Sixers observations

3 observations after Sixers win finale without Embiid, still end up in play-in tournament

The Sixers will face the Heat on Wednesday in the play-in tournament.

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The Sixers did their part Sunday afternoon.

However, even with eight consecutive victories, they didn’t get the help required to stay out of the NBA’s play-in tournament. 

The Sixers earned a 107-86 win over the Nets at Wells Fargo Center in their regular-season finale. Because the Magic beat the Bucks and the Pacers topped the Hawks, the Sixers still finished seventh in the Eastern Conference at 47-35. 

The Sixers will host a play-in tournament game Wednesday vs. the Heat. If they win that, they’ll move on to the playoffs as the East’s seventh seed. If they lose to Miami, the Sixers will face the winner of the Bulls-Hawks play-in matchup in a game to determine the No. 8 seed.

The Knicks secured the No. 2 seed Sunday by squeaking past the Bulls in overtime. That means, in the event the Sixers beat the Heat, New York would be their first-round playoff opponent.

Tyrese Maxey scored 26 points vs. the Nets. Tobias Harris recorded 21 points and eight rebounds.

The Sixers were down Joel Embiid (left knee injury recovery), De’Anthony Melton (back injury recovery), KJ Martin (left great toe contusion) and Robert Covington (left knee bone bruise).

Here are observations on the Sixers' blowout win over Brooklyn to conclude the regular season:

Not much cooking early besides Maxey  

The Sixers didn’t start like a team distracted by all the pertinent action happening elsewhere. 

They played active defense, sought out transition opportunities, leaned on Maxey, and scored the day’s first seven points.

Maxey played an especially aggressive first quarter, posting a dozen points on 5-for-9 shooting. However, the Sixers only got 10 points outside of their All-Star guard in the first period. No other Sixer made a three-point shot. 

The Sixers also had several transition defense breakdowns, which head coach Nick Nurse identified as a concern going into the game. Noah Clowney drained a corner three with 5.1 seconds left in the first quarter and Brooklyn grabbed its first lead at 23-22. 

Big men, bench get the job done 

Mo Bamba started in Embiid’s place. With Allen Iverson sitting courtside two days after his sculpture unveiling at the Sixers’ training complex, Bamba gave a Dikembe Mutombo-esque finger wag following his second block on Clowney.

After Bamba’s opening stint, Paul Reed played 12 minutes in a row at center. His best play might’ve been a poised, patient assist to Buddy Hield. When nothing was there for Reed in the post, he waited for a teammate to break free and spotted Hield’s cut down the middle. 

Hield on Sunday became the first NBA player to notch an 84-game season in 19 years. (Casey Jacobsen did it in the 2004-05 season). He gave the Sixers a useful spark off the bench early in the second quarter. Hield scored eight quick points, constantly tried to push the pace, and did solid work defensively. 

The sharpshooting guard nailed a trio of three-pointers late in the third quarter, too. He ended the day with 19 points, seven rebounds and five assists. 

Harris played alongside the Sixers’ second unit and looked to attack often in a 15-point first half. The Sixers were on top when Maxey returned in the second quarter and extended their lead to double digits with triples by Harris and Maxey.

Sixers professionally pull away

The Nets were the better team to begin the third quarter. Cam Thomas drilled two long-range jumpers and Brooklyn went on an 8-2 run. 

Bamba was strong to open the third, chipping in a couple of put-back buckets. Kyle Lowry contributed plenty of tough, smart plays that helped the Sixers get back on track, including a drawn offensive foul on Nic Claxton in the post.

Lowry was scoreless Sunday, but he dished out eight assists and brought all the qualities of a six-time All-Star who’s got many playoff and playoff-like games under his belt. 

Hield's shooting flurry put the Sixers ahead by 18 points after three quarters. By early in the fourth, the Nets' demeanor was that of a team aware its season was just about over.

Nurse called timeout at the 7:34 mark of the fourth quarter, subbed Jeff Dowtin Jr. and Ricky Council IV in, and watched his team wrap up another win. The play-in tournament's on deck.

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