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The Sixers Path to 50 Wins

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Evaluating the Sixers remaining schedule, and who they conquer to reach 50 wins.

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Detroit Pistons Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Who: Cleveland Cavaliers (48-30)
What: Battle for the 3rd seed
When: April 6th
Where: Philadelphia

The Sixers’ next game features a showdown with LeBron James in Philadelphia. In arguably the biggest game of the season - forget this season, biggest game of recent memory? I’m sure I’m missing a few tank games in which the Sixers came through in a must-lose situation - the Sixers will unfortunately be without Joel Embiid. Dario Saric is expected to return for this game after a 3 game absence. Still, the Sixers might need someone not named Ben Simmons or Dario Saric to have their best game of the year.

The Sixers are 1-2 against the Cavs this season. The first two matchups (both Sixers losses), which took place before the league year crossed into 2018, the Cavs had a rotation that featured Dwayne Wade, Jae Crowder, and Channing Frye, among others. The new look Cavs, with their Larry Nances and their Rodney Hoods, fell to the Sixers 108-97 on March 1st.

LBJ seems to look forward to taking on the Sixers and his young protégé Ben Simmons, as LeBron has scored exactly 30 in every meeting against Philly this season. He’s averaged 12 rebounds and 9 assists in those games. So yeah, 3 total assists shy of averaging a 30-12-10 triple-double vs. the Sixers.

As of this writing, FiveThirtyEight has the Sixers as 8 point favorites with a 78% chance of winning. I’m really on the fence about this one. The Cavs have been on a tear of their own, going 9-1 in their last 10, and LeBron should have his way offensively against the Sixers. On the other hand, the Cavs will be coming off a back-to-back against the Wizards and Ben Simmons has looked pretty unstoppable himself.

Playoff atmosphere. No Embiid. LeBron James. Ugh, don’t feel great about this game. Sixers lose thanks to turnovers, but the game serves as a wake up call in the midst of a winning streak that has the squad feeling themselves. 48-31.

Who: Dallas Mavericks (24-55)
What: The Success Story of the Tank vs. the Wanna-Be Tank
When: April 8th
Where: Philadelphia

There’s just no way the Sixers lose this game, right? Especially under the circumstance that they lose to the Cavs. The Sixers want 50 baaad. The Mavs could still get as high as the 3rd best lottery odds, and as low as the 9th best - sheesh. It’s a simple equation, Sixers want to win + Mavs want to lose = Sixers win.

FiveThirtyEight predicts a 12 point Sixers victory, and their 91% win probability is one of the highest on the site in the remaining slate of games across the league. I’m with them here: another double-digit win for the Sixers and a game that sees Ben Simmons hardly crack 30 minutes, if he does at all. 49-31.

Who: Atlanta Hawks (22-57)
What: The Richaun Holmes plays 30 minutes game
When: April 10th
Where: Atlanta

This is the very last game of the season for the Hawks, in what has been a miserable ride for Mike Budenholzer. Yet even at this point, the Hawks may not have locked in their lottery odds, and may actually have an opportunity to get the best odds. It’s unlikely, but one thing is for sure: another game for the Sixers against a team that has losing in their best interest.

These two faced off less than a week ago, and the Sixers won by 10. But the game wasn’t even that close. The Hawks outscored the Sixers in the 4th quarter 32-15, as the Sixers starters basically became spectators, with not a single starter playing more than 26 minutes.

Like the Mavs game, there’s pretty much no way to fathom a loss for the Sixers. 9 points is the margin of victory for the Sixers, according to FiveThirtyEight’s model, with an 81% win probability. Sixers cruise, and the #FreeRichaun movement continues to get what they crave.

This here, is #50. 50-31. 50-31!

Who: Milwaukee Bucks (42-36)
What: The Process™ vs. The Shithole™
When: April 11th
Where: Philadelphia

The Bucks have played the Sixers well this season, as they hold a 2-1 lead in the season series. Giannis Antetokounmpo missed one of those games, but went off in the other two, averaging 33 points, 13.5 rebounds and 6.5 assists. In the Sixers sole win, not only did Giannis not play, but the Sixers were able to employ the services of Joel Embiid, who tallied 29 points and 9 rebounds. Embiid, as far as I know, will not be available for this game.

Judging this game is tricky though, because both the Sixers and the Bucks may or may not have playoff seeding to play for. The Bucks could still obtain as high as the 6th seed, while the Sixers could finish anywhere from 3rd to 5th. I’m going to assume both teams have something to play for.

The last game of the season, an incredible 50-win Sixers season, at home. In a tribute to the fanbase that stuck by this team through it all, the Sixers hand the Bucks a beatdown and lock in the 4th seed. FiveThirtyEight’s model concurs on a Sixers win, giving the Sixers a 6 point edge and a 73% win probability.

The 2017-2018 Philadelphia 76ers finish 51-31.

*If you’re wondering why I put so much stock into FiveThirtyEight’s projections: I don’t. I’d much rather be able to use Vegas spreads. But it’s the NBA, and lines typically don’t come out until the day of. Still, I think FiveThirtyEight’s model is useful as supporting evidence compared with other resources that I’m aware of, while acknowledging its flaws.