December 9, 2023

What to watch as 76ers look to go ahead 2-0 in Game 2 of Round 1


Photo via Philadelphia 76ers' Twitter

After a day to rest and a day to practice, the Philadelphia 76ers will look to maintain home-court advantage and take a 2-0 series lead over the Washington Wizards.

Here’s what to watch:

Changes in game plan for Embiid

The Wizards’ efforts at limiting Joel Embiid’s production were helped by his three fouls within game one’s first 17 minutes. He still scored 30 points, 21 of them came in the second half.

Variation and unpredictably have helped for opponents who double team Embiid, which is just about every single one. For the most part, Embiid could see Washington’s double teams coming well before they arrived in game one. 

The Sixers also looked quite comfortable once Embiid got rid of the ball and found the open man. Having perimeter defenders who scramble desperately and well for entire possessions is very useful, too.

A special player

Head coach Doc Rivers on Sunday called Ben Simmons’ six point, 15 rebound, 15 assist performance in game one special.

We didn’t think he was off the mark, but Simmons’ lack of scoring and 0-for-6 showing at the foul line apparently attracted a lot of attention. 

“If you guys don’t know the treasure you have by now, then shame on everyone, because he’s been fantastic for us… He creates points every single night for us. When Ben was on the floor, we were really good. I’m amazed that people don’t see what he does. We’re so caught up in the amount of points he scored. I think we scored … 125. If Ben had all 125, would we be mad that Joel (Embiid) didn’t score? Who cares who scores as long as we’re scoring? And I think Ben does a great job of doing that for us. When Ben plays, we score more points.”

Rivers said Tuesday.

When Simmons was on the floor compared to off it in the regular season, the Sixers scored three more points per 100 possessions, according to Cleaning the Glass. Their effective field goal percentage was 4.2 percentage points higher. 

Seth Curry and George Hill also had plenty of positive things to say about Simmons, shrugging off any outside criticism he might have received.  

“He’s been great… He’s an unselfish guy. He brings a lot of intensity defensively, obviously. And offensively, he pushes the pace. He’s a matchup problem and he creates a lot of shots for other people. As far as the criticism, there’s always going to be some criticism for anybody out there, no matter what. It is what is. You just go out there and keep doing the right things. We know what he brings to the table and this team. That’s the reason he’s out there for so many minutes. He brings a lot of good stuff to the floor. If he was hurting us, I’m sure he wouldn’t be out there.”

Curry said.

“I love Ben’s game… “But what I can say is he shouldn’t give two craps about what you guys say, what other people say, what the media says or what other people on the outside looking in say. He has a job here, and he does a great job doing it. There’s nights that he can score a lot of points and there’s nights where he’s doing other things to impact the game and help us win.

“Him scoring six points and having 15 assists and 15 rebounds, if anyone else does that you guys are congratulating them that they had a great game. I feel like taking pressure off of him and just keep playing basketball like he’s been doing, because he’s been doing a great job so far all year.” 

Hill said.

Fixing transition defense problems

The Sixers knew their transition defense was a weakness in the regular-season. They focused on it during their week of practice leading into the postseason. And it was still an issue Sunday. 

Washington scored 14 fast-break points Sunday in the first half, including multiple unencumbered layups after Sixers makes. 

“It was a list (of problems). I’m not joking… “It was a list. Not matching up, running to your own men — buddy-running is what we call it. The ball’s in front but your man is next to you, so you start buddy-running with him instead of getting in front of the ball. And then communication. 

“There’s two or three more, if you want me to name them. It’s funny, you work a whole week and then that happens. You’re looking around like, ‘What the heck?’ But we did fix it in the game, which is a big thing. I thought Washington definitely got our attention by the way they played. There’s no doubt about that.”

Rivers said.


When: 7:00 P.M. E.S.T.

Where: Wells Fargo Center

Broadcast: NBA TV, NBC Sports Philadelphia

Radio: 97.5 The Fanatic

Social media coverage: Philly Sports Reports’ Twitter & Instagram.

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