East’s top seed in hand, Sixers cap regular season vs. Magic


East’s top seed in hand, Sixers cap regular season vs. Magic

Not that long ago, the Philadelphia 76ers started 1-30 and finished 10-72.

They’ve come a long way since that 2015-16 season.

The Sixers clinched the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs Friday night with a 122-97 win over the Orlando Magic. The Sixers will host the Magic in the regular-season finale Sunday night, though look for the starters to rest the entire game.

The Sixers (48-23) will be the No. 1 seed for the first time in two decades, dating to when they advanced all the way to the NBA Finals in 2001.

“Every year we’ve gotten better,” said Joel Embiid, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. “I just feel like everything was fitting from the owners, the coaches, the front office, the players. I just feel like everybody was on the same page, and that’s why we were able to have such a good regular season.”

Players such as Embiid, Ben Simmons, Tobias Harris, Danny Green and Seth Curry will receive some much-needed rest as the Sixers will have time before their first-round playoff series.

The Sixers were swept by the Boston Celtics in the first round in the bubble last season near Orlando. Head coach Brett Brown was fired and Doc Rivers was hired.

“I think we knew we had special pieces on the team and a great opportunity,” Simmons said. “But it was good to get a little change-up in the Sixers organization in terms of a new coaching staff and bringing in some guys who have had that experience of going to championships and deep into playoff runs.”

Dwight Howard was suspended for Friday’s game after receiving his 16th technical foul. He will be available to play in this game.

The depleted Magic (21-50) hope to end their season by avoiding a seventh straight defeat.

Ignas Brazdeikis led the Magic with 21 points off the bench on Friday. Dwayne Bacon missed all 11 shots from the field but hit all four free throws. R.J. Hampton had 12 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists.

The injury-plagued Magic were without a number of key players such as Jonathan Isaac (left knee), Markelle Fultz (torn left ACL), Otto Porter Jr. (left foot) and Terrence Ross (back), among others.

In seven games with the Magic, Brazdeikis has reached double figures three times.

“He’s got size. He has a good feel for the game,” Magic coach Steve Clifford said of the 6-foot-6 Brazdeikis, a second-year player with who is with his third NBA team. “You can see that he has NBA size, and I would think, I would say, a good IQ. So he has some things going for him.”

Cole Anthony played a strong game and finished with 11 points. It was also a learning experience for him guarding the 6-foot-11 Simmons.

“That team is tough,” Anthony said. “I don’t think I have had anyone all season, or my entire life, guard me like Ben Simmons. That dude is 6-10, 260 and moves as fast as me. So that’s definitely one of the hardest defensive matchups I’ve had to deal with. There’s a reason they’re the No. 1 seed in the East.”

–Field Level Media

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