What a night. What a moment.
As the clock winded down on Wednesday night, the Philadelphia 76ers were on their way to a 4-1 series win over the Washington Wizards in front a full capacity Wells Fargo Center.
Everyone was looking for who would step in Joel Embiid's absence, and Seth Curry was the main guy to do so. Curry scored 30 points on 13-17 shooting with a +11, propelling the Sixers heavily in the 3rd quarter. Ditto Ben Simmons, who came out with an aggressive mindset once again in South Philly. Simmons finished with 19 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds; on his way to his 3rd playoff playoff triple double. Ben Simmons shot significantly better from the free throw line in front of the home crowd, going 5-8 from the line after Scott Brooks attempted to hack-a-ben.
Let's not leave out all star snub Tobias Harris, who scored 28 points with a very near triple double(9 rebounds, 6 assists). After struggling the last two games, he was a reliable option whenever they went to him against those Wizards forwards. We'll see how long Embiid is out for, but for the time being, Tobias will need to keep putting up these kinds of stat lines for the Sixers to be successful.
The rookie Tyrese Maxey again caused the teams that passed on him to regret their decision. Coming off the bench, Maxey put up 13 points and ended up helping huge runs at two different points in the game. It is truly incredible how tough he is when he drives to the basket, considering he is a rookie playing in his first playoff series. Philadelphia has embraced him as once of their own, and for good reason. Another performance I liked was Dwight Howard, who put up 12 points and 8 rebounds in only 15 minutes. All in all, the bench was very solid in a game they needed to step up in.
I definitely thought the starting lineup choice from Doc Rivers was especially interesting, as it was not what I expected at all. I think most of us expected Doc to start Mike Scott at the 5, who is definitely not a fan favorite anymore. Instead, Doc inserted George Hill and Matisse Thybulle with the starters, placing Ben Simmons at the 5. I personally loved this move, and the success of this lineup showed on the floor. Without Embiid, this is the best possible lineup you are going to be able to put out there in correlation with the bench rotations. After they got accumulated to playing together, we saw them shine in the second half.
As for the Wizards, their season comes to an end. After a slow start, they fought back and made it to the playoffs through the play-in tournament. Bradley Beal really killed the Sixers this series(32 points in Game 5), with Russell Westbrook struggling a lot. In the end, the Wizards just did not have enough talent to stick with Philadelphia, even without Embiid for the last game. When you have Raul Neto starting, that shows there may be an issue besides from your two stars. They have a big offseason up ahead, with a decision on Scott Brooks needing to be made and Bradley Beal heading into the last year of his contract.
The Sixers will now take on the Atlanta Hawks for their second round matchup. Atlanta defeated the higher-seeded New York Knicks in 5 games for their first round series, using the size of Clint Capela and John Collins to overpower a struggling Julius Randle. All eyes are on Joel Embiid now, as especially in this series his presence will make a huge impact. The Sixers still have him listed as day-to-day with a small torn meniscus. We will stay tuned for updates over the coming days leading up to the series against the Hawks. Game 1 will be on Sunday at 1 PM on TNT in front of a packed house in the Wells Fargo Center.
By the way, I was in attendance for this game. If you can make it out to the Wells Fargo Center at any time in this championship run, I would highly recommend it. The atmosphere is unreal, and we can never take anything for granted at this point. Let's keep it going.