What Wizards fans need to know about the 76ers before NBA playoffs

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What Wizards fans need to know about the Sixers originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

The Wizards are back in the playoffs after a two-year absence thanks to their win over the Pacers in the final Eastern Conference play-in tournament.

They'll now take on the top-seeded Sixers in the first round, so it's time to get to know the opposition. Here are a few key points Washington fans will want to know before the series starts. 

Greatest strength: Size and defense

The biggest reason, outside of Joel Embiid's career year, for the Sixers' massive turnaround following last year's first-round exit has been their defense. Anchored by Embiid and Ben Simmons, Philly boasts a squad of big, reliable defenders to throw at opposing scorers. 

Tobias Harris, Danny Green and Matisse Thybulle man the wings alongside Simmons, who can defend one through five. Then you have Seth Curry, George Hill and Shake Milton in the backcourt, and outside of Curry, there aren't any weak links defensively in Doc Rivers' main rotation. 

Suffice to say, it's not going to be easy scoring points for the Wizards. Embiid shuts down the paint, Harris and Green provide much-needed length and versatility to prevent a perimeter barrage and Simmons is there to fill in the gaps while also picking up the other team's best player. 

The Wizards aren't a good 3-point shooting team and have built their offense around getting to the rim and the free-throw line. If Embiid locks down the paint and Simmons does his job on one of Bradley Beal and Russell Westbrook, it could make this series incredibly difficult. 

Fatal flaw: Perimeter scoring

This may not be a great offensive series for the Wizards, but they have a chance to make life difficult on the Sixers as well. 

Ever since Philly let Jimmy Butler walk to the Heat, they've been devoid of primary ball-handling and perimeter shot creation. Given that's arguably the most important thing for a team to have in the postseason, it's easy to see why this team hasn't made it very far without Butler on the roster. 

Embiid can certainly offset some of those concerns, especially with the way he's played this season. He's in great shape, punishing defenders in the post and has utilized a lethal face-up package to add more depth to his game. However, post-ups aren't exactly a sustainable form of offense in the postseason without a playmaker to throw defenses different looks. 

The Sixers addressed their need for shooting around Embiid and Simmons, but they still don't run nearly enough pick and rolls to become an elite offense. They finished 13th in the NBA in offensive rating despite an unreal season by Embiid and the Wizards should be able to guard this team for stretches. 

The Embiid problem

Embiid has been one of the most dominant forces in the NBA since he started playing for the Sixers in 2016, but this year, he took his game to another level. He got in shape, added the aforementioned face-up package and seems to have a much better mindset in not settling for too many jumpers. 

He averaged 28.5 points, 10.6 rebounds and 10.7 trips to the free-throw line per night to go along with a career-high 51.1% field goal percentage and 37.7% success rate on his triples. When game-planning to beat the Sixers, everything begins and ends with Embiid and it'll be on the Wizards to figure out how to slow him down. 

The good news is Washington has decent depth to give Embiid a number of different looks even if he gets one or two of Scott Brooks' centers in foul trouble. Robin Lopez is a big body who can probably stick with him in the post, Alex Len has long arms to contest his face-up jumpers and Daniel Gafford provides shot-blocking and finishing at the rim if he can stay on the floor. 

None of them are the perfect solution to Embiid, but it's fair to question whether there is one in the NBA. This man has figured it out and he'll be a significant problem for everyone he plays against until further notice. 

Who guards Beal?

As Beal continues to battle a hamstring injury, life won't get any easier for him in the playoffs. The three-time All-Star can expect to draw Simmons as his personal matchup. The 6-10 point forward is one of the very best defenders in the NBA and he does especially well against smaller guards he can use his length against. 

If it's not Simmons, Thybulle or Green would be next on the list and neither are easy players to get a bucket on. Beal has to work a little extra for every basket thanks to his hamstring injury anyway, which makes this matchup with Philly all the more difficult. He'll need Westbrook, Rui Hachimura and Davis Bertans to help alleviate some of that pressure on the offensive end.