Philadelphia vs Washington: Round 1, Free Picks, Odds & Predictions

Philadelphia 76ers vs Washington Wizards - 2021 NBA Playoffs Round 1
Philadelphia vs. Washington, Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, May 23, Wells Fargo Center

The Washington Wizards’ late-season surge propelled them into the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference, and they protected that seed with a blowout win over Indiana in the NBA’ new play-in game. Washington’s prize for that victory is a first-round matchup with the Philadelphia 76ers, who have been picking teams apart for the past month en route to the top seed. The 76ers won all three matchups with Washington this season, but Philadelphia hasn’t faced this version of the Wizards just yet, which will make for a fascinating matchup.

Game 1

May 23, 1 p.m., Wells Fargo Center

It is rare for a matchup between the top seed and No. 8 seed in a conference to be interesting in the NBA playoffs, but that is not the case in the Eastern Conference this season. The Philadelphia 76ers were not the favorite to win the conference entering the season, but put together their best season since the 2000-01 season in clinching the top spot in the league. They will face off with the Washington Wizards, who have two dominant scorers and not much else, but Bradley Beal and Russell Westbrook dragged Washington to 17 wins in their last 23 regular-season games before splitting their two play-in round contests. The elite talent could very well be enough to give Philadelphia a scare in this series.

There are obvious differences between facing Boston on the road and Indiana at home, but the way Westbrook played in both of those play-in games speaks to how Washington will be successful. In losing to the Celtics in the game for the seventh seed, Westbrook scored 20 points but had just five assists. In the win over the Pacers, Westbrook was more efficient offensively and scored 18 points, but he got his teammates involved with 15 assists. When Westbrook is a facilitator, the Wizards are a much better team than when he’s simply just trying to score, and the record proves it. Washington was 3-13 in games in which Westbrook did not have at least 10 assists if you include the play-in games, and the Wizards were 28-23 in games in which Westbrook had double-digit assists. Beal and his 31.3 points per game can handle the scoring load for the Wizards, and the guard is liable to drop a monster game at some point in this series, but Westbrook needs to be that jack-of-all-trades, triple-double king for Washington to have any chance at knocking off the 76ers.

It is hard to pinpoint the exact influence of a coach on a team, but it is clear the Doc Rivers is pushing all the right buttons in Philadelphia this season. Joel Embiid is among the three finalists for NBA MVP this season after averaging 28.5 points and 10.6 rebounds in 51 games this season. Tobias Harris has been a critical perimeter scoring option for the 76ers with his 19.5 points per game on nearly 40-percent shooting from behind the arc. And of course, Ben Simmons is the engine of the offense with his deft passing and efficient offensive performances. There are a lot of question marks behind those three players, but the 76ers excelled this year because someone else always stepped up, it was just a question of who would do it every game. The real challenge for Philadelphia is going to be to replicate its success on Beal that it had in March when the teams last played. Beal took just 13 shots and scored just 19 points in that 76ers win, which came two months after Beal torched the 76ers for 60 points. Philadelphia doesn’t have to be perfect on Beal by any stretch, but it cannot let him get on a roll and potentially steal a game or two in this series.

This is going to be a fascinating series to watch, but it’s not going to be a very long one. At the end of the day, the Wizards have no answers on the interior to slow down Embiid, and that is going to define the series for both teams. Washington’s defense is not very good and it doesn’t have the bodies to be able to handle a dominant post like Embiid on the interior. The top sports betting sites in New Jersey have made the 76ers overwhelming favorites, and the upset is if this series lasts more than five games. I’d honestly be surprised if we even get to a fifth game, so I’m taking the Philadelphia sweep at +230 odds.

Philadelphia opens Game 1 as modest eight-point favorites on the New Jersey basketball betting sites, which matches how the three regular-season meetings went between these teams. However, after watching the Wizards struggle against Boston on the road, I can only imagine what type of damage the 76ers will be able to do Sunday. It’s foolish to predict a 50-point outburst from a player, but Harris could definitely give the Wizards problems on the perimeter if they focus too much attention on Embiid inside. Simmons is an elite passer as well and will make that extra pass to an open teammate to keep Washington guessing. I’ll be modest and bet Philadelphia laying 12.5 points at +195 odds from the top NBA betting sites in New Jersey. In addition, I’m wagering on Simmons having an excellent day as a distributor and bet the point guard to have at least 10 assists in a 76ers victory for +500 odds.

BET ON PHILADELPHIA 76ERS TO WIN

Game 2

May 26, 7 p.m., Wells Fargo Center

 

 

Game 3

May 29, TBD, Capital One Arena

 

 

Game 4

May 31, TBD, Capital One Arena

 

 

Game 5

June 2, TBD, Wells Fargo Center

 

Game 6

June 4, TBD, Capital One Arena

 

 

Game 7

June 6, TBD, Wells Fargo Center

 

 

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Josh Walfish is an award-winning journalist who has been covering college and professional sports in the United States. He holds a journalism degree from Northwestern University and his work has appeared in the Miami Herald, Chicago Sun-Times and Providence Journal. He most recently chronicled the UMass hockey teams rise to prominence over the last two years for the local newspaper

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