The road to the NBA Finals in the Eastern Conference will officially go through South Philly as the Sixers have clinched home-court advantage. They have one game remaining, another versus the same opponent as Friday night, the Orlando Magic, but they will have the chance to rest some key players if they so choose. The 3rd place Milwaukee Bucks can not catch up to the Sixers’ current win total of 48, and in the event the Sixers lost their next and final regular season game Sunday, they still possess the tiebreaker over the Brooklyn Nets. It’s the first time the team has accomplished that feat since the Allen Iverson-led 2001 group did it on their way to winning the Eastern Conference.
Philadelphia has clinched the No. 1 seed in the East for the first time since the @alleniverson-led Sixers did it in 2000-01.— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) May 15, 2021
The game started off a little bit tense. After the Sixers jumped out to an 8-0 lead, the Magic got hot, including former (very briefly) Sixer Ignas Brazdeikis, who opened the game 5/5 from the floor. Brazdeikis led the way for the lottery-bound Magic with a game high 21 points on 9-12 from the field. He looked keen to show Daryl Morey and Doc Rivers they gave up on him too soon, flashing a pretty stroke and some deft finishing around the rim. After one quarter, the Magic who came in as huge underdogs, only trailed by 3.
But when Doc Rivers turned to his bench unit, the Sixers pushed the lead.
Mike Scott being the key player to the #Sixers clinching the 1st seed in the East. Just like we all predicted!— Harrison Grimm (@Harrison_Grimm) May 15, 2021
Mike Scott only finished with 8 points in 18 minutes, but he went 2-5 from deep and notched 3 blocks, offering some rim protection as well. His energy seemed to spark an extended run from the reserves. And after the starters got back out there, the team completed a 39-19 second-quarter.
The offense had finally returned for the first time since the first half of the Pacers game last Wednesday.
Coming off of a tough loss on Thursday in Miami, the entire team was likely exhausted, playing the second leg of a back to back. And without Dwight Howard, who was suspended after picking up his 16th technical foul on the season, Coach Rivers went to a full-on 14 man rotation by game’s end.
Oh man what a beautiful bounce pass from Ben Simmons to a streaking Tyrese Maxey pic.twitter.com/N2fxfddHiz— Tyler Monahan (@TMon_19) May 15, 2021
Joel Embiid finished with 13 points and eleven rebounds. Ben Simmons was a game high +25, and chipped in 13 points, 9 assists, and four rebounds. Seth Curry led the way for Philly with 20 points on a blistering hot 7-9 from the field and 4-5 from 7th and Chestnut.
FINAL STATS ⤵️:— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) May 15, 2021
Curry 20 PTS | 3 REB | 1 STL
Milton 15 PTS | 3 REB | 3 AST
Simmons 13 PTS | 9 AST | 1 BLK
Embiid 13 PTS | 11 REB | 1 STL
Korkmaz 10 PTS | 6 REB | 2 AST
Shake Milton put a little sauce on this one, he had 15 points on 7-10 shooting off the bench:
Tyrese Maxey continues to shine in limited opportunities. He showed some exciting speed and a couple really nice off-the-dribble moves:
In-and-out so fluidly into a cross, Pee Wee Kirkland or CP3 style, then finishing with the little dream shake finish like Rondo mighta done. Tyrese Maxey just keeps looking more and more comfy with the rock. pic.twitter.com/xR29uCa9ii— DaveEarly (@DavidEarly) May 15, 2021
I’ve seen enough.— Bryan Toporek (@btoporek) May 15, 2021
Tyrese Maxey needs playoff minutes.
It will be intriguing to see which players are active Sunday and just how many minutes they see. While there are still reasons left to win the game (finishing with a better record than the Western Conference favorites, the Clippers, wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world) the main goal will be getting through the end of it unscathed so everyone is as healthy as possible for the start of the playoffs.
If you’re trying to figure out who the Sixers’ first round opponent might be, it’s yet to be determined. There will be a WNBA-style play in tournament this season. The teams will include the Celtics, Hornets, Pacers and Wizards. As of this writing, the Hawks and Heat are likely to meet in the Sixers’ half of the bracket. Assuming Philadelphia got past whoever wound up in the 8th seed, during round one, they’d get the winner of that Atlanta-Miami series (although the New York Knicks could sneak in there as well).
Winning the top seed does not come around very often. Twice in twenty years in this case. Here they come.