Wizards stave off elimination as 76ers take step back without Joel Embiid

May 31, 2021 | Deni Avdija

The Washington Wizards will live to fight on for at least another game after a thrilling 122-114 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers to avoid a first-round sweep in Game 4 from a rocking Capital One Arena. Following a thorough 132-103 beatdown on their home court in Game 3, the Wizards could have easily folded to put an end to a roller-coaster season, but credit their perseverance. Washington dominated the third quarter to the tune of 32-19 and got enough contributions from role players to hold on for their first playoff victory in over three years.

Game 4 between the Wizards and 76ers was truly unique. In the latest fan-related incident in the NBA, a fan at Capital One Arena sprinted onto the court from a lower bowl section across the court from the Philadelphia bench. He ran to the Wizards basket stopping their possible fastbreak (of course to Bradley Beal’s annoyance) and jumped to touch the backboard before getting bodyslammed tackled by security. Monumental Sports quickly announced that he would be banned and have criminal charges filed against with the police.

That bizarre third-quarter incident was so jarring that Washington intentionally putting Ben Simmons on the free-throw line eight times (four Hack-a-Simmons if you may) in the last three minutes of the game looked normal. Simmons would split each trip, which was not the end of the world for Doc Rivers who passionately defended his point guard after the game to the media. The Wizards were the benefactors though as they were able to execute in the half-court to outpace Simmons’ point per possession average.

On the unfortunate side, Joel Embiid left the game with right knee soreness that will likely require an MRI on Tuesday after a hard fall in the first quarter that knocked him out of the game shortly thereafter. The Wizards obviously had more success once the MVP candidate exited because it gave the home team the advantage at the center position. Daniel Gafford started but picked up two fouls in the first four minutes, but Robin Lopez saved the day with 14 first-half points on 7-for-8 shooting. For Washington, Davis Bertans suffered another right calf strain on non-contact that previously cost him two weeks in March and could be bad news if he re-aggravated a previous injury. One more than the other, but Embiid and/or Bertans’ possible absence for any of the remaining games in the series will tilt the scales.

The backcourt of Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal combined for a poor 12-for-42 (29 percent) shooting from the field, but were at least able to go 20-for-24 from the free-throw line in a high foul volume game. With limited money to sign a third star for next season, the Wizards are hoping Rui Hachimura can continue to develop into that role and his elimination game performance is something that everyone in the organization loved to see. Already coming into the game 5-for-6 from three in the series an area of his game he worked hard on last offseason, Hachimura received continued encouragement from the likes of Westbrook and Beal to be even more aggressive. The second-year forward had 20 points on 8-for-12 shooting including 3-for-6 from deep to go with 13 rebounds in 42 minutes of solid play including a dunk and triple in the final 80 seconds.

Washington will travel back to Philadelphia for Game 5 of this series on Wednesday with the goal already in mind and set in place during their locker room breakdown huddle after Game 4 to return to D.C. for a Game 6 on Friday.

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