By Saboke Masaki
A 122-97 blowout win over the Orlando Magic Saturday morning clinched the Philadelphia 76ers the top seed in the Eastern Conference, guaranteeing them home-court advantage through to at least, the East’s finals.
This is only the third time in 44 seasons that the Sixers have clinched the top spot. The victory is also their first in 20 years, something Joel Embiid describes as motivational for the team.
“Home-court advantage helps a lot,” said the Cameroonian center. “We’ve been dominant at home; we barely lose here. It means a lot to have the No. 1 seed.”
Embiid’s words are not hyperbolic; the Sixers being 28-7 at home this season, which is best in the East and second to only the Jazz this season. Apart from a relatively easier path to the NBA finals, this is one of the reasons the team aggressively pursued the top seed.
“I think for this team, being as young as we are, to have home-court is really important and so we should be proud of it,” sixers’ coach Doc Rivers said after the win.
For the first round, the Sixers will face the winner of the East’s final playoff position in this year’s play-in tournament which will feature the Boston Celtics, Charlotte Hornets, Indiana Pacers and Washington Wizards. Their path to the NBA finals will most likely involve the Miami Heat, Milwaukee Bucks or Brooklyn Nets with the last two guaranteed to be a nail-biting series.
The Sixers coined the phrase “Trust the process” (which later became popular in sports and culture) and it is now time to collect. Everyone from Coach Rivers to the duo of Embiid and Simmons are under immense pressure this season, anything short of an NBA championship this year will be a failure for the franchise seeking their fourth banner.