At long last, the Philadelphia 76ers can size up their first round matchup. The Washington Wizards earned the 8th seed, and the right to play the Sixers, by defeating the Indiana Pacers 142-115 in Thursday evening’s contest.
After a close first quarter, the Wizards absolutely blitzed the Pacers in the second and third quarter. Washington scored an astounding 84 combined points across these quarters, relegating the entire fourth to pure garbage time. Predictably, the Wizards were led by Russell Westbrook (18 points, 15 assists, 8 rebounds) and Bradley Beal (25 points, 4 assists, 5 rebounds) as they led the franchise to its first playoff berth since the 2017-2018 season.
While I speculated that the Sixers would actually prefer a matchup with the Indiana Pacers, Philadelphia will unquestionably face Washington without fear. Historically, first seeds have a dominant record against eighth seeded teams and this is a case where I expect history to repeat.
The Sixers don’t need to employ any fancy strategy in this series. Rather, I’d like to see them stick to the winning formula that propelled the team to the top of the Eastern Conference. That formula primarily entails a healthy dose of Joel Embiid on offense coupled with swarming defense spearheaded by Simmons on the perimeter and Embiid in the paint.
While Philadelphia shouldn’t get complacent and underestimate the Wizards, I do think the Sixers will be able to secure a trip to the second round fairly easily. The hope is that the team gels and builds momentum through consecutive playoff victories as they move closer to tougher future matchups. I won’t call it a full sweep, but I’ll take the Sixers in 5.