The Sixers clinched home court advantage for the first round of the playoffs with a 133-120 win over the Indiana Pacers Saturday afternoon. Joel Embiid added a 41-point, 20-rebound performance to his MVP campaign; the big fella did it on an insane 86.8 percent true shooting. James Harden facilitated well for Philly, giving the team 22 points and 14 assists. Danny Green continued to thrive with the starters and Paul Reed took advantage of the opportunity he was given off the bench. Here are some observations from the win:
- Philly got off to another hot start against Indiana. Embiid started the game by going to the free throw line on the first three trips down the court. The Sixers moved the ball well to get out to a double-digit lead early. Danny Green was quite active on the defensive end, and continued to be a good fit as the fifth starter on the offensive end. Green would finish with 15 and has now made 10 three-pointers over his last two games. Tobias Harris shot a perfect 4-of-4 in the first quarter, including a bail out three at the end of the shot clock.
- For the second game in a row, the backup center minutes started with Paul Reed. Bball Paul is such a burst of energy every time he checks in the game. Despite drawing a tough whistle, he was super disruptive on the defensive end. His ability of him to not get blown by every living soul in the gym is such a breathe of fresh air. He is always going to have a problem staying out of foul trouble – he picked up four in the first half – but he had eight points, three boards, three steals and was a plus-7 in his first shift!
- It makes such a difference for this team when they are not hemorrhaging points with Embiid on the bench. The starters came back into the game with a 15-point lead and put it in cruise control through the end of the second quarter. Despite moving the ball well, Philly’s 4-of-13 three-point shooting kept the Pacers very much in the game with the lead at halftime shrinking down to 12.
- The Sixers’ play would remain sloppy, allowing the Pacers to hang around in the game. They allowed 67 points to the Pacers in the second and third quarters combined. Their effort was inconsistent at best all day, but that’s not a huge concern on game 81 of the year. The lead which had grown to as much as 21, was cut to just five in the third quarter.
- It feels like Embiid is shooting 85 percent on step-back threes with the shot clock expiring this season. Another 40-plus-point game where it felt like he didn’t even break a sweat. He heated up at the end of the third, pushing the lead back up to 10 heading into the fourth.
- It was refreshing to see Doc go back to Reed after picking up four fouls in the first half. Reed had to be pulled a little bit before the eight-minute mark, but the Sixers survived the minutes with Embiid on the bench, which is all they need. Bball Paul would finish as a plus-8 with eight points, four boards, and four steals. Solid b-balling all around.
- Another absolutely incredible performance for Embiid, who has made that a nightly habit this season. He was great all afternoon without ever really having to exert himself. Despite a lackluster defensive performance on the day, Philly held off the Pacers’ comeback attempts.
- With this win, the Sixers are guaranteed to have home court advantage in the playoffs. While it is likely that they meet the Toronto Raptors in the 4-5 matchup, they can move into the three seed with a win tomorrow and a Boston loss to Memphis. It will be interesting to see if the Sixers rest anyone tomorrow with their first-round matchup still undecided.