Joel Embiid and the 76ers open their first round playoff series with the Washington Wizards on Sunday.(Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire)
- The Sixers and Wizards meet in the first round of the NBA Playoffs
- Game 1 takes place at 1pm ET on Sunday May 22nd
- Read below for the latest odds, betting preview and a pick
Having soundly beaten the Indiana Pacers in the last game of the Play-In tournament, the Washington Wizards matchup with the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Philadelphia is favored by eight points. Doc Rivers’ team clinched the one seed in the East on the back of MVP-level play from Joel Embiid. After a disappointing performance in the bubble last season, the Sixers are among the title favorites this time around.
Even with a 60-piece from Bradley Beal in January, the Sixers swept the season series. The teams haven’t met since March, however, and the Wizards have played their best basketball over the last month. Washington was fifth in net rating over the final 15 games of the regular season.
Sixers vs Wizards Odds
|Team||Spread||Moneyline||Total at FanDuel|
|Philadelphia 76ers||-8 (-114)||-320||Over 229 (-110)|
|Washington Wizards||+8 (-106)||+260||Under 229 (-110)|
Odds as of May 22
Pressure on Simmons
The spotlight is on Ben Simmons in every playoff game. His impact as a postseason performer has been limited in the past. Once the game slows down, Simmons’ lack of shooting and reluctance to go to the line becomes problematic.
This series presents an opportunity for Simmons to prove some doubters wrong by being aggressive from tip-off in Game 1, and he can also send out another reminder of what a defensive force he can be.
Three time All-Star
One time steals champ
One time All-NBA
One time All-Defense
Tied for 13th all-time in triple-doubles
One time DPOY finalist
All before the age of 25. pic.twitter.com/32Hn6jjTnM
— Kevin McCormick (@KevinMcCNBA) May 21, 2021
Rivers can deploy the former Rookie of the Year however he wants on the defensive end. Simmons is bound to spend time on both Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal. It will be interesting to see how the Sixers head coach approaches this on Sunday. Beal is the greater scoring threat, of course, but putting Simmons on Beal likely means Danny Green on Westbrook, which is a worrying mismatch of athleticism.
The play the Sixers get from Simmons throughout this series will tell us a lot about how far they can go. They don’t need Simmons to be an impactful offensive player against the Wizards, but they will in later rounds, and this matchup gives the 2016 first overall pick an ideal opportunity to get into some early playoff rhythm. He’s going to have opportunities aplenty to attack the paint.
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Testing the Wizards’ Defense
Amid injury and COVID-19 disruption, the Wizards were an awful defensive team early in the season. Only the Blazers, Pelicans and Kings owned worse defensive ratings before the All-Star break. Tweaks to the roster and changes to the lineups saw a remarkable turnaround on the defensive end in the second half.
One of one 🗣@russwest44 pic.twitter.com/tWH54wEkoD
— ESPN (@espn) May 21, 2021
The Wizards ranked 10th in defense after the break. While the Sixers aren’t as stacked with scoring as the Nets, Bucks or healthy Celtics, they have one of the most unguardable players in the league in Joel Embiid, and one of the more underrated scorers in Tobias Harris. The shooting of Green and Seth Curry has freed up the Sixers’ offense, too.
Led by the dominant force of Embiid and the transition game of Simmons, this Sixers offense will test the Wizards’ defense. Embiid, who shoots more free throws per game than anyone else, is going to go at Alex Len, Daniel Gafford and Robin Lopez. How they defend him will be as much a test of Scott Brooks’ coaching as anything else.
There are still question marks about the Sixers’ offense, particularly in clutch moments. They are not a team that will blow the Wizards away with an unstoppable array of shot-making, but the Wizards’ defense must maintain their recent high defensive standards if they are to be competitive on Sunday.
Sixers Are Good Value
With the Embiid-Westbrook rivalry and plenty of starpower, this is relatively intriguing for a one-vs-eight series. Still, though, the Sixers are heavily favored to progress and it would be a surprise to see this go more than five games.
The few days to rest will help the Sixers. In Simmons and Matisse Thybulle, they have the defensive personnel to trouble both Beal and Westbrook, while the Wizards have no such answer to the unsolvable Embiid question. Washington will have to double the All-NBA center often, which should result in plenty of open looks for Green and Curry.
Washington might steal a game later in the series, but with Philly feeling refreshed after a break, this should be a comfortable win. The Sixers are 16-0 at home with their five starters available – there’s value backing the Sixers to make that 17-0.
Pick: Sixers -8 (-114)
Sam Cox is a freelance writer and sports junkie, who has spent the past several years immersed in the online gaming industry. He has worked with 888sport, Oddschecker, and Colossus Bets to name a few. Based in the UK, Sam also runs Franchise Sports with his brother.