With All-Star weekend in the past, teams are now preparing for the stretch run of the NBA season. The Philadelphia 76ers, who have 25 games left to play, have the hardest remaining schedule based on the winning percentage of their opponents.
Currently, in the third spot in the Eastern Conference, it won’t be easy for the Sixers to lock down a top playoff spot.
They trail Boston and Milwaukee in the standings, and the Cleveland Cavaliers and Brooklyn Nets are within 4.5 games of the 76ers.
Here are the storylines to follow regarding the 76ers’ second-half schedule.
Big Eastern Conference Matchups
The Sixers take on both the Celtics and the Bucks two more times each. Those four games will all be pivotal in deciding who takes home-court advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Should the 76ers win three or all four of those games, it will likely catapult them into first place.
Philadelphia is a combined 1-3 against the Bucks and Celtics this season. If Joel Embiid and the 76ers want to really assert themselves into the “title contender” conversation, beating those two teams would go a long way.
Outside of Boston and Milwaukee, there are plenty of other good matchups within the Eastern Conference for the 76ers.
Three dates with the Miami Heat, one with the Cavaliers and one with the Nets should all prove to be competitive. All three of those teams are below the Sixers in the standings, but fighting for playoff spots.
Another storyline to keep an eye on within the Eastern Conference is the potential playoff matchups. The Heat, Cavaliers and Nets all seem to be potential first-round opponents for the Sixers, along with a few others.
The head-to-head matchups with the East’s best teams will determine not just where the Sixers land for playoff seeding, but who they will play as well.
Big Western Conference Matchups
While games against the West’s teams aren’t as important for standings, there are still plenty of great teams the 76ers have to play from the conference.
The Grizzlies come to Philadelphia to open the second half of the season on Thursday. Memphis is 35-22 and firmly in the Western Conference’s second seed.
The Sixers have two matchups against the Mavericks as well still, who added star guard Kyrie Irving at the trade deadline.
In late March, the 76ers will have a crucial four-game stretch on the road against Golden State, Phoenix, Denver and Dallas. By the time Philadelphia plays against the Suns, they should have their newest addition healthy in superstar Kevin Durant as well.
The game against the Nuggets will give us a second look at the Embiid vs. Nikola Jokic matchup we last saw on January 28.
Overall, the games left for the 76ers against Western Conference teams are nothing to scoff at; they will prove to be a real challenge in preparation for the postseason.
Away vs. Home Games
Possibly the toughest part about the 76ers remaining schedule: 15 of the 25 games are on the road.
After three home games to start the second half, the team will go on a five game road trip.
Then, after two games back at home, they are right back on the road for seven of the next eight games.
Being away from the Wells Fargo Center so much will be quite the challenge for Philadelphia. This season, they are 23-8 (.742 winning percentage) at home, and 15-11 (.577 winning percentage) on the road.
Between the road trips, matchups against the top of the Eastern Conference and interconference battles with some great Western Conference teams, this second half should prove to be a challenge for Philadelphia.
Keeping Embiid, James Harden and other key contributors healthy for the next few months ahead of the playoffs will be massive, along with fully meshing together as a team.
Featured image courtesy of Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
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