After fighting their way to a 1-0 series lead against the Wizards, things proved to be a little easier in game two for the Sixers. In a night that was headlined by the impressive performance of Ben Simmons, the Sixers were able to cruise to a 120-95 victory and take full control of the series:
Ben Simmons was a man on the mission right from the jump, making it clear that he was well aware of the ridiculous criticisms of his lack of scoring in the previous matchup. Simmons scored the first basket of the game and looked to be in attack mode from that moment on. In the first quarter alone Simmons had 12 points, 5 rebounds, and an assist- already doubling his scoring total from the previous game.
This trend continued into the second quarter with Ben Simmons controlling the tempo for the Sixers. The Fresh Prince carried the Sixers into a lead at the half with 16 points, 6 assists, and 6 rebounds added to his stat line. The added aggression in his game was more than noticeable:
The next leading scorer for the team was Tobias Harris who had 16 points and 7 rebounds at halftime. There was a scare where Harris appeared to tweak his ankle which forced him to head to the locker room. Luckily, he was able to return and appeared to have no issues with the ankle. The veteran added several more buckets after the shake-up and continued with his efficiency shooting 8 of 9 from the field in the first half.
On the Wizards side of things, it proved to be the Bradley Beal show once again. Doc Rivers elected to preserve the energy of Ben Simmons on the defensive end, allowing Beal to feast on Danny Green and Seth Curry for a large portion of the half. Beal ended with 24 points on 11 of 15 from the field. The rest of the Wizards team was relatively kept in check with the team shooting a woeful 1 for 10 from beyond the arc in the first half.
The Sixers ended the half on a 12-3 run pushing it to their largest lead so far in the game and carried a 71-57 lead into halftime. Joel Embiid was relatively quiet in the first half but came on strong at the end bringing his total up to 13 points and thrusting his hips into the air to make sure everyone was aware. The Sixers scored 44 of their 71 points in the first half and shot an impressive 62% from the field as a team.
The Sixers continued to cruise in the third quarter and the lead remained at 14 at its conclusion. Ben Simmons pushed on and clearly played with a chip on his shoulder. At the end of the third quarter, the Aussie and Embiid were tied for leading scorers with 22 points apiece and a collective +37 rating between the duo. Tobias Harris was not far behind with 19 points of his own and when all three of the Sixers stars are producing like this it is tough to stop. This growing lead resulted in the end of the three stars nights as the game extended into blowout territory in the fourth quarter.
Met by loud applause from the Philly crowd, Tyrese Maxey was also given a run in the third quarter. While he was quiet in the third, he found his stride in the fourth quarter leading the bench unit in production. The rookie ended with 10 points in 14 minutes, and also added three blocks on the defensive end. This is a major boost in confidence for the 20-year old and especially important considering the ongoing struggles of Shake Milton.
Shake is one of the few players who did not produce in game two as he played 14 minutes scoring 0 points and shooting 0 of 6 from the field. Milton has struggled throughout the season but seemed particularly out of rhythm in this matchup. The emergence of Tyrese Maxey and the addition of George Hill now serve as a major threat to the sixth man’s minutes and he may be the odd man out of the rotation as minutes continue to become limited.
Maxey was not the only young Sixer to shine as Matisse Thybulle made his case why he should continue to see his minutes continue to grow. In just 20 minutes of play, Thybulle had 4 steals and a career-high 5 blocks. He also did a solid job when tasked with guarding Bradley Beal in the second half, and Beal ended with 33 in the game.
The Sixers played every available player on their bench in the fourth quarter including the first playoff minutes for Bball Paul and Isaiah Joe. The energy from the young guys allowed the Sixers to continue to build their lead and they ultimately coasted to a 120-95 victory.
This game proved to be a major success for the Sixers as they now hold a dominant 2-0 lead in the series. The team looked much better than they did in game one and it appears the Wizards let a valuable chance of stealing that game slip away.
The next few days will be focused on evaluating the health of both sides as there were several ankle injuries that occurred in this matchup. On the Sixers side of things, Tobias Harris was able to return to play but this will still be a storyline to watch. Seth Curry also had to go to the locker room with an ankle injury of his own that the Sixers will have to evaluate further.
The Wizards had a stroke of bad luck with Russell Westbrook rolling his ankle after stepping on Furkan Korkmaz’ foot in the second half of this game. Westbrook is extremely important to contributing the pace of the first-ranked Wizards team and if he is unable to suit up in the next one it will be a major hit to the team.
Overall this is was an extremely promising victory for the Sixers. This a series in which they are the significantly better team and they are proving just that. Now up 2-0 in the series the Sixers will look to continue to bury the Wizards and secure some extra rest time before the next playoff matchup. While they still have two more games to win, it is an extremely tall task for the Wizards to win four out of the next six against this driven Sixers team. Game three will take place in Washington DC on Saturday.
Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire