Philadelphia 76ers: 3 Keys to Victory Over Wizards in 2021 NBA Playoffs

The NBA playoffs are finally upon us. Starting Sunday, the Sixers kick off their hunt for an NBA championship. Their first opponent will be Bradley Beal and the Washington Wizards.

This is a matchup the Sixers dominated in the regular season, winning all three meetings. Here are three keys to victory for the Sixers as they gear up for the first-round action.

Controlling the pace

Pace is something Doc Rivers has focused on all season with the Sixers. Not necessarily playing fast, but playing the game at their speed. Transition play will be a major point of emphasis against the Wizards.

If the Wizards are going to have any chance against the Sixers, it will be in the open floor. They led the NBA in pace this season, operating at their best in transition.

Defending in transition has been a weak point for the Sixers this season. This matchup will be a good test for the Sixers to stop a team from turning the game into a track meet.

Limiting transition opportunities is going to be essential for the Sixers. They need to make the Wizards play down to their speed, not try and match their frenetic pace.

Containing the backcourt

It's no secret that the Wizards' offensive firepower comes from their backcourt. The Sixers are going to have their hands full defending Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal.

The Sixers learned the hard way not to underestimate what these All-Star guards can do on offense. Beal erupted for 60 against the Sixers early this season and averaged just under 37 PPG in the season series.

Westbrook has been on an incredible stretch heading into this matchup, and Beal is one of the best scorers in the league today. They are the only chance of Washington giving the Sixers any trouble in the series.

It will be on defenders like Ben Simmons and Matisse Thybulle to contain the backcourt duo and not let them put the Wizards in a position to steal any games.

Running through Embiid

It may seem like an obvious point after the dominant season he had, but Joel Embiid should be a focal point in this series. The Wizards' lack of size in the frontcourt is a mismatch the Sixers need to exploit.

Embiid had his way against the Wizards this season and did so easily. In the three regular-season matchups, he averaged 30.0 PPG and 9.7 RPG. Along with putting up big numbers, he did it with strong efficiency. Shooting over 60% from the floor against Washington.

With this glaring mismatch, Embiid should touch the ball every time down the floor. Running the offense through him is the most effective way to take care of business in this series.

After falling short in the MVP race simply due to missed games, Embiid will be looking to make a statement in the playoffs. This matchup should allow him to get some dominant performances under his belt to build momentum into later series.

Kevin McCormick covers the Philadelphia 76ers for South Jersey's 97.3 ESPN and Sports Illustrated. You can follow him on Twitter: @KevinMcCNBA.