The Philadelphia 76ers lost Joel Embiid to a knee injury during the first quarter of Game 4 of their best-of-seven series against the Washington Wizards but that was just one of their issues coming out of Monday night’s matchup in D.C. as the Wizards were able to take advantage of Embiid’s absence in order to pick up a 122-114 win to extend the series to, at least, a Game 5.
While Bradley Beal performed at a high level as he has throughout the series, he finally received some support on the offensive end as Washington had seven players, including their entire starting five, score in double figures. Philadelphia was able to hold off Washington in the first half to take a one-point lead into the break but it was the Wizards who took control from there on out.
With the win, this series will shift back to Philadelphia for Game 5 as that matchup is scheduled to take place on Wednesday night at Wells Fargo Center.
Here are three key takeaways from the game:
1. Embiid leaves after hard fall
Yes, the Wizards won the game and extended the series, but the biggest takeaway from this game is by far Joel Embiid’s injury. Late in the first quarter, Embiid drove to the basket and tried to contort his body to get a shot away against Robin Lopez. In the process he lost his balance and landed awkwardly on the baseline.
He got up grabbing his hip and lower back, and that seemed to be the problem based on his landing. However, the Sixers later announced that he would be out for the rest of the game due to knee soreness. Upon further review of the video, you can see that he sort of jolts his knee when he comes down, and that was apparently a bigger issue.
When Embiid left the game, the Sixers were leading 20-12. Without him, they were outscored by 16 points the rest of the way and ended up losing 122-114. They’re still a better team than the Wizards and should be able to win the series even if Embiid remains sidelined.
But the last three quarters of this game told you all you need to know about how important the big man is to this team. If he’s not healthy moving forward, that would be a massive blow to the Sixers’ chances of competing in the East. We’ll have to keep an eye on his status over the next few days.
2. Wizards stay alive
The Wizards played incredible basketball down the stretch to get into the play-in tournament and eventually grab the No. 8 seed in the East, but the first three games of this series showed exactly why they needed to go 17-6 just to sneak into the playoffs. They lost all three games by an average of 20.3 points and really didn’t have a chance to win any of them — save for perhaps Game 1.
Through the first few minutes, Game 4 appeared to be going the same way. The Sixers jumped out to an early double-digit lead, and the Wizards had absolutely no answer for Joel Embiid. But then the big man went down with an injury, and the Wizards took advantage. Eventually, they built a double-digit lead of their own and managed to hold on down the stretch to secure the win and keep their season alive.
Now, we’ll return to Philadelphia for Game 5 on Wednesday night. While Embiid’s absence was the main reason the Wizards were able to get this win, they also deserve credit for continuing to fight. It would have been very easy for them to just pack it in and call it a season, and no one would have blamed them considering no team has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit. Instead, they kept battling and showed the same spirit that helped them make their late-season run.
3. Westbrook makes history
This hasn’t been the best series for Russell Westbrook. He struggled in the first two games, left Game 2 early after rolling his ankle and had a fan dump popcorn on his head. But for better or worse, Westbrook never loses his confidence and if he’s out there he’ll be playing as hard as possible to try and get his team a win.
In Game 4, he succeeded in perhaps the most Westbrook way possible. On the one hand, he shot 3-for-19 from the field, and turned the ball over four times. On the other hand, he made a ton of effort plays, crashed the glass, got to the free throw line and set up his teammates. He finished with 19 points, 21 rebounds and 14 assists for a truly ridiculous line, and another triple-double.
Earlier this season, Westbrook passed Oscar Robertson for the most triple-doubles in NBA history. On Monday, he made another bit of history in that department. This was his 12th playoff triple-double, which moved him into third-place all-time, behind only Magic Johnson and LeBron James.