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NBA Playoff previews: Philadelphia 76ers vs Washington Wizards

The inconsistent Washington Wizards have survived the play-in tournament, but now must take on the Eastern Conference’s top seed, Ben Simmons and the Philadelphia 76ers, on the road in the first round of the NBA playoffs. The 76ers have been a work in progress for several years, but have now finally put a full season together, with Simmons, Joel Embiid and Tobias Harris leading the way. Their eight-game winning streak before the end of the season saw the 76ers claim the top seed in the East, finishing with a 49-23 record.

Securing home-court advantage all the way through to the conference finals is also critical for the 76ers, given their record when playing in their own backyard is the second-best in the league, having lost just seven of their 36 games there. Washington, on the other hand, with new signing Russell Westbrook, failed to have the season they wanted, but still managed to finish eighth in the East on the back of their own eight-match winning streak before the end of the season as they lost four of their last nine.

That was followed by a disastrous performance against Boston in the 7 vs 8 play-in matches, but they booked their spot in the playoffs with a second chance win over Washington on Friday morning (AEST). With Westbrook joining Bradley Beal at the Wizards this year, their offence has been firing on all cylinders. With 116.6 points per game, they have the third-best attack in the league, and it’s little surprise, given Beal’s 31.3 average makes him the league’s second-highest scorer, only behind Stephen Curry.

His game has gone to another level thanks to the ball movement of Westbrook, who leads the league for assists by a considerable margin with 11.7 per game. That attack was so prevalent in their win over Indiana in the play-in game and will need to be if they are to overcome the might of Philadelphia. It’s shaping as a battle of Washington’s attack up against Philadelphia’s defence though, with the East’s top seed limiting teams to just 108.1 points per game this season, the sixth-best defence in the league. Philadelphia’s lockdown defence has seen them force more turnovers than almost every other team, only Toronto doing it more often, with opponents averaging 14.9 turnovers in every 48 minutes against the 76ers.

Given their offence is middle of the road (and wouldn’t be even there without Embiid putting up 28.5 points per game to make him the league’s fourth-highest scorer), their defence has had to be fantastic, and leading the league in steals while sitting second in blocks tells you all you need to know about the pressure they have put on opposition teams. As the old saying goes, the defence wins championships, and the 76ers will feel very confident in their abilities on that end of the floor, even coming up against the Beal and Westbrook combination. While Matisse Thybulle and Simmons have been standouts on the defensive end of the floor, making 1.6 steals per game apiece, it’s been a complete team effort to shut down their opposition, and so long as their offence continues to sit around the mark it has all year, it’s hard to see Washington having enough points to go with the 76ers.


Verdict: There is a reason Philadelphia has finished top of the East. Washington has been inconsistent at best, and while they will probably snag a game or two at home on the back of Beal and Westbrook, they certainly won’t be winning four.

76ers in 5. $0.00 at PlayUp 


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