Knicks clinch No. 2 seed; Sixers host the Heat in action

PHILADELPHIA — Long after the 76ers emerged with a comfortable 107-86 win over the Brooklyn Nets in Sunday's season finale at Wells Fargo Center, most of Philadelphia's roster was standing in the locker room watching the final moments of the New York Knicks-Chicago game. The bullpen is 100 miles off Interstate 95.

If New York wins, it will clinch the No. 2 seed and be Philadelphia's likely first-round opponent next weekend. If Chicago wins, the Knicks will finish third and the Milwaukee Bucks will get the second seed.

Ultimately, the Knicks escaped with a thrilling 120-119 overtime victory after a potential game-winning jumper by DeMar DeRozan fell short. The 76ers – who were relegated to the championship nearly an hour before the Orlando Magic's 113-88 win over the Bucks – will shift their focus to Wednesday's 7-8 home game against the Miami Heat.

“Obviously we've had some great battles with them and we always expect to play them,” 76ers coach Nick Nurse said after winning the prospect of facing Miami. “The mentality is that we are playing well and doing everything we can, like we did in the last month of the year… we dig in, we play with our team and we do everything we have to do, everything we have to do to win.

“We have a good mentality and we will continue that until Wednesday.”

While Philadelphia ultimately finished tied with both the Magic and Indiana Pacers, who beat the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday, Orlando earned the fifth seed by winning the Southeastern Division, a three-way tiebreaker.

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Indiana then won the head-to-head tiebreaker with Philadelphia thanks to a 2-1 season series win, thus earning the sixth seed and a matchup with the Bucks in the first round.

That dropped Philadelphia to seventh place, where the 76ers finished despite posting eight straight wins to end the season. The Heat will enjoy after Miami won its second straight game against the Toronto Raptors on Sunday to finish the season in eighth place.

It was a wild day of results around the Eastern Conference. The Cleveland Cavaliers seemed to go out of their way to make sure they were the No. 4 seed by using their players at the end of the bench down the stretch and losing to the hapless Charlotte Hornets, who had their entire rotation eliminated before the game. The Hornets outscored Cleveland 32-14 in the fourth quarter.

“Yeah, I mean we were trying,” Cavaliers coach J.B. Bickerstaff told reporters after the game. “Again, it's hard to get all this information in real time. We were aware that some of these things were happening.”

“But once we sat down with our guys at the end of the third quarter and they had the mindset of not coming back, I didn't want to risk putting them back in the game. When everyone had already calmed down and then something else happens.

“So, you're always aware of that, you always glance at it, but I thought the safety of our guys was the most important thing. And when they got shut down, I didn't want to ramp them up again. To put them in the late fourth quarter when something worse happens to them, that's what we stuck with.” with it”.

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Cleveland's loss ensured the Cavaliers would finish in fourth place. If the Cavaliers had won, they would have clinched the No. 3 seed by owning the tiebreaker over the Bucks.

Losing both the Cavs and Bucks means the Knicks will end up as the No. 2 seed with a win. The game came down to the overtime buzzer at MSG, where Chicago – despite not having anything to play for – gave the Knicks everything they had before New York was finally able to come out on top.

Four players on both teams played at least 40 minutes, while Donte DiVincenzo was active for all but 29 seconds of the game for New York.

Now, though, he and the Knicks will have a full week off and will watch Wednesday's game in Philadelphia to see who they'll face in the first round of the playoffs. The loser will then host the winner of the Bulls and Hawks on Friday to qualify to face the top-seeded Boston Celtics in the first round.

The lingering question in the 7-8 play-in game is the health of the 76ers, especially MVP Joel Embiid, who missed Sunday's game in what sources told ESPN before the game was a precaution.

Nurse said Embiid will be ready Wednesday.

Nurse said after the match: “He did everything in training yesterday, but we decided to keep him out of caution.

“He'll be ready to go.”

However, Robert Covington will not return, with Nurse saying the veteran forward is unlikely to return this season due to a bone bruise in his left knee. The coach also said DeAnthony Melton, who has dealt with back issues for most of 2024, is trending toward not being available as well.

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