76ers coach Doc Rivers was vague when addressing Joel Embiid‘s injury: “I have no expectation other than I hope for him to be back. But I can’t give you a timeline. I can’t give you anything right now.”
Rivers was more direct in how Philadelphia must handle the star center’s absence in Game 5 against the Wizards: “Everybody has to do their part. And no one has to feel like they have to do Joel’s part. As long as we do that, we’ll be fine.”
The 76ers did that. And they were fine.
Philadelphia advanced to the second round with a 129-112 victory over Washington on Wednesday.
The 76ers have now won three playoff series in the last four years, their most sustained success since Allen Iverson. But they had bigger goals when embarking on The Process – goals that will be more difficult to achieve if Embiid is limited against the Hawks in the second round.
For now, Philadelphia can appreciate advancing. Several 76ers stepped up to dispatch Washington.
Tobias Harris (28 points, nine rebounds, six assists, three steals and a block) had a strong all-around performance. Ben Simmons (19 points, 11 assists, 10 rebounds two steals and a block) played his game. Seth Curry (30 points) got hot.
Wing Matisse Thybulle in Howard’s place. Backup center Dwight Howard (12 points, eight rebounds and three blocks in 16 minutes) fared well. Philadelphia mostly used small lineups with rookie Tyrese Maxey (13 points in 26 minutes) especially getting a larger role.
But the challenge will mount in against Atlanta.
Bradley Beal (32 points, seven rebounds, five assists and five turnovers) and Russell Westbrook (24 points, 10 assists, eight rebounds, four turnovers and four fouls) mixed helpful plays and errors. The Wizards are a mediocre team and played like it.
The big question for Washington: Does Beal remain happy there? He’ll be eligible for a contract extension this fall, though he could hit 2022 unrestricted free agency.
Beal has talked extensively about spending his whole career with the Wizards, and they showed progress by making the playoffs this year.
But Washington was barely competitive in this series – even in a full game Embiid missed. That’s not the lasting impression the Wizards wanted to leave with Beal as they enter the offseason.