The Philadelphia 76ers powered to a record-breaking 15th straight victory on Tuesday with a 121-113 defeat of the Atlanta Hawks to stay on course for third seed in the Eastern Conference standings.
JJ Redick led the scoring with 28 points, while Ersan Ilyasova weighed in with 26 off the bench as the Sixers moved to within one win of locking up third spot.
Ben Simmons, who had been struggling with a stomach bug, added 14 points with 10 assists, while Marco Belinelli had 20 off the bench as the Sixers set a new franchise record for consecutive wins.
The Sixers can seal third in the Eastern Conference in the final round of regular season games on Wednesday when they return to Philadelphia to host Milwaukee.
Sixers coach Brett Brown said he believes his team’s record winning streak can be the catalyst for a strong performance in the postseason.
“We have momentum; we broke a club record tonight,” Brown told reporters.
“It’s not like we’re a young club. We’re an old club with a tremendous history. Taking that kind of momentum into the playoffs is important. It doesn’t guarantee anything, but it certainly lets you feel you’re doing things the right way. The team has been fantastic.”
Third place in the East could potentially be worth an easier route to the Conference finals, with the injury-hit Boston Celtics, seeded second, likely opponents in the second round.
Saric injury scare
Philadelphia’s emergence this season marks a dramatic turnaround in fortunes, just two years after finishing bottom with a dismal 10-72 record.
Atlanta, the worst side in the East with a 24-58 record, saw their season end with another loss. Taurean Prince led the Atlanta scoring with 27 points while Tyler Dorsey had 17 off the bench.
The only sour note for the Sixers was an injury to power forward Dario Saric, who left the game in the opening seconds nursing a cut lip and a chipped tooth after a collision with John Collins.
“It’s not an ideal time of year to lose a starting player on the first play of the game,” Brown said. “We’ll learn more about his condition when we get back to Philadelphia.”
Elsewhere on Tuesday, John Wall racked up 29 points as the Washington Wizards romped past the Celtics 113-101.
Wall pulled down seven rebounds and provided 12 assists in the win as the Celtics, who are already assured of second place in the East, slipped to their fourth loss in five games.
Jaylen Brown led the Boston scorers with 27 points. Jayson Tatum had 12 points, while Al Horford snagged 14 rebounds and added 10 points.
In the Western Conference, the Golden State Warriors brought their regular season campaign to a close with a tame defeat to the Utah Jazz.
The reigning NBA champions had already assured themselves of second place and were a long way off their best as they slumped to a 119-79 loss at Salt Lake City’s Vivint Smart Home Arena.
Kay Thompson led the scoring for the Warriors with 23 points, but the Dubs were no match for the all-round offensive threat of the Jazz, who face Portland on the road on Wednesday to decide which team will finish third.
Both Utah and Portland have identical 48-33 records.