From a rational perspective, yesterday’s game against the Phoenix Suns went exactly as Sixers fans might have hoped. Philadelphia’s reserves played hard, providing competitive, entertaining basketball for most of the contest, before the Suns pulled away late, leaving the Sixers one step closer to securing Oklahoma City’s first-round pick.
The Athletic’s Derek Bodner laid out the current situation regarding that pick very succinctly in his article last night:
“If the season ended today, the pick would be 22nd, as the Thunder (43-27) have a better record than the Mavs (43-31), Sixers (42-29), Jazz (43-28) and Pacers (43-28). For the Sixers to keep the pick, the Thunder have to finish with a better record than at least three of those four teams.
The Thunder are guaranteed to finish with a better record than the Mavs, and another Sixers loss would eliminate them as a team that could pass OKC in the standings.”
Assuming the Sixers will lose at least one of their final two seeding games, whether they keep the pick will depend upon the Thunder remaining ahead of either Utah or Indiana. In today’s action, the Pacers face Houston, while Oklahoma City takes on Miami.
As for tonight’s Sixers game against Toronto, the Raptors are locked into the 2-seed in the Eastern Conference, but aside from Serge Ibaka possibly sitting out with a sore knee, Nick Nurse appears to be fielding all his regulars. Toronto has one final game on Friday against the Nuggets.
While Brett Brown said he hasn’t ruled out Joel Embiid for a return during the seeding games, you’d only expect that possibility in the regular season finale on Friday, so the Sixers will once again be without their two top players. However, the status of Josh Richardson, Tobias Harris, and Al Horford remains up in the air as of writing this morning. It made sense not to push any of the veterans on Philadelphia’s only back-to-back during the Orlando restart, but with all three sitting out yesterday, I would expect some, if not all, to return to action tonight (particularly J-Rich, who only received a “rest” designation against Phoenix).
The Sixers will begin playoff action in less than a week (likely against Boston), and the regulars will have to maintain their rhythm and formulate the best ways to navigate both ends of the court with Ben Simmons out for the season. Once the postseason begins, the Celtics aren’t going to idly wait around for the Sixers to get their act together.
Philadelphia: Ben Simmons - out (knee); Joel Embiid - out (ankle); Josh Richardson - questionable (rest); Tobias Harris - questionable (ankle); Al Horford - questionable (knee); Zhaire Smith - out (knee)
Toronto: Serge Ibaka - questionable (knee); Patrick McCaw - out (knee)
Who: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Toronto Raptors
Where: ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, Orlando, FL (The Bubble)
When: 6:30pm ET
Watch: ESPN, NBC Sports Philadelphia
Listen: 97.5 The Fanatic