NBA: Sixers look to clinch East's top seeding against Magic after two straight losses

Tobias Harris led the 76ers with 21 points. PHOTO: REUTERS

(REUTERS) - The Philadelphia 76ers will have yet another chance to clinch the top seed in the NBA Eastern Conference play-off race when they host the Orlando Magic on Friday (May 14).

The Sixers (47-23) have dropped consecutive games on the road to the Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat. Philadelphia struggled in a 106-94 loss to the Heat on Thursday, as Joel Embiid managed only six points and two rebounds in 25 minutes.

Tobias Harris led the 76ers with 21 points.

Embiid missed the game at Indiana with a non-Covid illness. The Most Valuable Player candidate has missed 20 of his National Basketball Association team's 70 games this season.

"He was pretty sick," Sixers coach Doc Rivers said. "He worked out (Wednesday) and didn't look great, but he got up and down the floor a little bit."

The Sixers' chances of clinching the top seed are quite strong considering their final two home games will be against the depleted Magic. Win on Friday and they are the No. 1 seed in the East.

They have not advanced to the NBA Finals since 2001 and, with a win, they will be able to rest and recover for the play-offs.

"I don't really know what we are going to do. My guess is all of the players will come down with practice, flu and not be able to show up," Rivers said of potentially having some rare practice time. "So I'm not even sure what we are going to do. It would be nice, though. It really would.

"But I do think one of the pluses to that is we don't jump right from the regular season to the playoffs. It gives us an opportunity to prepare."

The Magic (21-49) will hope to avoid their sixth straight loss.

They were crushed 116-93 by the Atlanta Hawks on Thursday. R.J. Hampton led the way with 18 points, while Wendell Carter Jr added 12 points and 11 rebounds and Cole Anthony scored 12 points.

In another game, Devin Booker made two free throws with 2.4 seconds left as the Phoenix Suns edged out the Portland Trail Blazers 118-117.

Chris Paul recorded 26 points and seven assists and Mikal Bridges added 21 points and 11 rebounds for the Suns, who moved one game behind the Utah Jazz in the battle for the Western Conference's top seed.

Damian Lillard scored 24 of his 41 points in the fourth quarter for the Blazers, who had a five-game winning streak snapped and failed to clinch a main-draw play-off spot.

Meanwhile, Giannis Antetokounmpo's 40 points, 15 rebounds and six assists led visiting Milwaukee to a 142-133 win in Indianapolis and their first season sweep against Indiana since 2010.

Khris Middleton scored 22 points and Brook Lopez had 21 points and eight rebounds for the Bucks, who pulled to within one game of the second-placed Brooklyn Nets in the Eastern Conference.

Justin Holiday led the Pacers with 26 points, hitting eight three-pointers.

Elsewhere, Nikola Jokic helped his cause in the MVP race with 31 points and 14 rebounds, leading Denver to a 114-103 win over Minnesota in Minneapolis.

The Timberwolves' Anthony Edwards strengthened his bid for NBA Rookie of the Year with 29 points, seven rebounds and five assists.

And Alec Burks scored a season-high 30 points, including the tie-breaking three-point play with 3:16 remaining, as New York overcame a 17-point deficit and eked out a 102-98 victory over visiting San Antonio.

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