Russell Westbrook on Wizards vs. 76ers: They're No. 1 in the East for a Reason

Jenna CiccotelliCorrespondent IIMay 21, 2021

WASHINGTON, DC -¬ MAY 20: Russell Westbrook #4 of the Washington Wizards looks on before the game against the Indiana Pacers during the 2021 NBA Play-In Tournament on May 20, 2021 at Capital One Arena in Washington, DC. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE (Photo by Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images)
Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images

After defeating the Indiana Pacers in the second play-in game on Thursday to officially claim the Eastern Conference's No. 8 seed, the Washington Wizards have earned a first-round series against the Philadelphia 76ers.

Russell Westbrook, who scored 18 points and had 15 assists in Washington's 142-115 domination, knows they face a tough test.

"They’re the No. 1 team in the East for a reason," he told reporters after the win. "They’ve been playing well all season long."

The two sides met three times during the regular season, with Philadelphia winning each time. But the final results weren't necessarily indicative of the action that ensued.

In the first game of the season, the Wizards held the lead through three quarters before eventually falling by four, just weeks before Bradley Beal dropped 60 points in a 141-136 loss. 

While Washington had to play two games to even make it to the postseason, Philadelphia's rise was hardly in doubt, even in a tight conference that also included the Brooklyn Nets and Milwaukee Bucks at the top.

Joel Embiid's 28.5 points and 10.6 rebounds per game paced the 76ers through the regular season, and it shouldn't be any different when the postseason begins, though Beal—the league's second-best scorer—and Westbrook, the league's all-time triple-doubles leader— should be able to at least put up a fight. 

This postseason matchup is decades in the making. Philadelphia hasn't played Washington in the playoffs since 1986, when the 76ers—starting a lineup that included Julius Erving and Charles Barkley—defeated the Bullets in five games (h/t Noah Levick of NBC Philadelphia). 

Game 1 is Sunday at 1 p.m. ET. Games 1 and 4 (May 31) will be broadcast on TNT.