The Washington Wizards’ 2020-21 season has now come to an end after a 129-112 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 5 of the first round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs.
The Wizards began this game with the advantage, at least on the scoreboard. Sure, they didn’t lead by double-digits at any time, but that lead was persistent until the very end when Philly had a 65-63 lead. Joel Embiid missed the game due to a meniscus tear and Ben Simmons started in his place to give them a smaller lineup.
If there was one moment that seemed to turn the tide against Washington, it was ... Hack-a-Simmons. I get it. He is a poor free throw shooter. But this tweet summed up my feelings at the time perfectly because of the timing.
Hack a Simmons made no sense.. Our defense was clamping and the pace favored us...— Terron (@terron_francis) June 3, 2021
Now they in the bonus
As the third quarter began, Philadelphia began to take control of the game and never looked back, shooting 66.7 percent from the field on 12-of-18 shooting and making 10-of-14 free throws, six of them by Simmons and center Dwight Howard, who is well-known for not being a great free throw shooter himself.
Oddly enough, the Wizards actually shot well themselves 54.5 percent from the field on 12-of-22 shooting and 5-of-7 from the three point line. But it just seemed that in that quarter, everything the Wizards did well, the Sixers did a little better, and they finished with a 103-94 lead.
Philadelphia was able to extend their lead to as many as 21 points in the fourth quarter when the outcome wasn’t in doubt.
A stat that hurt Washington all game long was turnovers. They committed 15 of them which turned into 19 Philadelphia points. The Sixers on the other hand only committed 9 turnovers for 11 points. Also, in the first half, the Wizards committed 10 turnovers while Philadelphia only committed 2, even while they were leading by a few points for most of the time.
For the Wizards, Bradley Beal scored 32 points and dished 5 assists while Russell Westbrook added 24 points and 10 assists. Rui Hachimura added 21 more points for Washington.
For the Sixers, Simmons, who played at center in place of Joel Embiid, had a triple double with 19 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists. Curry led their scorers with 30 points and Tobias Harris added 29 more. Three Sixers (Howard, Tyrese Maxey and Furkan Korkmaz) came off the bench and scored in double figures.
With the loss, the Wizards are now headed into the offseason. The biggest question is what the plan is for this team to contend for a championship down the line.
Should Washington blow it up like Philadelphia did back in the day to start “The Process” sooner rather than later? Or should they hope that their current young talents like Rui Hachimura and Deni Avdija take major steps forward to fill the gap between a “just-made-it” playoff team and a championship contender? And of course, is Scott Brooks the head coach to take this team forward next season? The next few months will be interesting to see.
Thanks again to all of you for being part of this season over the past several months. It wasn’t easy at times with the losing streaks, but Washington had their moments, most notably a 17-9 stretch in April and May which saw them move up from being lottery bound to the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference.
And I am happy that the Wizards are a much better team right now than they were back last December when the season started. Now, it’s time to get to work on what should be a very important offseason.