The Philadelphia 76ers clinched their fourth consecutive playoff appearance by virtue of a 127-83 blowout win. After Wednesday’s win, there were no champagne baths or beer showers. Sixers players barely cracked a knowing smile of achievement.
Why no joy on Broad Street? Simple. This team has been down this road before and last year it ended with a first-round playoff exit. They were built to win a championship. Not in 2022. Not in 2023. This year. Right now. Veteran forward Tobias Harris acknowledged that “greatness” is what is expected.
“It’s Philadelphia basketball,” Harris told reporters. “Greatness is really something that is expected from our fans, is expected from us as a group, and it’s one of our goals day in and day out so we understand that. And we’re not a team in the locker room celebrating clinching playoffs right now. We want to celebrate when we’re able to win big in this postseason and that’s our goal.”
Harris finished with 17 points in 26 minutes against the Atlanta Hawks as the Sixers starters improved to 21-4 on the year. It’s been a struggle keeping them all healthy — Harris, Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, Danny Green — but everyone knows what they are capable of doing. Winning a championship has been the goal from the first day of training camp.
“Coming into the season our goal was to win the championship but there are steps to get there,” said Embiid who scored 17 points in 25 minutes on Wednesday night. “You got to make the playoffs. You got to win the first round, second round, conference finals, and then get to the Finals. It’s a long road, you got to be focused for it, and I think we have everything we need to make it happen. So it’s all about us coming together and dominating every game.”
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Doc Rivers Empties Bench Against Hawks
Head coach Doc Rivers started emptying his bench early in the third quarter with the game out of reach. The Sixers built a 28-point cushion at halftime before winning by 44 points. The Hawks came into this one undermanned without All-Star guard Trae Young (left ankle), but don’t discount what the Sixers accomplished. Especially a dominating effort from the Philly bench which outscored Atlanta 60-24.
“It’s obviously not planned but it’s nice when it happens,” Rivers said of his bench minutes. “And they are playing in rhythm as well. So getting both of those things, getting them minutes, and getting guys rest is good.”
Shake Milton and Furkan Korkmaz paced the reserves with 12 points apiece, while Tyrese Maxey (11 points) continued his assault on the rim. He had been settling for three-pointers and mid-range jumpers early in the year. Now he’s looking to get inside for easy lay-ups every time down the court.
“He wasn’t getting minutes for a while and we encouraged it,” Rivers said of Maxey. “Now he sees it. He sees he can do it. Before, he kept pulling up and taking that in-between shot which is not a great shot. But now with his speed getting to the basket, it gives us what we honestly don’t have and it’s great for us.”
Joel Embiid Encourages Eagles to ‘Trust the Process’
The NFL draft takes place on Thursday night in Cleveland and the hometown team holds the No. 12 pick. Embiid was asked for his thoughts on the annual event and what he thought the Eagles might do. The All-Star big man gave the most politically correct answer by saying he wants the “whole city of Philadelphia to succeed.”
Embiid said: “I want the Sixers to win. I want the Eagles to win. I want the Phillies to win. I want the Union to win. I want the Flyers to win.”
Then, Embiid channeled that “Trust the Process” mentality. He knows the Eagles are in rebuild mode and hopes they follow the same plan the Sixers did.
“We were at that stage a couple of years ago so I know how it goes,” Embiid said. “I hope they make the best decisions for the franchise, I guess. and take the best player available, just like we did every single time.”