Before the NBA season was suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Sixers were set to have one of the softest remaining schedules in the NBA.
Before the All-Star Game, they had the third-toughest schedule in the league. They were supposed to have the second-easiest after the break.
While the NBA’s 22-team return to play format has put a wrench in that, the Sixers are still in reasonably good shape in looking at the official schedule the league released Friday night.
Here’s a look at the eight seeding games the Sixers will play at Disney World:
Indiana (Aug. 1, 7 p.m.)
San Antonio (Aug. 3, 8 p.m.)
Washington (Aug. 5, 4 p.m.)
Orlando (Aug. 7, 7:30 p.m.)
Portland (Aug. 9, 6:30 p.m.)
Phoenix (Aug. 11, 4:30 p.m.)
Toronto (Aug. 12, 6:30 p.m.)
Houston (Aug. 14, TBD)
Combined, their opponents have a record of 261-255. That's a cumulative .554 winning percentage.
While there a couple of tough games — including getting the Pacers to start — it still lines up pretty favorably. They’ve already finished off their season series with the likes of the Bucks, Lakers, Clippers, Nuggets, Celtics, Heat, Jazz and Thunder.
They’ll only play one game (Raptors) against any of the top eight in the league. That matchup against Toronto could also serve as a decent barometer for Joel Embiid against his boogeyman Marc Gasol. The bigger question may be whether or not it matters. Is there a benefit to the Sixers moving up in the standings? As the sixth seed, they’d take on the Celtics, a team they’ve beaten three out of four times and seem to match up well with.
If they were to move into the fourth or fifth seed that could mean facing off against the Heat or the Pacers. Miami took three out of four against the Sixers. There’s little doubt Jimmy Butler would be especially motivated to knock off his former team.
Indiana is nothing to scoff at either. If All-Star guard Victor Oladipo decides to play, he'll be further removed from the gruesome quadriceps injury he suffered in January of last year. A healthy Malcolm Brogdon, who’s battled injury all season and recently tested positive for COVID-19, could also be a huge wild card for the Pacers.
Since the NBA playoffs do not re-seed, the Sixers would also avoid the NBA-best Bucks until the Eastern Conference Finals by finishing sixth.
What’s more important is that the Sixers use these remaining eight games to answer serious questions about their team. Can Joel Embiid get in NBA playoff shape? Will Ben Simmons be healthy? Will Al Horford be a fit in the starting lineup? Will we see the bully ball defense Brett Brown promised?
The remaining schedule won’t matter if those questions can’t be answered come playoff time.
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