Sixers top Nets in regular-season finale, will next face Miami Heat in play-in tournament

Gina Mizell, The Philadelphia Inquirer on

Published in Basketball

PHILADELPHIA — Paul Reed launched the deep pass to Buddy Hield, who easily laid in the ball to put the 76ers up by 25 points.

The Sixers did their job Sunday, topping the Brooklyn Nets, 107-86, in their regular-season finale Sunday afternoon at the Wells Fargo Center to take an eight-game winning streak into the postseason.

But they did not get the help from the Milwaukee Bucks required for the Sixers to move up to sixth place in the Eastern Conference standings, and out of the Play-In Tournament. Instead, the Sixers will host the Miami Heat Wednesday in a matchup between the seventh and eight seeds, and the winner will move on to face the second-seeded New York Knicks. The loser will host the winner of the matchup between Chicago Bulls (ninth) and Atlanta Hawks (10th), for the right to snag the eighth seed and face the top-seeded Boston Celtics in the first round.

“We’ve had some great battles with [Miami],” coach Nick Nurse said after the game. “I think [I] always expect that versus them. … It’s kind of the way we’ve been treating the last month of the year. We’ve been digging in and playing our guys whatever we have to — and doing whatever we got to do — to win, and we’ve got a good mindset.”

The Orlando Magic’s victory over the Bucks, combined with the Indiana Pacers’ win over the Hawks, created a three-way tie at 47-35 that placed the Magic in fifth (because they won the Southeast Division), the Pacers in sixth (because they won two of the three regular-season meetings against the Sixers), and the Sixers in seventh.

But even more pressing for the Sixers is the health status of Joel Embiid, who did not play Sunday for what the team termed as “left knee injury recovery” following meniscus surgery that sidelined the NBA’s reigning Most Valuable Player for eight weeks.


Embiid briefly left Friday’s win against the Orlando Magic after appearing to aggravate that knee, but returned in the second half. He finished the Sixers’ victory with 32 points, 13 rebounds, and seven assists, but had left the locker room by the time it was open to the media. Nurse reiterated that Embiid participated in Saturday’s light practice, that Sunday’s absence was for precautionary reasons, and that the he will “be ready to go” for Wednesday’s game.

Without Embiid Sunday, Tyrese Maxey (26 points) and Tobias Harris (21 points, eight rebounds), and Hield (19 points, seven rebounds, five assists) handled the offensive load. The Sixers led by as many as 13 in the first half, when Maxey sank two free throws in the second quarter’s final minute. Their advantage grew to 81-64 when Hield hit three-pointers on back-to-back possessions, including one just before the third-quarter buzzer. It then extended to 28 points in the final period, once the Nets began subbing out their rotation players.

Sunday concluded the Sixers’ roller-coaster regular season. They traded disgruntled star guard James Harden on Nov. 1. They rolled to a 29-13 record in late January, as Embiid put up MVP-caliber, historic numbers — including a 70-point outburst in a victory over the San Antonio Spurs — and Maxey ascended into an All-Star. Then, they slogged through two months while Embiid recovered from surgery, before finishing with eight consecutive victories after his return.


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