Joel Embiid's MVP credentials can be debated but Philadelphia are leaving no doubt they are the best in the East.
Embid had 37 points and 13 rebounds to chants of "MVP! MVP!" as the 76ers inched closer towards securing top spot in the East with a 109-107 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday.
Don't necessarily count coach Doc Rivers among those impressed with winning the conference.
"I don't look at being a No.1 seed as this great achievement," he said. "I just think it's great to have because of home court. The achievement is winning it (all). Everything else is what you need to do to try and win."
Embiid made two free throws with 1:39 left to bring the Sixers within one, then grabbed a defensive rebound on the other end to set up Tobias Harris' three with 1:10 left that made it 109-107. Philadelphia forced two turnovers late to seal the victory.
The Sixers (46-21) won their season-high seventh straight game and increased their lead to three games over Brooklyn in the Eastern Conference.
Barring a crazy collapse over the final five games, the Sixers will win the conference and home-court advantage through the conference playoffs.
The Sixers are 26-7 at home this season and they won another tight one against a Pelicans team playing without Zion Williamson (finger).
The Sixers are on their longest winning streak since they closed the 2017-18 season with 16 straight victories.
Embiid and the Sixers are rolling as they head toward a post-season series with the winner of an East play-in tournament. Harris scored 17 points as Simmons posted nine rebounds, 10 assists and eight points in the contest.
Jaxson Hayes scored 19 points for the Pelicans, and Lonzo Ball and Eric Bledsoe each had 18.
Embiid continued to put up the numbers in stats and the win column that made him an MVP frontrunner for most of the season.
The one number slowing down his bid? It's 48, as in games played, well behind the 67 played by Denver's Nikola Jokic. Milwaukee's Giannis Antetokounmpo and Phoenix's Chris Paul are also among the stout candidates.
Luka Doncic scored 24 points in 23 minutes as Dallas kept the prime spot in a tight race to avoid the Western Conference play-in tournament with a breezy victory over Cleveland.
Dallas guaranteed they would remain in fifth place in the West, a game ahead of either the Los Angeles Lakers or Portland with five games remaining.
Brook Lopez had 24 points and Khris Middleton scored 21 of his 23 in the second half to help Milwaukee beat Houston for their fifth consecutive victory.
The Bucks, who tied Brooklyn for second place in the Eastern Conference, also have the tiebreaker advantage over Brooklyn because they won two of their three regular-season meetings.
Australian Associated Press