Sixers clinch playoff spot in Eastern Conference for first time since 2011-12

Nets 76ers Basketball
Joel Embiid’s Sixers have clinched a playoff spot.

The 76ers clinched their first playoff appearance since the 2011-12 season on Sunday night. That was just a step toward their ultimate goal, they’ll tell you.

“We want more,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said this weekend. “I want more. I want our players to hear me say that. They echo it. It’s not like I’m pulling teeth.”

The Sixers expected to qualify for the playoffs. They have a 42-30 record and are in fourth place in the Eastern Conference standings. The conference’s top eight teams at the end of the regular season advance to the postseason. The Sixers clinched a spot on their off day thanks to the Indiana Pacers.

The Pacers secured postseason berths for themselves and the Sixers on Sunday by defeating the visiting Miami Heat, 113-107,  in overtime.  The Pacers (43-31) are in fifth place, only percentage points behind the Sixers.

By now, a lot of fans are aware of the Sixers’ goal to finish with a top-four spot to get home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. They also want to finish the regular season with at least 50 wins. They must win at least eight of their remaining 10 games to accomplish that goal.

However, reaching the playoffs is still a major accomplishment for a Sixers squad that finished 10-72 two seasons ago.

Granted, that was the third season of a four-year tank job by the team to acquire top draft picks. “The Process” is far from complete with a postseason appearance. But it shows that the team is trending in the right direction.

The Sixers have already secured their first winning season since finishing 35-31 during the 2011-12 campaign.  They have most wins in a season since they went  43-39 in 2004-05.

Tough test on tap

Monday’s night contest against Denver  could be the Sixers’ toughest game in their last seven.

The Nuggets (40-33) head into the Wells Fargo Center after impressive road victories over Chicago and Washington. They coasted to a 33-point rout over the Bulls on Wednesday, then beat the Wizards, 108-100, on Friday.

“They move the ball pretty well, starting with [Nikola] Jokic, a pretty good big man, extremely skilled,” Joel Embiid said. “I’m excited to play them.”

Meanwhile, Jokic leads all NBA centers with 6.0 assists per game. The 6-foot-11, 250-pounder also averages 17.7 points and 10.5 rebounds. But he’s not Denver’s only standout.

“They’ve got a lot of guards that can really play and shoot the ball,” said Embiid. “So it’s definitely going to be a fast game. We’ve got to come out and be ready and, you know, execute and do the same stuff we been doing for the past three games.”

The Sixers won their last three games by an average of 15.3 points.