Joel Embiid scored 41 points as the Philadelphia 76ers bagged their 50th win of the season with a crushing 133-120 victory over the Indiana Pacers on Saturday.
The Sixers, who are jostling with the Boston Celtics for the third-seeding in the Eastern Conference with one game of the regular season remaining, improved to 50-31 with the win.
Philadelphia can seal third place on Sunday if they beat Detroit at home in their final game of the season and Boston lose their road game against the Memphis Grizzlies.
Embiid, meanwhile, produced another dominant performance that enhanced his claims to the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award, finishing with 20 rebounds and four assists in addition to his 41-point haul.
But Embiid played down his statistical contribution afterwards.
“I’ve always said, I want to dominate, and dominating can show up in different ways,” he said. “Sometimes it’s in the numbers, and sometimes the numbers don’t show it.”
While Embiid said defensively the Sixers “have a long way to go,” he believes the team’s balanced offensive performance on Saturday augurs well for the postseason.
James Harden added 22 points with 14 assists, while Tyrese Maxey and Tobias Harris chipped in with 18 points apiece in a game that the Sixers led from early in the first quarter through to the final buzzer.
“We’re working on what we want to accomplish in the playoffs,” Embiid said. “Making sure everyone is comfortable in the offense and today was an example of that. The ball just moved, found the right guys, everybody got a touch.
“And in the playoffs that’s how we’re going to have to play if we want to succeed.”
Grizzlies beat Pelicans
Embiid meanwhile said he was uncertain if he would play in Sunday’s final game of the season.
“I want to play but at the same time it’s also a back-to-back and we have to get ready for the playoffs,” Embiid said.
“I’m going to see how I feel. But I want to play. I feel we still need to work on spacing and chemistry, so whatever we can get out of these last few games will be good.”
Elsewhere Saturday, Ja Morant impressed upon his return from a three-week injury absence as the Memphis Grizzlies thrashed the New Orleans Pelicans.
Morant scored 21 points from just under 27 minutes on court in a 141-114 blowout for the Grizzlies, who are already assured of second-seed status in the Western Conference.
Morant was one of seven Memphis players to finish in double figures as the Grizzlies warmed up for the postseason with a dazzling offensive display which included a 55-point third quarter.
Dillon Brooks led the Memphis scoring with 23 points, while Brandon Clarke had 20 from the bench.
Morant said he was relieved to have come through his return successfully after watching from the sidelines since mid-March.
“It felt good, man. I got tired of being in street clothes,” Morant said.
“I’m just ready to make this end of the season push with my teammates. Excited to get back into it.
“It sucked not playing actual games. I just felt like I needed a game or two to get ready for the playoffs.”