The long All-Star weekend is finally over and now it’s time to get back to real basketball. With only 27 games remaining this season, it’s pivotal that teams like the Sixers play their best basketball down the stretch. Going into All-Star weekend, there may not have been a hotter team than the Philadelphia 76ers. They won five straight and ended their first half of the season with a 30-25 record. Despite having one of the toughest first half schedules of any NBA team, the Sixers already have two more wins than they had all of last season. That just shows how big of a leap this team has made in a year, and their young nucleus is only going to get better.
Looking ahead to the second half of the season, the Sixers have the easiest remaining schedule according to Basketball Reference. They’ve already wrapped their season series against; Golden State, Boston, Utah, Portland, San Antonio, Toronto, and Houston, all potential playoff teams. The Sixers currently sit 7th in the Eastern Conference — only 3.5 games away from LeBron James and the Cavs in the 3rd seed. Speaking of LeBron, he actually mentioned the Sixers as one of the top teams in the East in an interview right before the All-Star break. This is a quote from the interview, “We have a lot of catching up to do, with not only Boston, but teams like Toronto and Philadelphia… If we want to go out and win a playoff series.” Whenever LeBron gives a team props or name drops them when talking about the best teams in his conference that must mean something, right? If the King is conscious enough to say the Sixers are right there with the likes of Boston and Toronto it should be noted. For all intents and purposes LeBron James runs the Eastern Conference. So if he sees the Sixers as a possible threat to his throne, then we all should see it that way.
LeBron isn’t the only one who views the Sixers as a playoff team either. According to Basketball Reference, the Sixers have a 98.1% chance of making the playoffs. That’s better than Washington (97.9%), Indiana (95%), Milwaukee (91.4%), and Miami (79.5%). The only teams that have a better chance at making the playoffs are Toronto (100%), Boston (100%), and Cleveland (99.5%).
I wouldn’t be surprised to see this team win around 18 or their final 27 games. The chemistry between Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid has gotten better throughout the season and they feed off each other while they’re on the court. The bench has really stepped up recently as well, and adding a scorer like Marco Belinelli is only going to make the unit better.
The only thing holding this team back from greatness is the absence of an elite scorer. With Markelle Fultz likely out for the season, it’s starting to look like he isn’t the solution — at least not this year. The Sixers have the fire power to get into the playoffs. But when they’re facing teams like Washington, Boston, Cleveland, or Toronto who all have elite scorers, it’s hard to see the Sixers winning a 7-game series against those teams. That may be somewhat of a pessimistic outlook for the postseason, but the fact that they’re even in playoff contention should make every Sixers fan happy. This is only the beginning for this young Sixers squad. The future is bright — for this season and for seasons to come.