The Philadelphia 76ers got to the free-throw line 42 times on Sunday versus Cleveland. They made 35 of those attempts and slogged down the game in what has become the team’s trademark style of play since pairing James Harden with Joel Embiid.
Those two players combined to go 28-of-32 from the charity stripe. Embiid scored 44 points and Harden had 21 during a 112-018 victory on the road. Afterward, Cavaliers head coach J.B. Bickerstaff lashed out at the officials for calling so many fouls and allowing the Sixers to dictate the tempo. Philadelphia was whistled 19 times, compared to 28 for Cleveland.
“That game was taken from us. We deserved to win it,” Bickerstaff told reporters, via ESPN. “They’re great players, and they understand how to play through the rules. They know how to manipulate the rules.”
Bickerstaff went on to say “this is no knock or disrespect” on the Sixers. They simply took advantage of the opportunities afforded to them. His main complaint was that the referees didn’t call the game consistently on both ends of the floor. Philly got the brunt of the calls, in his opinion.
“We were searching for that consistency,” Bickerstaff said, “and we never found it.”
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Sixers Clinch 5th Straight Postseason Spot
Philadelphia will witness playoff basketball for the fifth consecutive year after the Sixers clinched a postseason berth on Sunday. They currently hold the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference and would host the Chicago Bulls in the first round if the season ended today. It doesn’t. There are four games left in the regular season: at Indiana (April 5), at Toronto (April 7), vs. Indiana (April 9), vs. Detroit (April 10).
Head coach Doc Rivers previously stated he isn’t interested in playing for seeding. It’s going to be a tough draw no matter whom the Sixers get in the first round.
“This is going to be tough sledding for everyone. We all see it. The East is stacked,” Rivers said on March 29. “Who do you want to play? None of them, they’re all good. It’s just the way it is, and you just have to be ready to play any of them.”
NBA MVP Ladder ‘Too Close to Call’
Embiid has been leading the MVP race for the majority of the season, although things are tightening up in the “KIA MVP Ladder” thanks to a dominant week from Giannis Antetokounmpo. The top three for the week ending on April 1, 2022 had dropped Embiid to No. 3 with Nikola Jokic taking No. 1 and Antetokounmpo at No. 2.
The Sixers had been riding a three-game losing streak before knocking off Charlotte and Cleveland in consecutive games. Embiid already made his intentions clear about who should take home MVP: it’s him, no question. But the Sixers’ big man will have to wait and see what the voters decide. All three players – Embiid, Antetokounmpo, Jokic – have certainly earned the right to be in that conversation.
Said Antetokounmpo (via ESPN): “It doesn’t really matter because at the end of the day if you don’t have a successful season, you don’t try to keep getting better, and staying humble, and staying hungry to play all the way to May or June, nobody is gonna remember this,”