The 76ers hosted the New Orleans Pelicans tonight, with Philadelphia escaping with a narrow 109-107 victory, marking their seventh consecutive win in the few weeks remaining before the playoffs arrive.
A 16-point halftime lead, coupled with the fact that the Pelicans were without franchise forwards Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram, had the Sixers faithful thinking blow-out. That was, until a super shaky third quarter performance, which saw them outscored 37-18, and actually entered the fourth quarter with a 3-point deficit. In that perilous quarter, the Pelicans hit on two-thirds of their shot attempts, while the Sixers were held to just 32% shooting.
The Sixers relied on the heroics of Joel Embiid, who supplied a casual 37 points, 13 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 blocks and hit all 12 of his free throws in 33 minutes of action. Just another day at the office.
Ben Simmons nearly finished with a triple double, accumulating 8 points, 10 assists and 9 rebounds, along with a pair of steals. Seth Curry had 16 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, and 4 threes. Tobias Harris chipped in 17 points of his own, and George Hill scored 11 in his 16 minutes off the bench.
In the absence of Williamson, Ingram, Josh Hart and Steven Adams, New Orleans got some key contributions from Jaxson Hayes, who finished with 19 points and 8 rebounds off the bench. Guard Lonzo Ball scored 18 points, but was 6/18 from the field and committed 5 turnovers. Wenyen Gabriel tied his career-high with 12 points in the losing effort.
With the win, the Sixers will improve to 46-21. They now hold a 3 game lead on the Milwaukee Bucks for first place in the east. The Pelicans will fall to 30-37, and currently sit in 11th place, just outside the western conference play-in tournament. The Sixers' magic number to clinch the eastern conference's top spot is cut down to three. If they keep winning like they have as of late, that shouldn't be a problem. They have gotten hot (and healthy) just in time for the big dance. Keeping that number one seed will be instrumental for avoiding matchups with Milwaukee/Brooklyn in the second round, and give them home-court advantage throughout their half of the bracket.