By then, the Wizards had sensed the moment was theirs for the taking, and they followed through with a 122-114 win. They unleashed all of the brute strength they lacked in Games 2 and 3 of this Eastern Conference first-round series and used an athletic second quarter to take control before letting the 76ers back in it late.
They managed to close the game in part by hacking Ben Simmons late, sending him to the foul line four times in the final three minutes to regain possession quickly. The 76ers still lead the series 3-1 and will host Game 5 on Wednesday at Wells Fargo Center.
“We played with more spunk, a little bit more attitude and then some excitement,” guard Bradley Beal said. “It just felt like we enjoyed being out there on the floor, we enjoyed playing defense, we enjoyed getting out and running in transition. These are [the things] that make us really good; this is what gave us success at the end of the year. We just got back to playing Wizards basketball the way we know how. Granted, we have our work cut out, [and] we understand that [Embiid] is out, and we’re uncertain of how it is moving forward. But we took advantage of what was on the floor, and we executed.”
With the freedom to attack the paint and Philadelphia off balance because of Embiid’s absence, Washington worked its way to a 14-point lead in the third quarter before it seemed to lose focus and commit five turnovers. Its offense stagnated in the fourth, with Beal and Russell Westbrook searching for shots as Philadelphia surrounded them on defense.
But hacking Simmons worked: In the same manner the Wizards took advantage when Embiid went down, Simmons made just 5 of 11 tries from the line and Washington made the 76ers pay. On his last attempt, Simmons missed, Westbrook grabbed the rebound, Beal got the ball to Rui Hachimura and the young forward made the 10,665 in attendance in the 50 percent-capacity arena explode when he hit a three-pointer to put the Wizards up six with 45.8 seconds to play.
Hachimura’s breakout night of 20 points and 13 rebounds was a highlight, with an added bonus that the usually reserved player got a technical foul for taunting after a third-quarter dunk.
“I thought I would never get a tech in my career,” Hachimura said with a smile. “... I just wanted to ball out. Tonight we played together, and, as a team, we are feeling good.”
Beal, despite a relatively subpar 9-for-23 shooting night, led the Wizards with 27 points and added four rebounds and four assists, but it was the role players such as Hachimura who kick-started the turnaround.
Davis Bertans had 15 points, including three three-pointers, before leaving early in the third quarter with a right calf injury. The sharpshooting forward missed time this season with a right calf strain, but Coach Scott Brooks had no update on the injury after the game.
Washington began the game with more fire than it showed in its past two losses — and still ended up in an 11-point hole. But when the 7-foot Embiid left the court, the Wizards put some oomph behind their moves.
Washington had seven blocks in the first half, including one by Bertans — not exactly known for hanging around the low post — and another by Ish Smith, who is 6 feet tall.
Third-string center Robin Lopez had checked in just over five minutes into the game, after Daniel Gafford and Alex Len had collected two quick fouls apiece. Brooks had little choice but to send the 33-year-old onto the court, but Lopez soothed all of Washington’s worries by rattling off 14 points in less than 13 minutes of playing time in the half, backing and spinning his way to the basket for hook shot after hook shot. He finished with 16 points.
“I say it’s hook-o-matic,” Brooks said. “It’s right there, and [Lopez is] making it. I mean, I’m faster than him. But he knows how to use his body and positioning. ... His minutes in the first half, he gave us a chance to in this game.”
Hachimura was aggressive from the tip, at one point late in the second quarter poking the ball away from Danny Green before spotting up for a three-pointer. His shot clanked off the rim, but Westbrook was there to leap, catch the rebound and slam home a putback dunk that got the fans on their feet.
Smith’s block led to a fast-break dunk for Hachimura less than two minutes later to put the Wizards up two, their first lead of the game and what appeared to be their first taste of fun since Game 1.
Westbrook had another triple-double; he was a game-time decision with a right ankle sprain but moved just fine to accumulate 19 points, 21 rebounds and 14 assists. He shot just 3 for 19.
Gafford, making his first start with the Wizards as Brooks wanted to inject his lineup with speed and athleticism, had 12 points, four rebounds and five blocks.
Philadelphia’s offense wobbled without Embiid. The 76ers notched their worst shooting percentage of the series — 41.7 percent — as Tobias Harris led the way with 21 points. Simmons had 13 points and 12 rebounds.
Fan on the court gets banned
Game 4 featured another fan incident, which is becoming a frequent occurrence in these playoffs. In the third quarter, a spectator ran onto the court during play and attempted to touch one of the backboards before he was tackled by a Capital One Arena special police officer.
Monumental Sports and Entertainment said in a statement that the fan will be banned from the arena and charges will be pursued with D.C. police.
“You can tell those people have been in some kind of captivity for a year and change,” Lopez said.