Wizards center Daniel Gafford grabbed a rebound and, as the 76ers vacated the backcourt to get back on defense, threw an uncontested outlet pass behind Russell Westbrook. Westbrook chased down the ball near the sidelined and struggled to gain his balance without falling out of bounds, even without a defender nearby. As Westbrook saved the ball and turned to go up court, he stepped out of bounds.
That embarrassing error late in the fourth quarter helped Philadelphia preserve a 125-118 Game 1 victory over Washington on Sunday.
Both teams fizzled to the finish. Westbrook’s turnover followed Ben Simmons missing a pair of free throws with 44 seconds left, falling to 0-for-6 from the line.
But the 76ers held an advantage from a spirited third quarter.
Both teams played lax defense in the first half. Tobias Harris (37 points, 28 in the first half) particularly got wherever he wanted.
Philadelphia – with far better defensive personnel – tightened its defense in the third quarter. That fueled the 76ers’ fastbreak offense, and they pulled ahead for a lead they never relinquished.
Joel Embiid scored 30 points in 30 minutes, his playing time limited by foul trouble. Philadelphia outscored Washington by 20 with Embiid on the court (and got outscored by 13 without him).
Westbrook finished with 16 points and 14 assists. But he also had six turnovers and shot 1-of-9 outside the paint. Too often, he isolated offensively.
Bradley Beal (33 points) had more success when controlling the offense.
But the Wizards scored best when they got the ball moving. Washington outscored Philadelphia by 14 in 12 minutes with Daniel Gafford (12 points on 6-of-6 shooting). That’s not a huge outlier. The Wizards have really flourished with Gafford on the floor since acquiring him at the trade deadline.
Gafford’s energetic style might not translate in more minutes. He could struggle to battle Embiid inside. But Washington should probably test Gafford’s limits in Game 2 Wednesday.