With eight games remaining, the Sixers are poised to earn the first seed in the Eastern Conference
For the second time since the Dr. J era, the Sixers have clinched a spot in the playoffs for the fourth year in a row. Most recently came from the Iverson era of 1998-1999 to 2002-2003. It’s now the 13th time in 14 years that Doc Rivers has guided his team to the playoffs and as we all know, he won the NBA championship with the Boston Celtics back in 2007-2008. As for Daryl Morey, it’s his 11th time in 14 seasons as a lead executive where his team makes the playoffs.
Coming off an overtime win last night against the San Antonio Spurs, the Sixers now have eight games remaining in the regular season. They are currently 43-21 on the season and hold a half-game lead on the Brooklyn Nets for first place in the Eastern Conference. The final two weeks of the season are in the Sixers favor in terms of strength of schedule compared to the Brooklyn Nets.
Sixers Remaining Schedule
The Final Stretch
The Brooklyn Nets have seven games remaining and have lost two straight games, the first against the Portland Trailblazers and the second last night against the Milwaukee Bucks. Looking ahead, Brooklyn will continue a tough road trip and play the Bucks again tomorrow night, followed by the Dallas Mavericks and Denver Nuggets. The Sixers, will face the Lavine-less Bulls tonight in Chicago followed by the Rockets in Houston.
Now is the perfect time for the 76ers to keep their feet on the gas and gain some separation from the Nets in the standings. The Sixers are finally healthy and have all five starts playing, which has been a rarity over the last few months. Since the beginning of March, the Sixers haven’t had their starting five available for more than two consecutive games up until this past week. During that span however, the Sixers still managed to win games, going 19-9 during that stretch.
Starting Lineup and Bench Rotation
The starting lineup is now 22-4 when everyone is healthy and playing. This includes a perfect 14-0 at the Wells Fargo Center and a record of 9-4 on the road. More importantly, over the past few games with starters healthy, the Sixers have been able to get a better look at what their bench will look like heading into the playoffs.
The bench has gone through several different iterations this season. We already know what the Sixers can do with their starting five but the bench and their performances have been uncertain due the starting five missing time throughout the season. George Hill’s addition has changed the look of the Sixers bench, as the veteran point guard has been able to bring defense along the perimeter as well as easing the burden on Shake Milton in terms of ball handling and scoring.
One thing to watch heading into the playoffs is how Rivers will utilize Simmons and Embiid. If he decides to stagger the two with the Sixers’ bench, you could see Simmons at center and Dwight Howard’s minutes take a hit. Matisse Thybulle will certainly be in the bench rotation come playoff time thanks to his defense, which likely leaves spot-minutes for Furkan Korkmaz if his shooting is needed in certain situations.
Any Easier Road to the ECF with the One Seed
I’ve been a long proponent that it doesn’t matter where the Sixers finish in the standings. If they are as good as we expect them to be, playing teams such as the Nets or Bucks shouldn’t be an issue in a seven game series. However, it’s hard to ignore the fact that if Sixers secure the one seed, they will likely play the Charlotte Hornets and then possibly the New York Knicks before having to face either the Nets or Bucks in the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Sixers could avoid both the Nets and Bucks and let those two teams beat each other up in the second round, while they handle business against whoever they play and ideally get a few days off before the ECF if the Nets and Bucks series goes to six or seven games.
Mandatory Credit: Getty Images