The NBA season is winding down, and playoffs are right around the corner. The playoff picture is beginning to be painted, and the race in the East is extremely tight at the top of the standings. The Sixers currently hold a record of 46-28 with 8 games remaining left in the season. If the season was over today, Philadelphia would be slotted as the 4th seed in the East, but the top 4 seeds cannot be separated by more than a half-game.
The Sixers’ Remaining Schedule
The most important game for the Sixers will take place tomorrow (Tuesday) night when the Milwaukee Bucks make the trip to the Wells Fargo Center. The Bucks are currently slated as the third seed due to tiebreakers, but both Milwaukee and Philly have a record of 46-28.
Milwaukee is a scary team and appears to be peaking at the right time. The defending champs are 7-3 in their past 10 games, led by the trio of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kris Middleton, and Jrue Holiday, who each average over 18 points per game.
Following this Bucks matchup, the Sixers schedule will get a little easier. Philly will face the Pacers and Pistons twice each, and both teams have a winning percentage below 35% on the season. The Sixers will also face off against the 6th seeded Raptors, 7th seeded Cavaliers, and 8th seeded Hornets.
In this stretch of 8 remaining games, the Sixers still have 2 remaining back-to-backs. The Hornets and Cavs will be a back-to-back set of games in which the Sixers will have to travel in between. The season will end with a back-to-back homestand against the Pacers and Pistons. It also will be interesting to watch how the Sixers elect to manage the minutes of Joel Embiid and James Harden. Getting the two stars as healthy as possible before the playoffs must remain the priority for the Sixers.
The Current Playoff Picture
It may not be the seed the Sixers get that is more important but rather the matchup that this earns them in the first round. According to playoff status, the Sixers have the highest percentage to secure the 2nd seed at 28%, with the top spot right behind it at 27%. If the Sixers earn one of the top two spots, their matchup will depend on who comes out of the play-in tournament.
There are some scary teams that could come out of this, as if the season stopped today, it would be the Clevland Cavaliers, Charlotte Hornets, Brooklyn Nets, and Atlanta Hawks in this mix. While the storylines seem to mean it’s inevitable to happen, the Nets are increasingly becoming a threat especially given the Covid-mandate changes that now allow for Kyrie Irving to play in-home games.
The Sixers also have a 23% chance of landing the third seed and a 20% chance of ending with the 4th seed. Beyond this, Philly has a 2% chance of ending in the 5th seed and a less than 1% chance for anything below this. The Chicago Bulls and Toronto Raptors are also in the mix for a playoff matchup as they currently are slotted as 5th and 6th seeds at the moment.
The Raptors are an interesting team that could be a somewhat troublesome matchup due to the Sixers’ weakness at the wing position. While they may be lacking in top-end talent, Toronto is overloaded with long and athletic wings that buy into the team’s identity and create problems for opposing offenses. The Sixers are considered to have a 22% chance of matching up with the Raptors, which is the highest of any team in the playoff pool.
The second-highest odds for a playoff matchup with the Sixers will be with Cleveland Cavaliers with the Chicago Bulls right behind them. The Sixers are 4-0 against the Bulls this year, with Joel Embiid averaging 32.8 points and 12.3 rebounds during the matchup. The Bulls have not been fully healthy since early on in the season, but it appears to be one of the more favorable matchups for the Sixers.
Ultimately there are more questions than answers for how the standings will shake up as the season heads toward its final stretch. The Western conference is beginning to cement its standings for which team will end up in each spot, but the East is still up for grabs.
After prioritizing the race for the top seed last year before their disappointing collapse to the Atlanta Hawks in the second round, the Sixers would be wise not to get caught up in the race for the top spot this year. Philly’s sole focus should be on continuing to build on James Harden‘s chemistry in the offense, ensuring that Embiid and Harden are healthy going into the playoffs and allowing the seeding to settle itself.