Sixers discuss whether to rest their stars in season finale vs. Pistons
PHILADELPHIA–81 games down, one more to go. The Philadelphia 76ers sitting as the No. 4 seed at 50-31 on the season have a decision to make in the season finale on Sunday when they host the Detroit Pistons.
The Sixers still have a chance, although very slim, to move up to No. 3 in the East standings and avoid the Toronto Raptors in Round 1 of the playoffs. If the Sixers can knock off the Pistons and the Boston Celtics lose to the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday, then the Sixers will be the No. 3 seed officially and would take on the No. 6 seed Chicago Bulls.
However, the Grizzlies are locked into the No. 2 seed in the West so they have nothing to play for which gives the advantage to Boston. Considering this fact, the Sixers may just rest their stars against the Pistons in preparation for the Raptors in the playoffs.
“Not sure, honestly,” said coach Doc Rivers after Saturday’s win over the Indiana Pacers. “We’ve talked about it way too many times and we still haven’t decided.”
Considering the Sixers do still have some tightening up to do before the playoffs, maybe it would make sense to play their stars, especially James Harden who is still adjusting and working through his own shooting struggles.
“That’s something we’re discussing right now,” said Harden. “I definitely want to, but that’s up to us as a collective unit.”
Then, there’s Joel Embiid. He has played in 68 games on the season and he has the scoring title all but wrapped up after making history on Saturday. He has one last chance to make a case for MVP on Sunday, but it’s probably best to rest him and prepare him for the playoffs and, most likely, the Raptors.
“I want to, but at the same time, it’s also a back-to-back, and we’re getting ready for the playoffs,” he said. “I hyperextended my knee last time against Indiana so I’m gonna see how I feel, but I wanna play. I feel like we still need to work on whether it’s the spacing or chemistry, so whatever we can get out of these last games will be good.”
Some would think that maybe the Sixers should play their main guys and go for the No. 3 seed and avoid Toronto, especially with Matisse Thybulle unable to play in Canada, but Embiid isn’t concerned by that.
“I just wanna win tomorrow (Sunday) whether I play or not,” he said. “I hope we win. I don’t really care who we play. If we get to the third seed, probably Chicago, and if we stay where we are, Toronto. I feel pretty confident about both matchups and I feel confident about really any matchups.”
To Embiid’s point, the Sixers have a very talented bunch that can hang with anybody. The big fella is an MVP candidate, Harden is obviously elite as a playmaker and he’s a good scorer, and Tobias Harris has found his rhythm. Tyrese Maxey is tough as well.
“I feel like we have enough, but like I’ve been saying, everybody has to be on the same page for us to win,” Embiid finished. “We all have to be on at the same time. Offensively and defensively so I’m happy. I honestly don’t care if we finish third or fourth, but I feel pretty confident about what we can accomplish in these playoffs.”