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76ers realizing they may need more than home-court advantage to pave road to NBA title

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Even in the COVID era, the Philadelphia 76ers think having home-court advantage in the postseason is vital toward any run to an NBA championship.

That seems only right. The Sixers are 25-7 at home this season, best in the Eastern Conference. But they also realize that home-court is no magic potion for a title. That's why Sixers coach Doc Rivers has been emphasizing that his team has to win no matter where they play.

The Sixers rode Joel Embiid’s 34-point, 12-rebound effort to a 135-115 win over the undermanned Houston Rockets.

It was the Sixers’ sixth consecutive win. More importantly, it was their third straight road win.

“That's one of the things we talked about, we have to win on the road and we're doing it,” Rivers said. “And we have to keep doing it.”

Tobias Harris (12) scores over DaQuan Jeffries during the Sixers easy win over the Rockets on Wednesday.
Tobias Harris (12) scores over DaQuan Jeffries during the Sixers easy win over the Rockets on Wednesday.

The Sixers (45-21) have a two-game lead over the Brooklyn Nets (43-23) for the No. 1 seed in the East with six games remaining in the regular season. The No. 1 seed would ensure home-court advantage through the Eastern Conference playoffs. The Sixers are three games behind the Utah Jazz for the overall No. 1 seed and home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.

“For me, the one seed (in the East) is very important,” Embiid said. “Every game we play at home, it just feels like we're unbeatable. So we just gotta keep pushing, keep grinding out these wins, and do our best to keep winning.”

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More than home-court advantage, securing the No. 1 seed will mean the Sixers will have an easier path to the East final. If they advance past the first round, they would likely face the New York Knicks or the Atlanta Hawks in the second round instead of Nets or Milwaukee Bucks.

Here are four other things to know in the NBA…

Another big night for Westbrook

Russell Westbrook had a triple-double in Wednesday’s game against the Bucks. So what else is new?

Westbrook scored 29 points and added 12 rebounds and 17 assists during a 135-134 loss to Milwaukee for his fifth triple-double in the past six games. His only game without a triple-double during that span came in Saturday’s loss to the Dallas Mavericks when he had 42 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. Westbrook has a league-leading 33 triple-doubles this season and is just two shy of Oscar Robertson’s career mark of 181.

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Jokic’s early-bird special

Nikola Jokic is solidifying his front-runner status for league MVP.

Jokic set the pace for the Denver Nuggets in the first quarter of their game against the Knicks, outscoring New York 24-12 and leading the charge in a 113-97 win. It was the Nuggets’ 10th win in the 12 games since losing starting point guard Jamal Murray to a season-ending ACL injury.

“Some games I don't score in the first half and then I score a lot in the second half,” said Jokic, who also had four slam dunks in the first quarter to raise his season total to 46 (he had 34 in his first three seasons). “The team was finding me, I was making shots. It just happened like that.”

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Tacko night in Orlando

Kemba Walker scored 32 points, with Jayson Tatum adding 27 points and Evan Fournier 18 in the Boston Celtics’ 132-96 win over the Orlando Magic.

But what really got the Celtics excited was Tacko Fall’s two points.

Fall, the Celtics 7-foot-5 big man, did a crossover move on Mo Bamba that sent the Celtics bench into delirium. Fall also had a career-high four blocks, including one on a dunk attempt by R.J. Hampton.

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Game of the night: Lakers at Clippers

These were the two teams that were expected to face off in the Western Conference finals. It would be an astonishing twist of fate that they could meet in the first round as the Nos. 4 and 5 seeds when the playoffs begin May 22. Even though they beat the Nuggets on Monday, the Lakers are still uncomfortably close to the No. 7 seed and a play-in game. The Clippers have had a mostly steady regular season and insist they will be playing their best basketball in the postseason.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 76ers may need more than home-court advantage to pave road to title