Ben Simmons has been back in the 76ers' lineup for four games. The Sixers have won all four of those games. The latest was a 113-111 overtime victory over the Spurs on Sunday night, and it's not a stretch to say it might've been the biggest win of the Sixers' season to this point.
Simmons did not have a good game. He finished with five points on six shots and was largely insignificant even on the margins all night. The Sixers led by 17 points in the first quarter and let it get away. But all is forgotten after Simmons tipped in the game-winning bucket as time expired.
At this point in the season, a win is a win, and again, there's no way to overstate how big a victory this was, and could end up being, for the Sixers. For now, it moves Philly back into the Eastern Conference's No. 1 seed. The Nets lost on Sunday, and the Sixers now have a one-game lead in the loss column. With the tiebreaker in hand, that lead is effectively two games with eight games to play for the Sixers.
The difference between an effective two-game lead and being tied in the loss column, at this point in the season, is massive. This might very well be the game that clinched the top seed for the Sixers, who have the softest remaining schedule in the league. They finish out with Chicago, Houston, New Orleans, Detroit, Indiana, Miami and Orlando (twice).
For the Nets, the No. 1 seed has appeared to be an afterthought. Their priority is getting healthy. But for the Sixers, the No. 1 seed is a big deal as it likely means avoiding the No. 3 Bucks in the second round. If the playoffs were to start today, Philly -- assuming it gets through the first round -- would get the winner of Knicks-Hawks in the conference semis. That's a lot different than Milwaukee.
Sure, the Sixers have designs on winning it all this season. But at the very least, they want to show progress and advance farther than this group ever has. The conference finals are a minimum to deem this season successful. That makes Philly's second-round opponent perhaps the biggest deal of all, and for now, Simmons' game-winner went a heck of a long way toward setting up the playoff bracket in Philly's favor.