SAN FRANCISCO – The 76ers still have a chance to secure home advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
But if we learned one thing Saturday night, getting there might be a tough task regardless of how easy their remaining schedule is.
Despite playing without three starters, Saturday night’s game against the depleted Golden State Warriors was supposed to be a guaranteed victory. Yet, the Sixers exited Chase Center with a 118-114 setback, their 10th loss in the last 11 road games.
Philly (38-26) is in sixth place in the Eastern Conference standings with 18 games remaining. The top four teams in the conference will receive home-court advantage in the opening road of the playoffs. The Sixers are 3 games behind the fourth-place Miami Heat.
Entering the Golden State game, Philly had the NBA’s third-easiest remaining schedule, according to Tankathon. Their remaining opponents had a combined winning percentage of .449.
But Saturday marked another missed opportunity to gain ground in the standings.
“I mean at this point in the season, when you see that there’s fewer and fewer games, you have to handle business,” said Al Horford, whose squad went 1-3 on the California road trip. "What’s most frustrating about this one was that we were in control most of the game. It’s dangerous when you kind of let a team keep hanging and hanging, we’re never able to quite pull away, we kept on trading baskets with them and it wasn’t good enough [Saturday night].”
Golden State shot 66.7% and made 10 of 12 foul shots in the final quarter. The Warriors made 7 of their last 9 shots before making 5 of 6 foul shots in the final 51.7 seconds.
Meanwhile, the Sixers shot just 38.1% in the final quarter.
They missed their final four shots and committed two costly turnovers after Tobias Harris’ three-pointer gave them a 114-113 lead with 1 minute, 31 seconds remaining. The final turnover came when Furkan Korkmaz stepped out of bounds after receiving the inbounds pass with 6.1 seconds left.
Two players with Philadelphia ties had a hand in beating the Sixers.
The Warriors (15-49) took the lead for good on former Villanova standout Eric Paschall’s foul shots that made it a 115-114 game with 51.7 seconds left.
Former Drexel and Louisville standout Damion Lee paced the Warriors with 24 points. Paschall added 23. It marked the fourth time in the last five games that Paschall scored at least 20 points and the 13th time this season.
The Sixers couldn’t use playing without three key starters — All-Stars Ben Simmons (pinched nerve in his lower back), Joel Embiid (shoulder sprain), and Josh Richardson (concussion protocol) — as an excuse.
The Warriors were without Steph Curry. The two-time league MVP and six-time All-Star had the flu.
Curry’s backcourt mate and five-time All-Star Klay Thompson has been sidelined the entire season with a torn left ACL. Three-time All-Star Draymond Green (left knee soreness) missed his fifth consecutive game.
The Warriors were also without Kevon Looney (left hip soreness), Ky Bowman (right ankle sprain), and Alen Smailagic (right quadriceps contusion).
“I think this is a missed opportunity,” coach Brett Brown said. “You’re on the cusp of feeling how we should feel and it’s been a pretty good trip, but this is certainly a dampener for our guys.
“No one is going to punt it around and not treat it as a way to not admit stuff and get better, but it would’ve been great to win and then go home.”
The good thing for the Sixers is that their next four, along with five of their next six games, are at home where they have a league-best 28-2 mark.