The Sixers hold a commanding 2-0 lead over the Washington Wizards in the first round of the playoffs. Given the Sixers’ impressive regular season and first-seeded ranking, the matchup was not expected to bring a challenge and this has been proven to be the case in the first two games. The Sixers will travel to Washington DC for game three which will be their first road playoff game and the Wizards will search for signs of life there.
Can Ben Simmons Continue Dominant Form?
Through the first two games of the postseason, Ben Simmons has been the Sixers’ most important player. Following a game one performance in which he was dominant on the boards (15 rebounds) and artful in creating chances for his teammates (15 assists), Simmons made another statement in Game Two.
Coming out in attack mode right off the opening tip, Ben Simmons ended with 22 points, 9 rebounds, and 8 assists in just 29 minutes of play. His dominance allowed the Sixers to extend the lead to a blowout and the Sixers starters were able to rest for the entire fourth quarter. Simmons has been nothing short of terrific in the first two games and if he is able to maintain this level of play there is very little chance of the Wizards being able to compete.
Will Sixers’ Rookie Tyrese Maxey take Shake Milton’s Minutes?
The Sixers have a good problem on their hands with too many bench players capable of providing minutes to the team on a nightly basis. Matisse Thybulle has found his lane as the Sixers’ defensive stopper, or the team’s “defensive Lou Williams,” as Doc Rivers put it. George Hill has been exactly as advertised and provided consistent minutes and a veteran prescience. Dwight Howard has maintained his positivity and remains the best backup center that Joel Embiid has ever had.
The main storyline to watch will be if Shake Milton begins to see his minutes decrease. The third-year player has struggled in the first two games and has not quite found his rhythm in the offense. While he was looked at as the sixth man for most of this season, Milton has seen his rankings on the bench sink with Matisse Thybulle, George Hill, and Dwight Howard each seeing the court before him in the first two games.
On the other hand, Tyrese Maxey has continued to jump on every opportunity he is given in the postseason. Maxey finished with 10 points in 14 minutes and game two and his pace of play proved to be a game-changer off the bench. The rookie has stepped up to every challenge thrown his way and is playing tremendous basketball at the moment. While there are not a lot of free minutes available, Maxey deserves to be rewarded for his recent high level of play and it will be interesting to see if Doc Rivers can find a way to work him in.
Sixers Look to Be Good to Go
Ankle injuries proved to be an issue for both teams in game two as Tobias Harris, Seth Curry, and Russell Westbrook all had to be sent to the locker room due to an injury. Tobias Harris was able to return to the game and appears set to play again in game three. This is extremely important for the Sixers as the team’s third star is averaging 28 points per game over the first two games. If he is hampered by the ankle injury, it could be a problem for the Sixers as he has become a crucial part of the team’s offense.
The statuses of Russell Westbrook and Seth Curry are a little more unclear. Neither player returned to the game after their respective injuries, although there was no real need with the game well in hand. If Westbrook is unable to play, it drastically changes things for the Wizards. His intensity and pace of play provide a necessary dynamic to the Wizards’ style of play and they will need someone else to step up in a major way in his absence. Currently, he is a game-time decision.
If Seth Curry is unable to play the Sixers will have to alter from their starting lineup which has been so effective all season. Curry has been crucial to spacing the floor for the trio of Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and Tobias Harris and it would be interesting to see which direction Doc Rivers would choose to go. More information regarding the status of each player will likely come out closer to tip-off.
Three-Point Shooting and Wizards Secondary Scoring:
The Wizards shot just 2 of 22 from beyond the arc in game two. This 9.1% rate is just about impossible to overcome and is a major reason why the Wiz were blown off the floor in game two. Davis Bertans has been extremely quiet this series and the Wizards will likely make an effort the get him going. The career 40.7% three-point shooter tossed up 7.5 attempts from beyond the arc on the season but was just 0-4 in the previous game. Bertans is extremely valuable at spacing the floor and the Wiz will need to find a way to get him going to provide relief from the offensive strain on Bradley Beal.
Outside of Bradley Beal, the Wizards have failed to find any reliable offense. Even Russell Westbrook has not been able to get it going and he is just 9-27 from the field so far in the series. If the Sixers are able to contain the complimentary Washington players, the Wizards have little shot at finding a way to win.
Sixers Could Pretty Much Close Out the Series
If the Sixers are able to win a third straight the series might as well be over. Expect the Wizards to play with desperation as they will search to keep their playoff hopes alive. The Wizards have been overmatched throughout the entire series and this will not change in game three. It will take a heroic effort from Bradley Beal for the Wizards to find a way to win as even a 60-point performance from him in the regular season was not enough. It will likely be a relief for Russell Westbrook and the rest of the Wizards to return home and they will look to take advantage of this. Game three will tip off at 7 o’clock on Saturday night.
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