For several reasons (most notably, Shamus Clancy’s erroneous Post-It note), many thought that Saturday’s win over the Minnesota Timberwolves was the tipping point. However, due to the NBA’s convoluted multi-team tiebreakers, the official invitation to the postseason would have to wait one more day.
With a record of 42-30, the Sixers’ playoff spot was essentially a fait accompli, and Indiana’s 113-107 victory over Miami Sunday means that the next 10 games (including tonight’s matchup against the Denver Nuggets) are all about positioning. Seeds 3 through 8 in the Eastern Conference are separated by a total of five games, so the next two-and-a-half weeks will determine quite a bit in terms of potential matchups and homecourt advantage.
But let’s focus on tonight, shall we? The only time the Sixers and Nuggets met this season, the good guys (sans Joel Embiid - rest) pulled out a 107-102 victory thanks to 20 points and nine rebounds by Dario Saric.
The rematch won’t be a cakewalk by any stretch: Denver has 40 wins of their own, and Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray combined for 50 points in a 108-100 victory over the Washington Wizards on Friday. The Nuggets are flirting with a playoff spot themselves, and would probably be solidly above the cut line if it weren’t for their 13-23 road mark.
Meanwhile, the Sixers are 10-3 so far in the month of March, and Ben Simmons has all but etched his name on the Rookie of the Year trophy. They’ve been dismantling the teams that they’re supposed to, and easily handing others - like Minnesota - that were supposed to be measuring sticks of a sort.
The Sixers have a not-so-unrealistic shot at 50 wins, and Denver is one of the more formidable speed bumps between now and the end of the regular season. But even though the Nuggets aren’t bad, but how does one bet against a team that’s lost one game in Philadelphia since late December?