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Going into Saturday afternoon’s game against the Charlotte Hornets, the Philadelphia 76ers had an opportunity to guarantee their spot in the 2022 NBA Playoffs. 

Considering the Sixers have been within the Eastern Conference’s top four for quite some time now, Philly knew it was only a matter of time before they punch their ticket to the postseason.

Last week, the Miami Heat clinched their spot first as they’ve consistently been in the Eastern Conference’s top seed. Meanwhile, the Milwaukee Bucks and the Boston Celtics earned their spot earlier this week as results around the conference fell into their favor as they kept winning.

A victory on Saturday would’ve offered the Sixers a chance to become the fourth team in the East to clinch a spot, but another game had to fall in their favor if they defeated the Hornets.

Checking Off the First Accomplishment

The Hornets came to South Philly on a roll. In their last ten games, they’ve picked up eight victories. With Gordon Hayward getting back in their lineup after being out for the last month, Charlotte was expected to offer a tough matchup for the Sixers.

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But the slumping Sixers got out of their recent rut and dominated from start to finish on Saturday. While the first half of the matchup was tight as the Sixers led 58-53 at halftime, a third-quarter rally put the Sixers so far out in front that they had an opportunity to sit most of their starting lineup for the rest of the game.

After picking up a dominant 144-114 victory on Saturday, the Sixers checked off their first accomplishment on the to-do list to make the playoffs officially.

Cleveland Keeps Them Waiting

The Sixers got the victory that they needed on Saturday, but they were relying on the New York Knicks to defeat the Cleveland Cavaliers in order for their trip to the playoffs to become official.

Unfortunately, the Knicks couldn’t get it done. With a shorthanded lineup, New York struggled to overcome Cleveland, who is working on solidifying their spot in the playoffs as well.

Therefore, the Sixers aren’t playoff-bound quite yet. And since the Cavs defeated the Knicks on Saturday, Sunday’s matchup between Philadelphia and Cleveland becomes more interesting as a Sixers victory would officially put them in the playoffs. 

The Sixers and the Cavaliers are set to tip-off in Cleveland at 6:00 PM ET. On Sunday. 

Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for Sports Illustrated. You can follow him for live updates on Twitter: @JGrasso_.