For the first time in a while, this newsletter comes after a 76ers loss. The eight-game winning streak was snapped Tuesday night by a 103-94 loss at Indiana.
The Sixers (47-22) have a magic number of one to clinch the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. Either one Sixers win or one Brooklyn Nets loss in the final three games for both teams would clinch the top seed. The Nets will host San Antonio on Wednesday.
Next up for the Sixers is a game that promises to be difficult. They will visit the Miami Heat on Thursday, their final road game of the regular season.
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The Heat are surging
The Heat (38-31) are peaking at the right time. They have won three in a row and six of seven, including Tuesday’s 129-121 win in Boston. It was the second victory in three days over the host Celtics and also clinched Miami a playoff berth.
“We’re trending in the right direction, guys are feeling good about where we are going, but that doesn’t guarantee anything on a night-to-night basis,” Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said after Tuesday’s game.
Former Sixer Jimmy Butler suffered an eye injury in the first half Tuesday and didn’t return.
“He was warming up with a ball in the locker room to start the fourth quarter, gearing up, getting ready to play,” Spoelstra said.
Others picked up the pace. Tyler Herro, since returning after missing six games with a foot injury, has averaged 23 points in the last three games. He had 24 points and 11 rebounds Tuesday.
The Sixers played against Indiana without Joel Embiid (non-COVID illness), Matisse Thybulle (sore left hand), Shake Milton (sore right knee), and Furkan Korkmaz (sprained right ankle).
This season the Sixers are 9-11 without Embiid in the lineup. They led Indiana by as many as 16 points, but were outscored by 52-32 in the second half.
Tobias Harris, who had 27 points against Indiana, talked afterward about the needed mindset against Miami.
“We just have to bounce back,” Harris said. “I mean, obviously this is a terrible loss for us as a group. It’s a game that we had, but we lost our composure throughout the fourth quarter, which can’t happen for a team striving to be how good we want to be as a group.”
One interesting subplot: Miami is a potential second-round opponent for the Sixers. If the Sixers are the No. 1 seed and win their first-round series, they would play the 4-5 winner. Right now, Atlanta, Miami and New York occupy the 4-6 spots in the Eastern Conference, all with 38-31 records.
Of the three, Miami, last year’s Eastern Conference champion, would appear to be the biggest threat.
Keith Pompey writes: When the Sixers’ playoff run begins, who plays and who doesn’t? This is a good week to start finding out.
In the final week of the regular season, the Sixers have moved to No. 1 in The Inquirer’s NBA power rankings.
Pompey writes that the latest player signed by the Sixers is forward Gary Clark, who agreed to a two-way deal.
Pompey reported that Embiid didn’t travel with the Sixers to Indiana.
Damichael Cole writes that Raven Johnson, a South Carolina recruit, made history at the Iverson Classic as the first girl to play in a boys’ basketball All-American game.
In the NBA these days, players of all sizes are three-point threats.
Just look at the top 10 players in three point percentage. Of that group, five are 6-foot-8 or taller. One, Kevin Durant, is listed at 6-10, but is believed to be closer to 7-foot. Durant, who has played in just 32 games, is shooting a career-best 46.9% from beyond the arc.
Here is the top 10, with their heights and three-point percentage from NBA.com
1. Joe Harris, 6-6, Brooklyn, 47.5%
2. Marcus Morris, 6-8, LAC, 47.1
3. Kevin Durant, 6-10, Brooklyn, 46.9
4. Bobby Portis, 6-10, Milwaukee, 46.7
5. Luke Kennard, 6-5, LAC, 46.4
6. Joe Ingles, 6-8, Utah, 45.9
7. Bryn Forbes, 6-2, Milwaukee, 45.0
8. Michael Porter Jr., 6-10, Denver, 45.0
9. Seth Curry, Sixers, 6-2, 44.3
10. Desmond Bane, Memphis, 6-5, 44.0
Golden State guard Stephen Curry, considered the most lethal long-range shooter, is 19th on the list, at 42.1%.
Tomorrow: Sixers at Miami Heat, 7:30 p.m., American Airlines Arena, NBC Sports Philadelphia
Friday: Orlando Magic at Sixers, 8 p.m., Wells Fargo Center, NBC Sports Philadelphia
Sunday: Orlando Magic at Sixers, TBD, Wells Fargo Center, NBC Sports Philadelphia
May 18-21: Play-in tournament
May 22: NBA playoffs begin
Passing the rock
Question: Will Embiid be ready to play 35+ minutes in the playoffs? In order to go far they need him. — Joe Galliera from Facebook
Answer: Thanks for the question, Joe. I think the plan is to play him at least 35 minutes, but I am not sure that would be the best plan, especially in the first round when they should have a huge advantage against a No. 8 seed (if they, as expected, earn the No. 1 seed).
Embiid has averaged 31.4 minutes this season. We don’t know his status because of his current illness, but no matter how much he plays in the next three games, the Sixers will have at least five full days off before they begin postseason play. No doubt they will likely go hard in some of the practices leading up to the playoffs. So he could be ready to play extended minutes.