The Washington Wizards’ first playoff win in three years will have to wait at least a few more days. But not for a lack of effort from Bradley Beal and his battle-tested teammates.
Just days after scratching and clawing their way into the NBA playoff landscape, the Wizards were rewarded for their efforts with a first-round matchup against one of the toughest teams in the league at one of the toughest places in the NBA to play. Days removed from a few knock-down, drag-out play-in battles, Washington gave the well-rested Philadelphia 76ers all they could handle in front of a raucous home crowd in Philly, but in a game that went down to the wire, the Sixers emerged with a 125-118 Game 1 win to put the Wizards in a 0-1 hole in the best-of-seven series.
Still, there were plenty of positives to take away from the game, including Brad’s fantastic 33-point performance on 13-of-23 shooting, his best playoff scoring total since he scored 38 points in Game 7 against the Celtics in 2017. In his first playoff game since 2018, No. 3 played with a certain kind of vigor and bounce to his game that showed just how happy he was to be playing meaningful basketball this late in the season.
“I was like a kid in a candy shop today,” Brad said. “I just felt really excited to be on the floor having fun and being back on this stage, and just embracing the journey we’ve been on to get to where we are now.”
The game got off to a promising start for the Wiz, who took advantage of Joel Embiid’s early foul trouble to jumpstart a 10-0 run. The spurt was sparked by two Davis Bertans threes that allowed D.C. to take a 28-27 lead into the second quarter. The offense continued to push the pace with a balanced attack in the second, as six players shot over 50 percent from the field to help put Washington maintain a one-point lead at the half.
In the third quarter, Brad took over as Washington’s primary scoring option as the Sixers struggled to find an answer for his ability to slash inside to the cup. All told, No. 3 sank seven of his eight attempts for 17 points in the third quarter alone. Despite BB’s electrifying performance, the Sixers outscored the Wizards 38-31 in the quarter to take a 99-93 lead into the fourth.
Philadelphia kept that lead for the rest of the game, although it certainly wasn’t for lack of trying from Washington. The Wizards clawed as close as five points in the last minute of play, but Philly’s intense on-ball defense flustered the Wiz in the final stretch.
With a chance to make it a one-score game and the shot clock on their side, Washington suffered a backbreaking and controversial turnover that saw Russell Westbrook step out of bounds trying to recover an errant pass. The turnover all but solidified the result as the Sixers ended the game with two trips to the free-throw line to take home the first game of the series.
After the game, Brad made sure not to let the loss linger on his mind too much as he focused on the positives of his team’s performance as well as his confidence in his own ability to make an impact on the rest of the series.
“Obviously, we all want to win and we want to do well. We took a tough one on the chin tonight,” Brad said. “But we always get better and that’s where I come in, I’m more comfortable and confident in my game and where it needs to be, and I’m a lot more prepared to lead my team into the playoffs now than I was a couple years ago.”
The Wizards will aim to even the series in Game 2 as they head back to the floor at Wells Fargo Arena on Wednesday, May 26. The game will air on NBATV with tip-off set for 7:00 p.m.