As the No. 1 seed in the NBA’s Eastern Conference, the 76ers will be playing the No. 8 team, which will be determined in the play-in tournament that includes teams seeded 7-10. The opening game for the Sixers is expected to be Saturday.
The Nos. 7 and 8 seeds have to win only one game, while the No. 9 and 10 seeds have to win twice. The Sixers won’t know their opponent until after Thursday’s final Eastern Conference play-in game.
Here is a look at the matchups:
No. 10 Charlotte (33-39) at No. 9 Indiana (34-38), Tuesday, 6:30 p.m.
Line: Pacers -3.5
The winner of this game visits the loser of the 7-8 game on Thursday for the No. 8 seed.
The loser of this game sees its season end.
What to watch: Charlotte won two of three this season against Indiana, but the Hornets have hit a skid after losing Gordon Hayward with a right foot sprain. They have lost five in a row and are 8-15 in the last 23 games without Hayward, who is listed as out for the game.
Rookie of the year candidate point guard LaMelo Ball averages 15.7 points and 6.1 assists. But in his last four games, he shot 17-for-55 from the field (30.9%). Indiana center Myles Turner, who has been sidelined since April 18 with a right toe injury, has already been ruled out. Former Sixers point guard T.J. McConnell averaged 11 assists in his last three games. Domantas Sabonis is a double-double machine, averaging 20.3 points, 12.0 rebounds and 6.7 assists.
What the Sixers are watching: The Sixers were 3-0 against Charlotte and 2-1 against Indiana, although the Pacers won the most recent meeting, 103-94, at home last Tuesday. Joel Embiid missed the game with a non-COVID-19 illness. Sabonis had a triple-double: 16 points, 15 assists, and 13 rebounds. Sabonis is listed as questionable with a bruised left quadriceps.
Neither Charlotte nor Indiana has a player who can match up with Embiid, and both also struggled containing Tobias Harris, who averaged 27 points in two games against the Pacers and 24 points in three games against the Hornets.
No. 8 Washington (34-38) at No. 7 Boston (36-36), Tuesday, 9 p.m.
Line: Boston -1.5
The winner of this game earns the No. 7 seed.
The loser of this game meets the winner of the Game 1 for the right to be the No. 8 seed.
What to watch: Boston was 2-1 this season against Washington. The Wizards were a different team down the stretch, finishing 17-6 in their last 23 games. In those games, Russell Westbrook averaged 23 points, 13.5 rebounds, and 14.0 assists. He also passed Oscar Robertson’s record for career triple doubles, and has 184. Bradley Beal returned to action and scored 25 points in Sunday’s 115-110 win over Charlotte. He missed the previous three games with a hamstring injury and was rusty against Charlotte, shooting 8-for-27.
Boston will be without All-Star swingman Jaylen Brown, who recently underwent season-ending wrist surgery. That means fellow All-Star Jayson Tatum (26.4 ppg) will have to carry the Celtics’ offense. The injury-plagued Celtics have lost five of their last six.
What the Sixers are watching: This season, the Sixers were 3-0 against both Boston and Washington. The Washington backcourt will be a handful to deal with. Beal scored 60 points in a 141-136 loss to the Sixers on Jan. 6, but neither the Wizards nor Celtics could match the Sixers inside. Embiid averaged 38.3 points in three games against Boston and 30.0 in three games against Washington.
Ben Simmons usually does a good job defending Tatum. This year, Tatum played just one game against the Sixers and scored 20 points.
Boston’s Tristan Thompson is an undersized center who hasn’t played well this season, and Robert Williams is foul prone and inconsistent. One person who could be a factor for Boston is sharpshooter Evan Fournier, who averaged 13 points and shot 46.3% from three-point range after being acquired at the March 25 trade deadline from Orlando. The Sixers didn’t face Boston with Fournier in the lineup.