As the New York Knicks do their best Miami Heat impression and take time to “figure it out,” the Philadelphia 76ers are playing solid basketball. Granted, they dont have the horsepower of the Heat, Bulls or Celtics, but they do have a coach of the year candidate in Doug Collins who demands the Sixers play hard for 48 minutes. In the NBA, this mindset accounts for important wins down the stretch that will likely determine playoff seeding in the Eastern conference.
The Sixers currently stand sixth in the Eastern conference, four games behind the fifth seeded Atlanta Hawks whom they play tomorrow night, and one game ahead of the Knicks for seventh. If the playoffs were to begin today, the Sixers would face the Miami Heat in the opening round. Yes, the Heat have their issues. But name me a team not named the Celtics that genuinely want to play ‘Bron and Wade in a seven-game series?
In a previous post, I wrote that the Sixers cannot fall in love with .500. Yes, making the playoffs is an accomplishment after a 3-13 start, but in a league where 16 out of 30 teams make the playoffs, at or around .500 simply puts Philly back in no mans land. Once again stuck in mediocrity.
So, the Sixers have 12 games to either make up 4 games on the Hawks or face another first round exit, which would be their third in five years. The Sixers have not gotten out of the first round since the 2002-2003 season.
Let’s go game by game and see what record we theoretically come up with here. The Sixers are currently 36-34. HOME team in caps.
- Hawks versus SIXERS = win 37-34
- HEAT versus Sixers = loss 37-35
- Kings versus SIXERS = win 38-35
- BULLS versus Sixers = loss 38-36
- Rockets versus SIXERS = win 39-36
- Nets versus SIXERS = win 40-36
- BUCKS versus Sixers = win 41-36
- CELTICS versus Sixers = loss 41-37
- Knicks in SIXERS = win 42-37
- Raptors in SIXERS= win 43-37
- Magic in SIXERS = loss 43-38
- Pistons in SIXERS = win 44-38
I have them generously going 8-4 in their remaining 12 to finish 44-38. Eight out of their remaining 12 are at home — a good sign for a team that’s 22-11 in the Wells Fargo Center.
Atlanta, sitting at 40-30, would have to go 4-8 in their remaining games for the Sixers to take the fifth seed in tiebreakers. The Hawks play six on the road and six at home, but have a difficult slate of home games remaining including games against the Bulls (tonight), Nets, Magic, Celtics, Spurs and Heat. The Hawks could go 1-5 at home the rest of the way. They play a kinder road schedule including games against the Sixers (Wednesday), Cavs, Rockets, Pacers, Wizards, Bobcats. They would need to lose three of those games. Unlikely, considering the Hawks are a pretty decent road team at 19-16, but possible.
Still, this is not about the Hawks. This is about the Sixers. This season the Sixers proved they can be an entertaining group — a team the city has certainly kept their eyes on. But as spring training yields to opening day and Eagles management gear up for another NFL draft, the Sixers need to find a way to remain relevant in this town. Can they make a run? Can they avoid the Big 3 in Miami and the Big 3 in the Eastern conference? These next 12 games will likely decide.