Washington Wizards star Bradley Beal has 66 points in his first two playoff games. It might seem like the Philadelphia 76ers have been letting him score while focusing their defensive energy elsewhere. That’s not the case, according to Doc Rivers.
The Sixers head coach laughed off the notion they were not focused on Beal. They have rotated their best defenders on him, including Ben Simmons and Matisse Thybulle. Nothing has worked. Beal is just “one tough guy to deal with.”
“We’re guarding the heck out of him and he’s still scoring. Bradley Beal is tough, bottom line,” Rivers said. “We would prefer him not scoring and us stopping everyone else, that obviously hasn’t worked out. Bradley has had good offensive games, but I know we’re making him work. I see it on film.”
Beal has shot a combined 27-for-51 from the field (52.9%) in 76 minutes while averaging 33 points per game. Those numbers are significantly higher than his season averages — field-goal percentage (48.5%), points per game (31.3) — but the Sixers have locked him down from deep where he’s gone 2-for-12 (16.6%). Beal went 130-for-373 (38.5%) during the regular season.
“I know we’re making him take a lot of twos, which has been good as well. But he’s making ’em,” Rivers said. “Which just tells you that you can game plan all you want sometimes against some of these great guys but they still may score. But as long as they’re scoring and it’s hard [for them] and you’re defending everyone else, you have a pretty shot at it.”
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Tobias Harris Reveals Biggest Improvement
Tobias Harris has been a one-man wrecking crew in the playoffs. He went off for a career playoff-high 37 points in Game 1, then scored an efficient 19 points in Game 2. He has been doing in many different ways: off the dribble, in the paint, on the low block. Harris has also been honing his mid-range game after practice every day with his “sparring partners” (Paul Reed, Rayjon Tucker). He’s been punishing the Wizards with his ability to rise up and shoot over smaller guards.
“Big emphasis for me was to be more equipped and ready to finish at the rim. I think that just has opened up a lot of things for me throughout this year,” Harris said. “Finishing versus contact and getting to my spots, that was the biggest thing that I worked on in the offseason. Figuring out where my spots were on the floor and simplifying the game.”
Harris added that his favorite new area to attack is on the low block. His quickness is lethal down there, especially when defenses have to choose between guarding him or Joel Embiid.
“Kind of like that one-two isolation punch right there, so I think that has helped us,” Harris said of himself and Embiid. “So all those things have been able to add up and when you’re out there as a team, playing with guys that complement your game in a good way, that also helps that improvement for sure.”
An Unlikely Friendship or Bromance?
When Matisse Thybulle told reporters that Furkan Korkmaz is one of his best friends on the team, several people were left scratching their heads. One (Thybulle) is a defensive stalwart, the other (Korkmaz) is a lights-out shooter. One (Thybulle) grew up in Seattle (via Australia and Arizona), the other (Korkmaz) hails from Turkey. Maybe it sounds like an odd pairing, but the two genuinely have fun together.
“When he shared something about his life, something serious, I think that’s when people become more together, that’s what happened with Matisse this year,” Korkmaz said. “We become more together, more friendly, he’s a really good guy, I’m happy to be around him. He makes me happy, he makes me smile every day.”
They also try to improve each other’s individual basketball games, with Thybulle giving Korkmaz defensive tips (obviously) and the Turkish star helping Thybulle with his shooting.
“I really like his mentality on defense,” Korkmaz said. “We are talking about offense, we are talking about defense, making sure we are making everything perfect.”