The Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday will host their first playoff game in over two years. Their last postseason contest at Wells Fargo Center was a win over the Toronto Raptors in game six of the 2019 Eastern Conference semifinals. They start round one Sunday afternoon against the Washington Wizards.
Before you start reading, watch the hype video:
Here’s what to watch:
Minutes, rust, and health
Load management is no longer a topic on Sixers head coach Doc Rivers’ mind. “Minutes get thrown out in the playoffs, obviously,” he said Friday. “Everybody knows that. During the regular season, you really do try to keep each guy at their minutes that we have decided that they should play yearly — not game-wise. If you play a guy 38 one game and 31 the next game, you’re still on point.
“Here, you don’t worry about it. You give a guy the minutes that he can take. And we don’t know what that is. Playoff basketball is so much more intense, adrenaline is higher and energy is burned faster. We’ll find out what each guy can handle as the playoffs go on.”
Joel Embiid exceeded 35 minutes in a game only once after suffering a left knee bone bruise in March.
Embiid and the four other regular Sixers starters haven’t played in a game since the team clinched the Eastern Conference’s top seed last Friday. Matisse Thybulle was sidelined with a left hand injury for the Sixers’ final four regular-season games. The team practiced four times over the past week and will hope rust isn’t a factor.
Every Sixers and Wizards player is expected to be available besides Washington’s Thomas Bryant and Deni Avdija, who are out with season-ending injuries. Bradley Beal’s movement is worth keeping an eye on as he plays through a left hamstring strain.
Simmons returns to the playoffs
On August 5 of last year, Ben Simmons suffered a left patellar subluxation during a game against the Wizards in the NBA’s bubble in Orlando, Florida. He eventually had season-ending surgery to remove a loose body from his knee and watched the Sixers get swept by the Boston Celtics in round one of the playoffs.
He’s good to go for game one this time around, and on a team with a much more realistic chance at playoff success.
Simmons on Thursday was named a Defensive Player of the Year finalist. As always, it will be interesting to see his offensive role, approach and production. In his first 24 games after the All-Star break, Simmons shot 50.9% from the foul line. He made 7-of-8 free throws over his last three regular-season games.
Great transition team
Rivers called the Wizards a “great transition team” and said he expects them to look to play even more in transition than usual against the Sixers. Washington will try to use vulnerabilities with the Sixers’ transition defense.
Led by Simmons, the Sixers are also a very good transition offense team. Rivers has pushed them to play at a quicker pace since the beginning of training camp.
Still, the type of game that the Wizards will want is wild, high-scoring and chaotic. The less that Embiid’s low-post excellence and the Sixers’ stout half-court defense matters, the better for Washington.
A win is obviously the top priority for both teams, but there’s also a chance Sunday to set a tone for how the series will be played.
When: 1:00 P.M. E.S.T.
Where: Wells Fargo Center
Broadcast: TNT, NBC Sports Philadelphia
Radio: 97.5 The Fanatic