the other, then stole a pass from Russell Westbrook into the backcourt and scored on the rim. Just 30 seconds or so later, he hit a corner three on his signature baseline cut, only to draw an offensive foul on Westbrook and give the Sixers one last look at the basket before halftime.
After all this, he sensed the moment, and provoked the crowd to get excited. Philadelphia obliged, and it made it easy enough to do.
(By the way, I can’t believe he shrugged off that awkward fall at the end of the first half with his knee bent. Maybe you’ll have to take me out on a stretcher out of Wells Fargo Center if my leg bent that side. )
• Dwight Howard Making consecutive free throws during a playoff game is like finding a five dollar bill on the sidewalk. Doing the same game three times? Consider That a gift from a higher power.
Overall, it was a tough series for Howard, but he did his best to make up for it in the final game when he needed him the most. Howard was a threat throughout the offensive glass and the rim at the other end, offering him shot-blocking on a night where he had little to do without him.
• The best thing I think you can say about Ben Simmons’ night – when the Wizards decided to go with a hack-a-ben strategy late in the first half – it really took Simmons to get seemed to more This is one area in the game after a hard start where many people (including their teammates) have faced a mental battle, and it was great to see them rise to the occasion after being challenged.
Was it extra work on the line between games 4 and 5? Did the crowd have anything to do with it? The Wells Fargo center welcomed him to the line with enthusiasm, and Simmons made a 3-of-4 across the line before Scott Brooks decided to abandon the strategy. By then, it was too late, and from that point on, Simmons became a more active participant in Philadelphia’s crime.
In the third quarter, we also saw Simmons play Switch Hunter, which the Wizards served him on a plate after trying to use Ish Smith against him for defense. Simmons put Smith on his hip or quite some property late in the third, using the advantage of size to reach the basket or hit cutters when doubles were coming his way.
There were glimpses of how Simmons could impact the game as a short-roll passer, in limited opportunities. Off the screen, Simmons hit Green in the corner for a two-four wide-open three in the first half, with Green not getting shots to go down.
Looking at this series, maximizing his impact on the defense is going to be difficult for Philadelphia without Embiid. He’s going to be the biggest man on the floor in a lot of lineups, and considering they play the Atlanta Hawks in the second round, tackling Clint Capella rolling into the rim will be a huge challenge when Howard isn’t in the game. Rivers opted to use Matisse Thiebull over Biel for much of Wednesday’s game, and I’m interested to see how they choose to attack the new set of problems they face.
• The Sixers didn’t have their best players, and they face tough challenges in the playoffs. But as he has often done this season, he took care of business and found a way to do it despite some underlying excuse for conflict. It’s important to win either way, and worry about the rest later.
• In the opening minutes of Game 5, you can see why Rivers (and Brett Brown before that) is a little hesitant to play a lineup as small as the defensive five with Simmons or Harris. Wizards were basically getting what they wanted around the basket, making it clear that rim protection is an important part of making this work.
The challenge of defending Bradley Beal is that he can hurt you on all three levels, and if you’re not able to get up in his chest and lead him to the help you’re waiting for in the paint If so, you cannot reliably defend it. Philadelphia tried to play on him, and all he accomplished was providing him with a runway to the rim in the opening minutes, with no one there to overcome him as he advanced from the second level.
Philadelphia will clear it out over time, but they’ll have to be much better off if they’re going to hold Fort without Embiid in the playoffs. You’re not always (or often) going to be able to engage the people on the periphery, and they either need to figure out who they have to protect the rim with or have a plan to capitalize on their switching abilities. have to adjust. Problem for another day.
• It’s normal for this Sixers team to spend a lot of time at Simmons’s place at Dunker’s, but it’s in an ecosystem structured around Embiid. The amount of time he has spent there in the last two games is a bit worrying, and it is not clear whether the decision is being made by Rivers or Simmons is making the choice on his own.
Rivers wasn’t exactly seeking for the Sixers to run an inventive offense against Washington, who looked better on defense than on any authority to expand the game. The Sixers were sometimes driving a shoddy version of the Globetrotter Weave, running through handoff after handoff without moving even an inch closer to the basket. Even his successful assets were pretty ugly at times, with too much isolation and standing for a group that could mess with different looks.
Simmons also gets a bit of the blame, at least until Hack-a-Ben’s strategy lets him go. As he showed in the second half and throughout this series, this is a team he can punish when he doesn’t stay in space waiting for something to happen. Being able to show him the difference on film will hopefully be a difference-maker between rounds.
I’m not saying this to shed light on all the horrible fan behavior surrounding the league right now, but if the umpiring is that bad for the rest of the playoffs, I’m a little worried they’ll be the next target of the ornate guys in these arenas. Some of the calls the Flood is currently making will be allowed into pre-season games, let alone playoff games, and there doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason why they would allow them to physical play or call touch fouls.
Not sure what is the solution here. It’s not like they’re going to get substitute reinforcements or clear rules in the middle of the playoffs. Everyone just needs to learn to live with it.
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