76ers Snap Judgments on 2021 Playoff Fate After Game 2 vs. Wizards

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistMay 27, 2021

76ers Snap Judgments on 2021 Playoff Fate After Game 2 vs. Wizards

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    The Philadelphia 76ers had to sweat their way through a Game 1 win over the eighth-seeded Washington Wizards, maybe more than anyone expected.

    They weren't interested in doing that again Wednesday night.

    Instead, Philly jumped out to an 11-point lead after the first quarter and took a 14-point advantage into intermission. When the final buzzer sounded, the Sixers had secured a 120-95 win that didn't require any of their players to log 30 minutes, with only All-Stars Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid clearing the 25-minute mark.

    This was the kind of two-way superpower Philly had shown all season. This version of the Sixers seem capable of punctuating The Process with The Parade.

    Since playoff life can change in a hurry, let's fire off some snap judgments on the heels of this wholly impressive win.

Ben Simmons Is a Cheat Code

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    For all of the focus on what Simmons isn't (namely: a shooting threat of any kind), there isn't near enough attention given to what he is, which is, frankly, an impossibility.

    He's a 6'11" point guard. Not a point-forward or point-center but rather a full-fledged floor general who just happens to be built like he was meant to man the post. Through two playoff games, he has amassed 23 assists against just four turnovers.

    Defensively, he's an even bigger problem for opponents. He has a center's size and a guard's mobility, which is such an unfair (and absurd) advantage it should manifest in Defensive Player of the Year honors (if not this season, then in the near future).

    "He's a big guy, and he plays guard," Wizards scoring leader Bradley Beal told reporters. "It's not like he's a power forward or a center guarding me. He's very mobile, agile and he's strong. I think that propels him. And he wants to play defense—he's a willing defender. You don't always see that, and he uses it to his advantage."

    Simmons has posted a plus-18 plus/minus in each of the two games this postseason. That means Philly has outscored Washington by 36 points over his 67 minutes.

    It's time we start calling Simmons what he is: a freakin' cheat code.

Joel Embiid Is Unguardable

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    We didn't need this series to know Embiid is a nightmare matchup for anyone. Even if we were still on the fence, we weren't going to draw any major conclusions as he laid waste to Washington's 20th-ranked defense.

    Even still, it's OK to sit back and marvel at what the big fella can accomplish.

    In Game 1, he only needed 30 minutes and 16 field-goal attempts to tally 30 points. In Game 2, he had 22 points in 26 minutes on 8-of-12 shooting. For the non-math majors in the audience, that's 52 points in 56 minutes, and he's hitting those marks with incredible ease. He's 17-of-28 from the field (60.7 percent), 3-of-7 outside (42.9) and 15-of-16 at the line (93.8 percent).

    He is the proverbial unstoppable force, and the Wizards can do exactly nothing to change that. The question is whether anyone else can in the later rounds.

The Sixers Are Going to the Conference Finals (at Least)

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    The Sixers haven't advanced to the NBA Finals since 2001, back when they were following the leads of Allen Iverson and then-head coach Larry Brown.

    Not to put the cart ahead of the horse here, but that drought's days are numbered.

    All season long, Philadelphia has hinted at a major elevation. A conference-best .681 winning percentage suggested that if the East weren't theirs to lose, it was at least one the Sixers would have a major say in deciding.

    The way the playoff field shaped up essentially paved a yellow brick road through the first two rounds. The Wizards are a good story—their late-season turnaround was remarkable—but they aren't a credible threat to a team as talented as Philadelphia. The New York Knicks and Atlanta Hawks might have even more compelling narratives, but they aren't significant roadblocks, either.

    The Sixers will be tested at some point, but that shouldn't be between now and the Conference Finals.