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Joel Embiid Drops 36 as 76ers Dominate Wizards to Take Commanding 3-0 Series Lead

Blake SchusterContributor IMay 30, 2021

Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21) gestures to the crowd after his dunk during the first half of Game 3 in a first-round NBA basketball playoff series against the Washington Wizards, Saturday, May 29, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
AP Photo/Nick Wass

After notching the No. 8 seed via the play-in tournament, Washington's postseason run appears headed for an early end after a 132-103 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference first-round series on Saturday. No team in NBA history has come back from a 3-0 series deficit.

The Wizards will attempt to be the first beginning with Game 4 in Washington on Monday night. 

Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons were electric once again in the victory, combing for 50 points as the Sixers move one win away from a first-round sweep. 

NBA @NBA

Give Joel his new #NBAPlayoffs career-high 36 PTS (14-18 FGM)!@sixers in command on ESPN pic.twitter.com/4QBnaRYnD5

Notable Performers

Joel Embiid, PF, Philadelphia 76ers: 36 points, 8 rebounds, 3 steals

Ben Simmons, PG, Philadelphia 76ers: 14 points, 9 assists, 5 rebounds

Russell Westbrook, PG, Washington Wizards: 26 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists

Bradley Beal, SG, Washington Wizards: 25 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists

NBA @NBA

JOEL EMBIID PUNISHES THE RIM ON ESPN! ๐Ÿ’ฅ๐Ÿ˜ฑ<br><br>He's up to 24 1st half PTS. #NBAPlayoffs pic.twitter.com/kSz5Jw7NRo

Embiid Drops Career-High In Postseason

Whatever hope the Wizards had of reasserting themselves at home against the Sixers evaporated about as soon as the ball was tipped on Saturday. That was mostly due to the play of Embiid, who showed once again why heโ€™s an MVP finalist this year with a career-best performance in the playoffs. 

Embiid notched 25 points in the first half alone before finishing with 36 for the night while shooting 14-of-18 from the floor in 28 minutes. The Sixers didn't even need him in the fourth quarter, otherwise those numbers surely would've been higher.  

Philadelphia 76ers @sixers

Oop, there it is. pic.twitter.com/FVDx40ljBB

But it wasnโ€™t just the way Embiidโ€™s shots were falling so much as where he was launching them from. 

The big man was able to get to nearly any spot he wanted on the floor with ease, backing down Wizards forward Robin Lopez on multiple occasions as he drilled five shots from mid-range, dropped in another six buckets in the paint and went 3-of-4 from behind the arc.

Philadelphia 76ers @sixers

Smart business decision to stay out of his way. pic.twitter.com/u9BNTL4jSk

His Sixers teammates joined in, especially from long range. Philadelphia made 17 three-pointers compared to just eight by the Wizards. That helped the Sixers notch at least 36 points in each of the first three quarters and run away with a road victory to move one win away from a first-round sweep. 

Philadelphia 76ers @sixers

They hit 2 more as we posted this.

Saturday was also the third straight game Philly scored at least 120 points as all five starters notched at least 14 points. By the end of the night, Sixers head coach Doc Rivers was able to empty his bench and give his starts plenty of rest ahead of Game 4. 

Wizards On The Brink 

Whatever magic the Wizards harnessed to battle their way from last in the Eastern Conference to the No. 8 seed appears to have run out against the Sixers. Those good vibes weren't the only thing missing in Washington, however, as any semblance of the Wizards' defense proved hard to find on Saturday.

Washington allowed the Sixers to shoot an astounding 58.6 percent from the field and 51.5 percent on three-pointers while getting absolutely clobbered on the boards. Philadelphia out-rebounded the Wizards 51-41 overall, but 44-28 on the defensive glass in particular. 

Not even another triple-double from Russell Westbrook could make up for Washington's lack of answers on defense, to say little of the Wizards shooting 39.6 percent from the floor. 

NBA @NBA

Russell Westbrook (26 PTS, 12 REB, 10 AST) notches a Triple-Double for the @WashWizards in Game 3. #NBAPlayoffs pic.twitter.com/L0w2On5AUi

NBA @NBA

Congrats to @russwest44 of the @WashWizards for moving into tied for 3rd on the all-time #NBAPlayoffs TRIPLE-DOUBLES list! pic.twitter.com/JJPf0fhwJl

Three years after Washington was last in the postseason, it appears it's headed for another early exit. The Wizards' last playoff appearance ended with a first-round loss to the Toronto Raptors in six games. 

Washington Wizards @WashWizards

Gaff in transition! ๐Ÿ’ช@russwest44 x @Dan_G33 pic.twitter.com/MzeZabK00P

Washington hasn't advanced to the second round since the 2016-17 season. It doesn't appear 2021 will end that streak. 

Not unless head coach Scott Brooks can retool his team's defense before Game 4. If not, he may have to plead his case to the front office if he hopes to keep his job. 

What's Next

Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal is set for Monday at 7 p.m. ET on TNT. 

This article will be updated to provide more information on this story as it becomes available. 

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