By Peter Gleason
Tonight’s Sixers-Pacers scrum at the Wells could be a playoffs preview.
If the season ended today, here are the Eastern Conference match-ups:
(1) Toronto Raptors (49-17) vs. (8) Milwaukee Bucks (35-31)
(2) Boston Celtics (46-21) vs. (7) Miami Heat (36-31)
(3) Indiana Pacers (39-28) vs. (6) SIXERS (36-29)
(4) Cleveland Cavaliers (38-28) vs. (5) Washington Wizards (38-29)
ESPN’s BPI playoff odds are giving the Pacers a near-to-certain 99.7 percent chance of making the playoffs but project them to go 6-9 over their final 15 games, a win-loss percentage which would drop them to the seventh seed and into a first round match-up with the Boston Celtics.
In that scenario, the Sixers would wrestle away control of third place while Washington and Miami would also move ahead of the Pacers.
Philly’s closing schedule is incredibly soft, but Joel Embiid has played more minutes than ever before in his career and he’s seems to be showing some signs of cumulative fatigue. He shot 5-of-18 from the field against the Heat on Thursday, and he’s committed five fouls in half of his team’s last eight games.
He bounced back with 21 points on 9-of-17 shooting against Brooklyn’s thin interior depth on Sunday, but he could have had four full days of rest if the Sixers had made the decision to sit him out before tomorrow’s tiebreaker-deciding game with the Pacers.
By comparison, Philly has eight more games against team’s with losing records than Indiana.