Homestretch: How the 76ers can grab the #1 seed in the playoffs
With less than a month until the end of the 76ers regular season, the fight for seeding in the Eastern Conference is the last thing that needs to be finalized before the NBA playoffs. Each team in the conference has anywhere from 15 to 17 games left on their schedules, and with the log jam at a top of the East standings, there are still a couple of teams in contention for the top spot.
For context, the difference between the second seed and the fifth seed is still just a difference of two games. Interestingly enough, two games is also what separates the first seeded Miami Heat from the current runner ups in the Milwaukee Bucks. The 76ers are in the mix as well, but may need a bit of help to jump up three games to grab that coveted top spot.
76ers Remaining Schedule
The Sixers have a relatively easy final stretch, with only one more West Coast road trip left on the docket. Philly will have to head west at the end of March to play the Lakers, Clippers, and finally the Suns over a five day period. Luckily the Sixers have surprisingly been better on the road this year than at home.
The real issue with the rest of the games for the 76ers is, they don’t have matchups against the other teams chasing the top seed. Philadelphia has already finished off their season series with the Celtics and Bulls, and only have one more game against the Heat and the Bucks.
This not only makes those two home games against Miami and Milwaukee must win for the #1 seed, but means the Sixers are going to need a little help from the rest of the league as well.
The 76ers should be able to close out the season on a high note regardless of how the matchups against the two top seeds go. Philly plays Indiana twice, the Raptors, and the Pistons in their final four games.
Heat Remaining Schedule
The Heat don’t have the hardest remaining schedule, but it is certainly tougher than the 76ers. Miami has a matchup with the 76ers, Celtics, and Bulls left and all three are on the road where the Heat have been worse record wise.
The Heat’s worst stretch comes right at the end of the month, where they have to play three games in four days with each game being on the road. That includes a harsh back-to-back where Miami will have to go from Chicago to Toronto.
Despite that tough stretch, the Heat also get to end their season against inferior competition. Miami’s final two games are against the Hawks and Magic, two teams that are currently in the bottom half of the Eastern Conference. As of now, the Heat have a two game lead on the Bucks and three game lead on the 76ers, but still have some key matchups to win in order to secure the top spot.
Bucks Remaining Schedule
The Bucks are the only other team ahead of the 76ers in the East thanks to a win over the Jazz and a Philly loss to the Nuggets. Of the top three teams in the East currently, the Bucks have the toughest remaining schedule by far.
Milwaukee is the only team of the three to have more games left on the road than at home. Eight of the Bucks’ 13 games come on the road, with big matchups against the 76ers, Nets, and Bulls. So far this season Milwaukee is 19-14 in away games, a record that’ll surely gravitate closer to .500 by the end of the season.
Even after a big win in Utah, the Bucks still have a couple of games against playoff bound Western Conference opponents. Milwaukee has to play the T-Wolves and Grizzlies on the road, with Dallas coming to Wisconsin in early April.
The defending champs sit two games back from the top spot, but didn’t need the #1 seed last year to make a run at a ring. Regardless, their schedule is by far the toughest of the three contenders for the top spot and the 76ers need to be one of the teams to hand them a loss.
All in all, it has been a while since the Eastern Conference had such a tight race to the finish for the top spot in the East. That means every game going forward for the 76ers is crucial if they want home court advantage all the way to the finals.
The post-season is a month away Sixers, time to make your move for the crown.
Mandatory Frank Franklin II.