The Sixers have exceeded expectations and they aren’t stopping now.
Getting to the playoffs was the goal. Then it became locking in home-court advantage. Then it evolved to 50 wins.
All have been accomplished following the Sixers' 109-97 victory, their 14th straight, over the Mavericks Sunday (see observations).
“To win 50 games with two games remaining, to have 14 wins in a row to secure a home court advantage," Brett Brown said, "that is fantastic.”
The Sixers have not attained a top-four seed in the East since the 2002-03 season. Now they have set their sights on edging out the Cavaliers for the No. 3 spot. That positioning became even more significant when All-Star guard Kyrie Irving was shut down for the playoffs (knee). The Celtics hold the No. 2 spot in a potential second-round matchup.
On top of that, the Sixers have won 50 games for the first time since 2000-01. This is the 17th season the Sixers reached that mark, ranking them fifth among all NBA teams (Celtics 33, Lakers 32, Spurs 27, Suns 19).
“For me it’s huge,” Ben Simmons said. “For the team, it’s definitely huge. It shows how far we’ve come this season, everyone putting us lower than expected I think that we pushed through the tough times, had a tough start with the teams we played. I think we’ve just gotten a lot better over time.”
What stands out most about the Sixers’ current success is they have been winning without Joel Embiid, who has missed the last five games because of a concussion and orbital fracture. The team has adopted a faster tempo with more three-point shooting. Brown believes they can blend their current style with the way they had been playing with Embiid for the playoffs. While there is no timetable for Embiid to return to the streaking Sixers, his non-game work could begin soon.
“We have not at all talked about any type of restrictions when he does come back, whenever that is,” Brown said. “We’ve talked a lot about what do we do in the lead up to his return to play as it relates to everything — free throw shooting, cardio, etc. We believe that plan will start as early as tomorrow.”
The Sixers' playoff outlook will be determined in a matter of days. Until then, they are eyeing wins in their last two games of the regular season — Tuesday on the road against the Hawks (24-57) and Wednesday hosting the Bucks (43-37). For the first time in six years, their season isn't ending after 82 games.
"For any team in the NBA to get 50 wins is really big," Markelle Fultz said. "But for us coming from the seasons we had previously, coming in our goal was just to make the playoffs and then we just kept adding on."