It’s approaching the business end of the NBA season and a number of teams are starting to dream of playoff success. The Utah Jazz and Quin Snyder will be hoping they can convert their early season form into what would be a monumental Championship winning effort.
Likewise, LeBron and the LA Lakers will be hoping that they can recapture some of the defensive stability that provided the platform for their heroics last season. But can the Philadelphia 76ers harbor similar hopes to these two sides? Read on to find out.
The Season So Far
At the time of writing the Sixers find themselves top of the Eastern Conference with a record of 8-2 in their last 10 games.
Early season predictions that saw the Philadelphia outfit fare so well in the NBA Championship seem to have been well-founded. Many punters across Pennsylvania and other legal sports betting states backed the Sixers early in the season to make the playoffs this NBA season, but can they make it?
The Sixers’ last game at the time of writing, a frantic 109-105 loss against the Milwaukee Bucks raised questions over the team’s staying power, however. In a first and second quarter that was strewn with errors, the Sixers somehow found themselves ahead by virtue of being slightly less bad than the Bucks.
However, in the third and fourth quarters, the roles were reversed and the Bucks moved into top gear whilst the Sixers continued to stall. The sloppiness on show throughout the game has raised concerns over the Philadelphia side’s concentration but if there is one small mercy, it is that this has happened during the regular season.
The Sixers can now focus on improving between now and the playoffs and eliminating complacency from their game.
Highlights from the game between the Bucks and the Sixers
Three Reasons Why Sixers Can Go All the Way
After criticizing the Sixers for their defeat to the Bucks in the above section, it only feels right to hop straight from the negative to the positives. One defeat isn’t indicative of a trend or on its own an indicator of impending doom.
Let’s not forget that for much of the season the Sixers have looked excellent and sit atop of the Eastern Conference for a reason.
Speaking of reasons, here are three that should fill Sixers fans with confidence that their team can go all the way this season.
Defense: Whilst the Bucks – Sixers game was characterized by mistakes from both sides, what was clear was both team’s dedication to the defensive side of the game. In the first half, the Sixers restricted the Bucks to their lowest points total of the season thus far.
As has so often been the case this season, the Sixers defense was characterized by tenacious turnovers. In the playoffs, the Sixers will come up against opponents that restrict them offensively, so it’s important to have a defense that can keep them in the game.
The margin of defeat against the Bucks was slim, which is a ray of light as it showed that even when everything was going wrong for the Sixers, their defense still kept them in with a fighting chance.
Embiid & Simmons: Much has been made of the relationship between Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons in the media. Irrespective of what is said in the press, one thing that cannot be ignored is the talent that the two players possess.
MVP frontrunner Embiid has looked imperious thus far this season and there is an argument that Simmons is playing the best basketball of his career. Together, in the heat of a tight playoff game, these two could prove the difference for the Sixers.
Offensive Highs: Obviously, the defeat against the Bucks was not a glowing endorsement of the Sixers offensive talents but, in the context of the season it has to be seen as an anomaly. On the whole, the team has performed well in offense this season, with a relentlessness that has left fans purring.
Earlier in the campaign, the Sixers beat the San Antonio Spurs 134-99, at one point leading by as many as 42 points. That result broke a record for the Sixers signaling the first time that they had put up 127+ in 5 straight games since 1967.
New coach Doc Rivers, who is clearly still stamping his authority on the team has to be pleased with that.
Reasons to be Fearful
Here comes the kicker, the part of the argument that all Sixers fans want to ignore but realize they can’t. This team, regardless of their early season form and the promise that they have shown on occasion has a series of critical flaws that could damage their Championship hopes.
Chief amongst that is the lack of depth outside of the starting line-up. It is abundantly clear that the Sixers possess some elite-level talent at the top end of their roster, but below that things begin to look a little threadbare.
Shake Milton, Furkan Korkmaz, Dwight Howard, Matisse Thybulle, and Mike Scott are all poor options to bring in off the bench. We’ll spare you the heartache of going into detail on their individual stats, but trust us, they’re not good.
This is worrying because when it comes to the crunch in the playoffs, Doc Rivers will have to turn around and put his trust in these players to go out there and turn a game for him. None of the other main runners and riders for the Championship have anywhere near as weak a bench as the Sixers, so that’s point 1.
Point 2, which is equally worrying is the team’s seeming inability to make three-point shots despite repeated attempts to improve this in the draft. Currently the Sixers rank 13th in the NBA for three-pointers made per game putting them well below their fellow Championship contenders.
Whilst we could go on and cast a microscopic eye over other deficiencies in the team, points 1 and 2 in combination paint a depressing picture enough already. The playoffs are hard, they are tight and they are designed to separate the weak from the squad.
Can a team with poor depth and a poor three-point record be counted on to come out on top in not one but all of their playoff games? It doesn’t look likely…