This past Friday night, the Philadelphia 76ers clinched the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference with a win over the Orlando Magic. With just one game left to go in the regular season, the Sixers had nothing left to prove.
Sixers head coach Doc Rivers has been saying for weeks that getting guys to the playoffs healthy is the team's top priority, even over locking in the first seed. So, when the 76ers finally did reach the top, key players sat out instead of playing, as expected.
When Sunday's season finale rolled around, the Sixers were set to play the Orlando Magic once again. Except for the circumstances on Sunday were much different. Philly's entire starting lineup was ruled out before the matchup.
In addition to the absences of Joel Embiid, Tobias Harris, Danny Green, Seth Curry, and Ben Simmons, the Sixers also missed Matisse Thybulle, who sat for his fourth-straight game due to precautionary reasons related to his swollen hand.
With all of those guys out, it became clear the Sixers were ready to live with the results of a possible loss -- but their group of low-minute guys wouldn't allow it. Sixers rookies Tyrese Maxey, Paul Reed, and Isaiah Joe all had themselves a game on Sunday.
And after a tight battle back and forth with the Magic, the Sixers managed to pull away and come out on top in the second half with a 128-117 victory. While Philly's 49th win doesn't do anything for the standings as they couldn't go any higher, clinching a 49-23 record does have its perks.
At this point, not only does the road to the 2021 NBA Finals run through Philly as long as the 76ers stay alive, but the Sixers could earn homecourt advantage in the Finals, too, as long as they wouldn't face the Utah Jazz or the Phoenix Suns.
While it's way too early to start claiming the Sixers are a sure bet to represent the East in the Finals, it's still necessary to note that the NBA Playoff picture couldn't have panned out any better for the Philadelphia 76ers this year.