Sixers

The seeding scenarios for Sixers heading into final back-to-back

Sixers

Even after losing Thursday night to the Raptors, the Sixers will hold the Eastern Conference's best road record this season at 27-14. 

The team will conclude its home schedule with a back-to-back against the 25-55 Pacers and 23-58 Pistons.

Here are the essentials for Saturday’s meeting with Indiana: 

  • When: 1 p.m. ET with Sixers Pregame Live at 12:30 p.m. 
  • Where: Wells Fargo Center 
  • Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia 
  • Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the MyTeams app 

And here are storylines ahead of the matchup: 

Seeding implications 

The Sixers can finish between third and fifth in the East, but fourth is clearly the likeliest outcome. That they’d lose tiebreakers to the Bucks (season series), Celtics (division record) and Raptors (season series) does not help. A brief rundown: 

The Bucks’ blowout win Friday over the Pistons gave them 51 victories with a game to play. That means the 49-31 Sixers can’t catch Milwaukee in the standings. Miami has clinched the No. 1 seed. 

The Raptors’ comeback victory against Houston moved Toronto to 48-33. In order to take over fourth, the Raptors would need Sixers losses to Indiana and Detroit, plus a win themselves Sunday over the Knicks.

For the Sixers to rise to third, the team must end 2-0 and have the 50-31 Celtics fall to the Grizzlies on Sunday night. There’s plenty of evidence pointing to third being a much better outcome for the Sixers than fourth, including the team’s 4-0 regular-season record against the skidding, sixth-seeded Bulls. 

No Niang for first time in 2022

Georges Niang was ruled out for Saturday’s game with left knee patella tendinopathy. 

 

It will be Niang’s first game sidelined since he missed four mid-December outings in the NBA’s health and safety protocols. He’s appeared in every other contest (a team-high 76) and played 22.8 minutes per game, 6.8 more than his previous career high. 

Niang looks set to be a key piece of the Sixers’ playoff rotation largely because of his high-volume, high-level three-point shooting. Since James Harden’s debut on Feb. 25, Niang has taken 116 catch-and-shoot threes and made 43.1 percent of them. That’s the most attempts for anyone who’s played under 600 minutes during that span. 

Matisse Thybulle is expected to be available after he was ineligible Thursday in Toronto.

Charles Bassey didn’t play in the Delaware Blue Coats’ G League postseason game Friday night because of a right shoulder injury and will be reevaluated in approximately 10 days, per a Sixers official. Jaden Springer scored 30 points, Charlie Brown Jr. posted 28, and the Blue Coats reached the Eastern Conference Finals by beating the Motor City Cruise. They’ll play Raptors 905 on Sunday night. 

As was the case when they lost to the Sixers Tuesday in Indianapolis, the Pacers will be shorthanded and youthful. Malcolm Brogdon (lower back soreness), Goga Bitadze (right foot soreness) and Jalen Smith (left groin soreness) were listed as questionable. 

Harden’s shooting struggles with Embiid on verge of scoring title 

At this point, it would be a major surprise if Joel Embiid does not win the scoring title.

With the Lakers announcing Friday that LeBron James' season is over because of a left ankle sprain, the 37-year-old will wind up two games short of the 70 percent minimum requirement.

Though a player could still win if his scoring would’ve led the league over the minimum number of games, James won’t pull that off. His 1,695 points over 58 games comes out to a 29.2 average. If Embiid went scoreless Saturday and Sunday, his average would be 29.5. Kevin Durant is in a similar position as James — posting a touch over 30 points per game but a bit short of qualifying. 

Giannis Antetokounmpo remains in contention, though he’s well behind after recording 30 points Friday night. Heading into Saturday, Embiid was at 30.42 points per game, Antetokounmpo at 29.88. 

While Embiid’s scored consistently throughout the season, Harden has exceeded 30 just once in his 20 games with the Sixers. He hasn’t shot well from any range besides the foul line. The Sixers would likely feel slightly better heading into the playoffs if Harden flashes improvement with his off-the-dribble explosiveness or outside shooting. Neither of those areas were encouraging in an important loss to the Raptors.

Harden’s workload has remained hefty, too. Head coach Doc Rivers had said that Harden’s approximately 39 minutes per contest during a seven-game stretch between March 7 and March 20 were “too much.” Still, Harden has played 37.4 minutes per game since then despite getting to watch the final quarter of last week's 30-point win over Charlotte.