4/12 – 4/30: The Sixers play ten games in nineteen days, with eight of them coming against teams likely to make the playoffs. Fortunately, seven of those ten games are at home. While this sounds like a daunting stretch, the Sixers have the ninth easiest remaining schedule with their opponents combined winning percentage sitting at .485.
4/14: Brooklyn Nets @ Philadelphia 76ers: 7PM ET, ESPN
The series is tied at a game a piece so far, and this is the final meeting other than a potential playoff series. With the Sixers a half game behind Brooklyn as of April 8th, having this tiebreaker in hand could prove to be huge. This will not exactly be a playoff preview as the Nets are likely to be without James Harden and the Sixers without George Hill, but with Joel Embiid and Kevin Durant both back from injuries, this is one of the most important remaining regular season games across the entire league.
4/21 – 4/24: Three games in four days; home against Phoenix (currently the second-best team in the Western Conference), then the following day a national TV matchup on TNT at Milwaukee, only to do it again two days later again on Saturday afternoon on ESPN. This is easily the most difficult part of the remaining schedule. It would be great to get George Hill back before this stretch and hope to have him for at least one of the Milwaukee games to face off against one of his former teams.
Of the Sixers final seven games, they face Houston on the road, Detroit at home, and finish with two straight at home against Orlando. The Sixers should have a very strong chance to either make-up or hold ground against Brooklyn while also likely getting the starters some shorter nights, if not entire games off for rest.
News and Notes
The Sixers waived Ignas Brazdeikis. If you even knew he was a Sixer, check out our own Rob Manoff’s piece on it.
Regarding George Hill, who at this point appears to be the only (current) roster member (that matters) not available, Noah Levick of NBC Sports Philly provided several positive updates on Hill’s status:
While it will be nice to see if the Sixers can ease their way through the final days of the season, the NBA’s “Play-In Tournament” provides some time to rest and prepare as well. The Sixers will play their final regular season game on May 16th, but the official playoffs will not begin until May 22nd, as the seven through ten seeds in each conference play over the course of May 18-21.
The Sixers will finish with the best record in the Eastern Conference. While I mentioned that the Sixers have the ninth easiest remaining schedule, the Nets have the ninth most difficult schedule, with their opponents winning percentage at .514. They have matchups at Philadelphia, Denver, Dallas, twice at Milwaukee, and at home against Phoenix and Boston.
Joel Embiid will finish outside of the top three for the MVP race. I’m not happy about it of course, but Nikola Jokic is going to end up likely playing all 72 games and if he doesn’t average a triple-double, it’ll be very close. Jokic is first in the NBA in PER at 36.61 and is currently averaging 26/11/9 with Denver sitting fourth in the West. I think they will finish in third which is probably as low as you can be and have the MVP. The Lakers and Suns both have significantly more difficult schedules and the Clippers have been inconsistent all season. Giannis is likely the runner-up and I could see someone like Damian Lillard stealing the third spot, again, mostly due to games played.
Ben Simmons will win Defensive Player of the Year. If you have The Athletic, Zach Harper wrote a great piece today on why he would vote for Simmons over Rudy Gobert. I’d link it but it’s behind a paywall so just go find it if you subscribe to The Athletic. I’ll share this small sample, but you should subscribe and go read the whole thing. Ultimately, I think with the way the league has been changing for some time now, Ben’s ability to guard every position and take on the opposing team’s best player regardless of their position will matter more than some of the analytics that favor Gobert, mainly because they favor all centers over other positional defenders.
The Sixers will play the Chicago Bulls in the first round of the playoffs. As of now, the Play-In Tournament would be Boston vs New York with the winner becoming the seventh seed. I would love to see Boston lose of course, but I think they can handle the Knicks, which will then leave New York to face the winner of Indiana/Chicago, which I believe Chicago not only defeats Indiana, but defeats New York as well and gets in as the eight seed to face Philadelphia. They will get swept after that, but it’ll be fun to see LaVine and Vucevic in the playoffs.