Their 112-108 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday night was a notable one for the Philadelphia 76ers. First of all, with the win, the Sixers clinched a postseason appearance for a firth straight season — a solid streak. Postseason seeding in the Eastern Conference remains up in the air, but the Sixers are now assured of a spot regardless of how their last few games turn out.
With the win, the Sixers swept the season series with the Cavaliers, 4-0. Joel Embiid turned in another dominant performance to propel Philadelphia to victory. The big man tallied 44 points and 17 rebounds. It was Embiid’s 11th 40-point, 10-rebound performance this season. Only Russell Westbrook (12 in 2016-17) and Moses Malone (12 in 1981-82) have had more such performances in a season since the NBA/ABA merger in 1976. The game will certainly help to bolster Embiid’s already-impressive MVP case.
The game was statistically significant for Embiid, but it was significant for another reason as well. The game was the 65th that Embiid has appeared in this season. That’s the most games that he’s ever played in a single season. His previous best was 64 games during the 2018-19 season.
For a guy that dealt with serious injury issues early in his career — to the point that people questioned if he would ever even get out on the floor for Philadelphia — this milestone is a meaningful one for Embiid. It’s also worth pointing out that a bulk of the games that Embiid missed this season were COVID-related. He’s been largely healthy otherwise.
Against Cleveland, Embiid also got some major help from his newest running mate. James Harden added 21 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds for the Sixers — his second triple-double with the team. Several of Embiid’s baskets came off of finds from Harden, as the chemistry between the two stars continues to grow.
The Sixers have four regular season games remaining — Pacers (twice), Raptors and Pistons — to work on that chemistry before postseason play gets underway, because when it does, the pressure will be on for a team looking to bounce back after being upset in the second round last season.