It did not seem like a match between the first against the eighth. What did seem to be clear is that both teams, more than with the desire to win, came out with the mentality of not losing. Scent of playoffs but for real, and some eleven thousand masked but euphoric fans in their seats, and witnesses of a first half in which both rivals did not stop feeling each other and playing to detect the weak flanks of the rival.
And meanwhile conservative, a rebel. There was Tobias Harris, who dared anything and almost everything worked out for him. With the other two members of the Big Three starting slowly, it was he who took the absolute baton of the attack and the scoring in the first half, going over twenty points while passing through the locker room.
Of ‘substitute’ pivots
Fouls quickly became a problem for Joel Embiid, but Dwight Howard made sure that wasn’t a problem. He jumped onto the parquet, focused and concentrated, and did what his counterpart Daniel Gafford did at the opposite ring: defend with force, dominate the rival paint and finish the passing and continuation actions without failure.
A doubtful foul on the center of the Wizards also sent him to the bench, but then Alex Len surprised with three almost consecutive actions forcing the 2 + 1 although he did not finish culminating from the personal. The fact is that while the exteriors finished picking up the pace, most of the points were added little by little in the vicinity of the methacrylate.
The zonal defenses and the little off-ball movement did not allow Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal to print the dizzying rhythm to the game that they like so much and such good results have been giving them in the final months of RS, something that Scott Brooks read perfectly giving Ish Smith entry and control of the ball so that he could do what he does best: cause chaos and find meaning (and rim) in his anarchy. Thus, between him, a triple released by Bertans and a Russ who was beginning to find gaps before several birds behind in defense of the 76ers, the game came extremely even at halftime, with the Wizards winning by one point (62-61).
More pace, more intensity, more losses
In the second part we saw a completely different duel. The pace skyrocketed, along with the fierceness and defensive intensity. The Wizards’ marking on Joel Embiid was almost impeccable throughout the afternoon despite its impact on boxscore, but the constant 2 against 1 system left a player released from Phily, something the Cameroonian knew how to read correctly and get a slice of the situation.
If Seth Curry joined the party and showed off his wrist by chaining a 5-for-6 from 3-pointers, Bradley Beal reminded us a lot of how it led him to finish as the second-leading scorer of the regular season. The guard almost forgot the catch and shoot and dedicated himself to penetrating towards the basket over and over again; Neither the great defense of Thybulle and Danny Green nor the aids of Embiid could stop him, and Beal found the tray and the points again and again with an immeasurable waste of quality.
Philly, better at closing
The match was so even that it seemed that the first team to achieve a minimum income, a range of more than six points on the scoreboard, could win the first win of the series. And that’s what the 76ers began to do at the end of the third quarter.
The Wizards faltered psychologically (perhaps from play-in weariness) and made some poor decisions that led to several losses that the Pennsylvania team turned into baskets in their favor in transition. As the hosts got the ball flowing into their hands, the Wizards were choking possession after possession, with Russ abusing the dribble from his back near the rim and Robin Lopez with sudden Olajuwon complexes that ended in erratic as well as unsightly hooks. spitting out through the hoop.
Beal kept going, but the referees didn’t grant him one of the many ‘and ones’ that the shooting guard claimed (several of them with good reason). Embiid, for his part, was beginning to feel comfortable; a fade away here, a triple there, and the 76ers who got into the clutch in the fourth quarter with a ten-point lead.
But if these Wizards have shown something, it is that giving up is not in their DNA for the 2020/21 season. Bradley Beal forced an offensive foul from Embiid with 1:11 to go with the score 116-121 against, giving them possession to get to three; but Bertans forced triple after another exquisite defense by Doc Rivers’ men ends in air ball. And with that the encounter seemed to die, although there was still time for two more actions.
First the speed with which Westbrook fouled Ben Simmons to send him to the line and that he missed both free throws, and then a painful groundstroke that caused Russ to step (according to the referees in review) on the touch line and lose possession, and with it the last chance to breathe life into the encounter.
There are series
The 76ers won and Tobias Harris finished with the best player of the game with 37 points, 15 of 29 in shots and only two turnovers, seconded by Embiid’s 30 thanks to his infallibility from the personal (12 of 13). For the Wizards, Bradley Beal had 33 points, 10 rebounds and 6 assists while Westbrook had 16 points and 15 assists, but between them they added a terrible figure of 12 turnovers (six each).
Even so, the Wizards, who sneaked into the playoffs through the gap in the door after beating the Pacers in the last strike of the play-in, have used this Game 1, at least, to dispel any doubt about what who have rowed to get here. Not to take a crowd bath and celebrate being in the postseason. They have come to compete. They have come to bite. They have come to show that the illusion can look the obligation head on and into the eyes, to demand the maximum from one of the best squads in the East and to tell the 76ers that their path to the Finals is not going to be easy, right from the first post. (NBA Maniacs)