One more win: 76ers can clinch first seed tonight with win over Pacers
A win tonight can clinch it all. With one more win, the 76ers will clinch the first seed in the Eastern Conference for the first time in 20 years. Currently, the Sixers are three games ahead of the Nets and hold the tiebreaker between them if necessary. Milwaukee is four games behind. A win tonight will give the Sixers a minimum three game lead with just three games remaining. Philly will get their shot to close out the regular season right on the road against the Indiana Pacers at 8pm tonight.
Indiana has been struggling of late and is coming off a back-to-back after facing the Cavaliers last night. Malcolm Brogdon has missed the previous six games due to injury, and Myles Turner has been out indefinitely after suffering a plantar plate tear in his toe. Without two of their key players, the Pacers have struggled immensely and are undergoing a near locker room mutiny. First-year head coach Nate Bjorkgren is very likely to be let go this offseason.
Throughout the regular season, the 76ers have had no issue with the Pacers even when facing injury. Back in January, the Sixers won by nine without Joel Embiid and once again in March took them down without Tobias Harris. It looks likely that the Sixers could be shorthanded once again. Last night Joel Embiid was listed as questionable with a non-COVID illness, while Furkan Korkmaz remains out. Alongside those, Matisse Thybulle was added to the list after hurting his left hand the other night. Hopefully, all is okay, and he just needs some time to rest.
The stakes of this game have to be well known in the 76ers locker room. Securing that first seed allows a much easier path through the East, facing just one of Brooklyn and Milwaukee if they can make the Conference Finals. Philly is red-hot of late, on a league-high eight-game winning streak. Clinching the first seed tonight allows the Sixers to get an extra week of rest for their starters before starting the playoffs, so there are several benefits to getting this done early.
Tonight’s game shouldn’t be a problem if everyone comes out with energy, even without Embiid. Philly has won this matchup without Joel and against a far healthier Pacers squad once before, and they can do it again. The Sixers cannot allow for their bench to let Indiana back into the game like they have done numerous times during their win streak. If those two things are done, tonight’s game shouldn’t be much of a problem for the 76ers.
Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports