The Philadelphia 76ers surely aren't making the process of locking up the Eastern Conference's top seed easy on themselves. Had they won against the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday night, the next three games wouldn't mean much for the Sixers.
However, the Pacers were playing for the opportunity to clinch a spot in the NBA's Play-In tournament. They wanted it more, and they showed that much when they defeated the Sixers 103-94.
Philly had an opportunity to earn the No. 1 seed once again with a matchup against the Miami Heat on Thursday night, but things went South in South Beach for the Sixers as they took on a terrible 106-94 loss to the Heat.
The Heat had already clinched a spot in the postseason before Thursday's game, but it didn't mean they had nothing to play for against the Sixers.
Not only was Miami looking to improve their seeding in the East, but it seemed they also wanted to send a message to their possible second-round opponent on Thursday, and Tobias Harris felt it coming.
“I think every team we play against is trying to send a message to us," Harris said after the loss. "I mean, we are the number one team in the East. Every team we have gone up against has tried to send a message to us. And every game we have played, we have either come in there and said we’re number one for a reason and you’re not going to send a message to us, or we’ve come into games like tonight [where] we didn’t come up to the challenge."
From the jump, the Heat looked like a much better team on Thursday. Through the first 12 minutes of action, the Heat outscored the Sixers 38-22 and then followed up with a 22-19 second quarter allowing Miami to go into halftime up 19 points.
The Sixers didn't call it an early night right away, but it didn't take long before they started clearing the bench and accepting defeat on the first night of a back-to-back.
"They definitely did send a message," Harris admitted. "We will go into tomorrow’s game with that focus and that energy that we need, and we have to be better. We have to get better. And that’s always been our mentality, win or lose. What way can we get better?”
The Sixers are set to take on the Orlando Magic at home on Friday night. With a win, they can lock up the first seed finally. If they get defeated instead, they'll have just one more shot to take the top spot without the worry of any other team grabbing it.