NBA Playoffs: 3 takeaways from Game 4 between Washington Wizards and Philadelphia 76ers

Washington Wizarsd Bradley Beal. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
Washington Wizarsd Bradley Beal. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports /
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Takeaway #1: The Washington Wizards can turn their center trio into a duo.

Robin Lopez and Daniel Gafford are the only centers that need to be playing in this series. Alex Len was a fine stopgap as the Wizards waded through the big man abyss earlier this season. But now, Lopez and Gafford get the job done just fine.

In game four, Len got his fewest minutes of the series, and his minutes have decreased every game since game one. Meanwhile, Lopez and Gafford both feasted with Embiid injured. The two combined for 28 points, nine rebounds, and seven blocks in the win.

When Embiid is out there, Lopez is the best at bothering him and even denied Embiid at the rim in game four. Lopez is a big body in the post, the hardest of the three Wizards for Embiid to bully. Offensively, there are few things more satisfying than watching Lopez go to work with that hook shot. It’s dazzling, and it almost always goes in.

Gafford doesn’t fare quite as well against Embiid, who can move him around with relative ease. However, Gafford’s presence as a lob threat is an undeniable advantage for the Wizards on the offensive end, and he’s able to hold his own against Dwight Howard quite well. In game four, with Embiid sidelined, Doc Rivers went with a smaller lineup that surrounded Ben Simmons with five shooters. Mike Scott was the default “center.” Against those lineups, Gafford is mobile enough to follow stretch bigs out to the perimeter, and his size creates mismatches against smaller lineups.

A few things could deter the Wizards from cutting Len out completely, though. Embiid, when on the floor, has routinely gotten the center trio into foul trouble. Shuffling through three bodies may be a necessity. Also, Gafford has admitted to having less than ideal conditioning, making it hard for him to keep up with the blistering pace the Wizards like to run. The game-four win made it clear, though, that Lopez and Gafford are more than capable of doing it as a duo down low.

Next. Biggest mismatch vs. 76ers may be on the sideline. dark