Ben Simmons didn't have his best shooting night but the towering Australian guard showed he can control the game in other ways in Philadelphia's 125-118 win over the Washington Wizards.
The Wizards sneaked into the playoffs as the eighth seed after a tough play-win tournament win over Indiana, and took it right to the top-seeded 76ers in an entertaining first bout.
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Simmons scored just six points and missed all of his six free throws, but Philadelphia coach Doc Rivers described the 24-year-old's game as 'special' since he added 15 assists and as many rebounds.
He had the ball on a string and his passing was crucial for teammates Joel Embiid (30 points) and Tobias Harris (career-high 37 points) who handled the scoring load for the home side.
The Wizards put up a hell of a fight thanks to Bradley Beal's 33-point scoring outburst, but a late three-point barrage from Sixers role players Seth Curry and Danny Green gave them the separation they needed.
Discussing Simmons after the game, Rivers couldn't have enough praise for the Aussie superstar.
"He created so many points for us," Rivers said of his Australian superstar.
"I thought he was special tonight. Whoever he guarded struggled scoring."
Simmons became the sixth 76ers player to record 15 or more assists in a play-off game and the first since Allen Iverson in 2005.
Harris scored 28 points in the first half, making a case that Philly has three big stars that could rival the superstar trio of Kevin Durant-James Harden-Kyrie Irving in Brooklyn.
The eastern conference top-seeded Sixers needed Harris' outburst to offset an upset-minded Wizards team that were within five points with 45 seconds left.
Unable to create consistent offence outside of Harris, the Sixers finally put together a 3-point barrage late in the third quarter that had 11,160 fans - roughly half-capacity - sounding as if it was 20,000-plus packing the house.
The fans erupted soon after in a "Trust the Process" chant with Embiid at the free-throw line, and the Sixers closed the quarter with a 99-93 lead.
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In Phoenix, the Suns played tough to secure a 99-90 win over the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers in game one of their first round series.
Seeded second in the western conference, the Suns lived up to their ranking despite All Star star guard Chris Paul playing in pain from a shoulder injury suffered in the second quarter.
Devin Booker scored 34 points, Deandre Ayton had 21 points and 16 rebounds and the Suns won their first playoff game in 11 years.
It was the first playoff appearance for several Suns players, including Booker, Ayton and Mikal Bridges, but they didn't look like postseason rookies against LeBron James and the Lakers.
James finished with 18 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds while fellowsuperstar Anthony Davis shot just 5 of 16 from the field and had 13 points. The Lakers shot just 7 of 26 from 3-point range.
"(Booker) is a scoring machine, puts a lot of pressure on our defense to cover him in a lot of ways," Lakers coach Frank Vogel said.
"When we double team him, he's got Ayton in there. We didn't do a good enough job but if we hold this team to 99 points in Game 2, I feel good about our chances."
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