The Philadelphia 76ers are playing their best basketball of the season at the right time.

Their season high six-game winning streak includes wins over the Indiana Pacers, Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics.

Those wins were obviously important for positioning in the standings, but they meant more than that to the Sixers.

Exercising Demons

A common theme this season before the winning streak was the Sixers inability to win games against the elite Eastern Conference teams.

They fell to the Bucks in October, dropped three out of four to the Toronto Raptors and lost the first three meetings with the Celtics.

The Sixers needed to prove to the naysayers, and perhaps themselves, they were indeed capable of being mentioned as a legit Finals contender.

Enter their leader, Joel Embiid, who understood the importance of winning these potential playoff matchups.

When given the choice of sitting out either the Charlotte Hornets game on Tuesday or the Celtics game on Wednesday, Embiid made it clear he wasn’t missing the latter game.

“We got work to do against Boston,” Embiid said via Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Embiid has not been cleared to play back-to-backs since his return from an eight-game absence.

“Boston is better than Charlotte, so I felt like Boston was the better idea for us as a team,” Embiid said regarding his mindset about choosing what game to sit out. “[I want] to learn how to play against them and learn how to win against them, too, so I don’t mind.”

The showdown with the Celtics came and went, and this time the ending went the Sixers way.

The 118-115 win helped Philadelphia avoid the season sweep by the Celtics. It also gave them the confidence they could beat their rival.

After dropping 40 points and 15 rebounds on the road in Milwaukee, Embiid followed that showing up with one of his most dominant performances since entering the league.

Aggressive Embiid

The Sixers and head coach Brett Brown hardly ever let Embiid go over 36-38 minutes in a regulation game.

He played 41 minutes and they needed him for every second he was on the court. Instead of setting screens or standing by the three-point line, he spent his time attacking the paint and drawing contact.

He finished with 37 points, including going 20 of 21 from the free-throw line. The Celtics couldn’t match his size and strength.

“I figured out that when I play low and I’m in attack mode and I want to get to the rim, I’m basically unstoppable and I’m going to get to the free throw line,” Embiid said following the game.

If carrying the offensive load wasn’t enough, he faced a tough challenge covering Kyrie Irving on defense when the Celtics switched.

Embiid came up with a big block on Irving in the final minute with the Sixers leading by three. Irving beat him to the basket but Embiid recovered.

Jimmy Butler closed the game with a tough jumper to give the Sixers a 118-113 lead with 4.7 seconds left.

They appear to have found their blueprint for winning: Embiid keeping them in games, while Butler finishes them.

The Sixers new-look team looks to be clicking at the right time. Winning games against elite teams proves it.

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