The 76ers are going into the restarted season as a bit of an unknown entity. With a great home record, but an abysmal away record before the break, they could pull off a surprise or two considering who they are going to be up against.
With the restart of the league upon us, the 76ers are definitely the dark horses, with some believing this altered schedule and change in playing conditions actually being beneficial to the team from Philadelphia, with them being able to easily grab a win or 8.
The 76ers struggled a lot away from home, with a record of 10-24. This makes for grim reading but almost becomes unimportant in the context of the new way the league is going ahead. With every team playing at a neutral venue, no team will be home or away.
This extended break has also allowed the team to get their act together before the resumption of the season. They were in desperate need of a revamp of the way they were playing, as well as needing their players to be fit and healthy and on top of their game.
The new schedule for the 76ers has also done them a few favors. They will be up against the Pacers, the Spurs, the Wizards, the Magic, the Trail Blazers, the Suns, the Raptors, and the Rockets.
There are two games that are important for the 76ers, the Wizards, and the Pacers. The Wizards have been atrocious and barring a miracle, it should be a cake-walk for the 76ers. On the other hand, the Pacers could be tricky.
It is unknown if the Pacers are going to be heading to Orlando with a full-strength squad for the restart, but considering they have beaten the 76’ers already this season, it is important for the Sixers to take the games.
A big advantage for the 76ers right now is the fact that on paper, they have the firepower to go all the way. What goes against them is the possibility of losing their big scoring men to injury or just lack of form.
Many believe that shortened series, which the restart of the season could enforce, would benefit the Sixers. Other teams seem to need a bit of a warm-up in a series, dropping the first game or two, whereas the Sixers have the ability to come out swinging and seal a series early.
Two more games that could be interesting are those against the Raptors and the Portland Trail Blazers. Both can give the Sixers a run for their money, but more than anything, it will be a test for the strength and the will of the Sixers, something they will need down the line.
If all goes to plan, however, and they make it to the play-offs, the possibility of going up against an incredibly strong team, and possible kryptonite becomes a real threat. There is a very good chance they are going to have to play against either the Celtics, Heat, or the Pacers.
What the Sixers need more than anything is to dominate these 8 fixtures that are coming up. They need to prove their strength, not only to the rest of the league but to themselves as well, as confidence is going to play a big part in their championship run.
Another positive, but possible negative, is Joel Embiid. Shaq calling the now 26-year-old “soft” a few months back is searing, considering the big man is viewed as a giant on the court and a nightmare for the opposition.
What the Sixers need to do is keep him healthy. They play their absolute best with Embiid on the court, and he has the numbers to back it up. It is a fact that when Embiid is firing on all pistons from the free-throw line, the Sixers dominate.
Another factor that could play a part is Embiid’s almost lackluster partnership with Al Horford. Embiid believes that the partnership isn’t the problem, but more the fact that the rest of the team hasn’t bought into the idea of it being successful.
What many hope and believe is that this hiatus has given the coach and team a chance to properly analyze how to move forward, how to make the team work as one cohesive unit, because when it does, and Embiid is leading it, it can be an absolute nightmare for any team they play against.
What is for sure, is the fact that the Sixers need to seize this new opportunity they have been given. To forget the fact that they have had an atrocious away record, and to use this new set up as a way to thrive.
While each team is going to be playing under the same conditions, many believe the Sixers actually needed this long break, needed this time to focus on themselves, and come back stronger than ever.
They are hoping Joel Embiid stays fit and healthy and leads the team from the front while partnering with Horford and ensuring the team stays dominant. Their first 8 games should actually be pretty easy for them if the team stays healthy, and the Sixers can easily become serious competition, and a serious threat, towards the likes of the Bucks and Lakers.
Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports