It was a bit of a sleepy start, but once the Sixers woke up, it wasn't pretty for the Bulls.
The Sixers broke their season-high three-game losing streak and took care of business in a 116-96 win at Amway Center Saturday night.
With the win, the magic number to clinch the Eastern Conference's third-seed is one. A Celtics' loss against the Magic Sunday would do the trick.
It's also the Sixers' 50th win, securing back-to-back 50-win seasons for the first time since 1984-85 and 1985-86.
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Jimmy Butler (back tightness) missed his second straight game.
Here are observations from the win.
• He was a game-time decision coming in, but Joel Embiid played in his 64th game Saturday, the highest mark of his young career. Considering the way things started and the injury issues he'd had, it's great to see.
He got off to a bit of a slow start, but once the Sixers got it to him more on the block late in the second quarter, he started to impose his will. It helped the Sixers turn a one-point deficit into an eight-point lead at the half. He had 14 points on 7 of 11 at half. He finished with 20 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and three blocks in 27 minutes.
• It was a weird first half for Ben Simmons. He was efficient, scoring eight points on 4 of 6 shots, more than he took in the entire Milwaukee game. It looked like he left more opportunities out there. This is the type of team he should feast on. The Bulls have nobody that can match his athleticism and no true rim protector. It almost looks like he's a little gun-shy right now.
You had to like this finish, which he made with his "off hand."
There also looks like there is something there with the Embiid-Simmons pairing. We didn't see it against the Bucks, but the chemistry showed up in this one.
Simmons had 14 points, four rebounds and four assists.
• Maybe the biggest shame of the Sixers' recent losses - aside from the losses themselves - is the JJ Redick performances they've wasted. He's been fantastic over his last 15 games, averaging 19.2 points and shooting 45 percent from three coming in. He finished with a team-high 23 points on 4 of 7 from three and 8 of 12 overall.
He also made this ridiculous shot.
It's amazing how routinely he hits shots like that. How many guys in the league can? If this is the version of Redick the Sixers get in the playoffs, it would be a huge boost.
• Neither backup center had an inspiring effort on the defensive end, but both looked good on the other end. Boban Marjanovic had trouble keeping veteran Robin Lopez in front of him, but was his usual effecient self, scoring 10 on 4 of 5. Jonah Bolden struggled at times playing more at the four, but he's shown enough that Brett Brown should feel comfortable playing the rookie there and allowing Tobias Harris to slide to a wing in the playoffs. He also hit three threes.
Newcomer Greg Monroe saw his first action as a Sixer. He recorded nine points in 10 minutes.
• The curse of Sam Hinkie was alive and well as Process Sixer JaKarr Sampson got off to a hot start. He had 17 points on 6 of 10 from the field before halftime. He finished with a career-high 29 points and was the only reason the Bulls were in this game at any point. The only other Chicago player in double figures was our old friend Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, who had 14.
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