76ers Clinch Eastern Conference Playoff Berth with Pacers' Win vs. Heat

Alec Nathan@@AlecBNathanFeatured ColumnistMarch 25, 2018

PHILADELPHIA, PA - MARCH 2: Head coach Brett Brown of the Philadelphia 76ers celebrates with Joel Embiid #21 in the fourth quarter against the Charlotte Hornets at the Wells Fargo Center on March 2, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The 76ers defeated the Hornets 110-99. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

The Philadelphia 76ers are headed to the playoffs for the first time since 2012 by virtue of the Indiana Pacers' 113-107 win over the Miami Heat.

The squad celebrated the clinching on Twitter:

Philadelphia was off Sunday and won't play until Monday against the Denver Nuggets, although six straight wins helped put the team in position to clinch with the Heat loss.

Currently the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference, the Sixers have made a giant leap during Brett Brown's fifth year on the job after sputtering to 75 total wins over his first four seasons by design. 

They rank fifth in the NBA in net rating (3.9), and their defense has proved to be among the stingiest in the leagueallowing 102.8 points per 100 possessions. Only the Celtics have been better among Eastern Conference clubs. 

Those marks have been anchored by the production of Joel Embiid—who is finally healthy after appearing in 31 games as a rookie last year. Entering Sunday, the newly minted All-Star was averaging 23.3 points, 11.0 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game. 

While Embiid has dominated below the free-throw line, point guard Ben Simmons has confidently captained Brown's offense and positioned himself as the NBA's Rookie of the Year front-runner. According to Basketball Reference, Simmons is on pace to join Oscar Robertson and Magic Johnson as the only rookies in league history to average at least 16 points, seven rebounds and seven assists per game. 

The Sixers have also made serious strides from beyond the arc a year after ranking 25th in three-point efficiency. Thanks to the contributions of JJ Redick, Dario Saric, Robert Covington, Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova, Philly is shooting a 10th-ranked 36.8 percent from distance. 

If that figure holds steady in the postseason, the Sixers figure to be a tough draw. 

But even if it doesn't and Philadelphia bows out early, it's clear Brown's squad is on the right track and should contend for a conference title by the time the decade comes to a close. 

        

Stats courtesy of NBA.com 

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