Philadelphia 76ers

Made to Chill Presented by Coors Light: Philadelphia 76ers clinch playoff berth for fourth straight season

Made to Chill Presented by Coors Light (NBA Canada Illustrations)

Make that four in a row.

On Wednesday, the Philadelphia 76ers clinched a spot in the playoffs with a win over the Atlanta Hawks. They become the second team from the Eastern Conference to clinch a berth in the 2021 NBA Playoffs in the process, the first being the Brooklyn Nets.

The 76ers have now made the playoffs in each of the last four seasons, making for the fifth-longest active streak in the NBA.

Here's more on why it's a moment that's Made to Chill...

An MVP push

Joel Embiid has been the heartbeat of Philadelphia's success this season.

The No. 3 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, Embiid is in the midst of the best season of his career. The big man entered Wednesday's matchup averaging a career-best 29.8 points per game on the season to go along with 11.0 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.4 blocks. According to Stathead , the only other players in NBA history to post those numbers in a single season are Hall of Famers David Robinson, Shaquille O'Neal, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bob McAdoo and back-to-back MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Embiid's dominant play on both ends of the court has made him one of the leading candidates for this season's MVP award. Him missing time with a knee injury kept him out of our last MVP ladder , but he has remained a force since returning to the lineup, scoring 30 or more points in five of his last 11 games.

If Embiid were to be named MVP, he'd become only the fifth player in franchise history to win the award, joining Wilt Chamberlain, Julius Erving, Allen Iverson and Moses Malone.

The leap Embiid has made this season has helped the 76ers establish themselves as legitimate contenders in the Eastern Conference.

Locking it down

Embiid isn't the only reason for Philadelphia's rise, though.

In holding opponents to 107.2 points per 100 possessions , the 76ers own the league's second-best defensive rating, trailing only the Los Angeles Lakers (106.3). Embiid is Philadelphia's anchor, but it's Ben Simmons who has worked his way into the Defensive Player of the Year discussion.

In addition to being among the league leaders in steals and deflections , the Australian has proven himself to be matchup proof in the NBA, capable of guarding both guard positions, both forward positions and some centres. With the 76ers potentially facing the likes of Antetokounmpo, Kyrie Irving, James Harden, Kevin Durant, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Jimmy Butler in the playoffs, his versatility will be much-needed for Philadelphia to make a deep run.

The 76ers also have second-year guard Matisse Thybulle, who is quickly becoming one of the most feared perimeter defenders in the NBA, as well as Danny Green, a two-time champion with one All-Defensive Second Team selection to his name.

Between Embiid, Simmons, Thybulle and Green, the 76ers have the firepower to match up with any team in the league.

The race for No. 1

The 76ers are still in the mix for the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference with 10 games remaining in their season.

Why is that important? No team will have an easy path to the Finals, but finishing with the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference would mean not having to play either the Nets or Milwaukee Bucks until the Eastern Conference Finals.

Following Wednesday's victory, the 76ers have one less win and one more loss than the Nets on the season. They don't face the Nets again, but they won the season series, 2-1, which will become a factor if the two teams finish the regular season with the same record. The 76ers also have the benefit of an easier schedule the rest of the way. According to Tankathon , Philadelphia's remaining opponents have a combined winning percentage of .419, tying them with the Memphis Grizzlies for the easiest remaining schedule.

The Nets, meanwhile, still have a number of important matchups, including a back-to-back with the Bucks on May 2 and May 4.

The 76ers may have clinched a playoff spot, but they still have a lot to play for between now and the end of the regular season.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.

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