This NBA season has been highly unpredictable.
Looking ahead, it’s difficult to prognosticate with much confidence, given the health and safety concerns that coincide with attempting to resume a season during a pandemic.
Still, we do at least know who the Sixers are scheduled to play in their eight seeding games. As a reminder, the team is currently sixth in the Eastern Conference but could move as high as fourth.
Here’s how we imagine the final eight games shaking out:
Aug. 1, 7 p.m. — Pacers
In their two losses this year to Indiana — both of which came without Joel Embiid — the Sixers were 12 of 62 from three-point range, including 6 for 29 on wide-open threes (20.7 percent), per NBA.com/Stats.
They shouldn’t be as reliant on outside shooting with Embiid in the lineup. Embiid has dominated Myles Turner head-to-head, and we’ll say he’s fresh, aggressive and effective in the Sixers’ first game back.
Aug. 3, 8 p.m. — Spurs
The Sixers should have little trouble scoring against the Spurs’ defense, which is rated 24th in the NBA. Tobias Harris, who scored 26 points in the Sixers’ win over San Antonio on Nov. 22, seems particularly primed for a big offensive game here. The Spurs simply don’t have any wing defenders who should be able to bother him.
Aug. 5, 4 p.m. — Wizards
Davis Bertans’ decision not to play in Orlando makes this an easier game for the Sixers, at least on paper. Without their top shooter, the Wizards will likely be very dependent on Bradley Beal, who scored 36 points on Dec. 21 in Philadelphia but may have needed to put up 50 for Washington to have a chance. The Sixers scored 125 points that night against the Wizards’ league-worst defense.
Aug. 7, 6:30 p.m. — Magic
This is technically the closest thing the Sixers have to a road game. It would make a ton of sense if they lost it and fell to 0-3 this season against the Magic. They’ve struggled offensively vs. Orlando and also were narrowly outrebounded in both games so far.
Aug. 9, 6:30 p.m. — Trail Blazers
Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum and the Blazers should test the Sixers’ pick-and-roll defense. Portland is among the league’s best in pick-and-roll efficiency, and the Blazers’ guards will hurt the Sixers if their drop coverage is overly conservative.
Aug. 11, 4:30 p.m. — Suns
Way back on Nov. 4, Al Horford had perhaps his most impressive game of the season. He scored 32 points and had five rebounds, four assists and two steals in the Sixers’ loss to Phoenix, their first defeat of the season after a 5-0 start.
Embiid (fight with Karl-Anthony Towns) and Deandre Ayton (positive test for diuretic) were both suspended for that game. Though Ayton is talented, Embiid is clearly the superior center and should give the Sixers the edge here. The matchup remains favorable for Horford, too.
Aug. 12, 6:30 p.m. — Raptors
Toronto has a three-game edge over the Celtics and may very well have the No. 2 seed locked up by this stage. It might not make a massive difference even if the Raptors do decide to limit minutes for their top players, since they’ve handled important injuries well this year, but it could help the Sixers a bit.
We’ll predict Matisse Thybulle plays extended minutes and shines in this one. Brett Brown was insistent before the league’s hiatus that he was developing Thybulle with a playoff role in mind, and the rookie can solidify a spot for himself over the eight seeding games.
Aug. 14, TBD — Rockets
Again, where each team sits in the standings will be a significant factor. Like the Sixers, the Rockets are sixth in their conference but have an opportunity to rise.
The only meeting between the teams this year was one of Ben Simmons’ most encouraging showings as a screener and roller, as well as one of his best games overall. He had 29 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists. James Harden, meanwhile, somehow recorded an even gaudier triple-double, finishing with 44 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists.
Harden is in a class of his own as an isolation scorer, and he’s been dedicated to fitness over the last few months. It will be fascinating to see how the Rockets defend Embiid without a traditional center, but they look like a dangerous team.
Overall seeding game record: 5-3
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