The Sixers 2018-2019 regular season schedule has been released, and there’s a lot to take in. While I’ll continue to collect my thoughts on the Sixers slate and relay them to you in the coming days, the following thoughts are some of my takeaways just a few hours removed from the publication of the schedule.
27 nationally televised games: Think the Sixers are a hot ticket? 27 nationally televised games is short of the Lakers’ league-leading 43 nationally televised games, but the number of 27 is still almost unbelievable compared to where this franchise was just a few seasons ago — and they actually have 39 games on national television if you’re counting the 12 to be shown on NBATV. Deep down inside, a very petty part of me doesn’t want the attention on our guys. I don’t want Steve in Albuquerque having his perspective of the Sixers tainted by Jeff Van Gundy or Mark Jackson. Putting aside my closed-mindedness, this all is wonderful for the team and the players, as their potential is being recognized by the league and NBA fans. It really speaks to the level of talent and commercial appeal of the players whom the Sixers are currently rostering.
5 game road trip: The Sixers longest road trip occurs mostly on the west coast, but fortunately, it is only 5 games. (The Sixers’ longest stint on the road last season was also 5 games, but there were two 5 game road trips compared to just one this upcoming season.) The road trip will start in Boston on Christmas day, and then the Sixers will fly west for the final four games facing the Utah Jazz, Portland Trail Blazers, L.A. Clippers and Phoenix Suns, in that order. If I had to rank those games from most difficult to easiest matchup, it would replicate the exact same order the games are scheduled in. So I guess that’s something: each game on the longest road trip gets easier than the one before.
Coming down the stretch: I don’t want to bore by listing the Sixers’ final month or so of games, so here’s a screenshot:
Milwaukee (twice), Boston and Minnesota could all go either way. Maybe Miami could steal one at home against the Sixers. However, of the remaining nine games I haven’t yet mentioned, all of them are presumably against inferior opponents. Should the Sixers find themselves in a tight race for favorable playoff seeding, the end of their schedule currently appears to be kind to them. Or if the Sixers have nearly locked up their playoff seeding with just a few games to go, they can afford to rest someone like Joel Embiid against Chicago (who the Sixers play twice in their final three games) and still have a strong chance of coming away with a win.
Home vs. Phoenix Suns, Nov. 17th: The Sixers take on the Phoenix Suns on November 17th at the Wells Fargo Center. Phoenix could still be a bottom dweller next season, and so on its face, this game doesn’t seem to be very notable. However, the matchup will be the first NBA appearance in Philadelphia of Sixer-for-ten-minutes Mikal Bridges (who played college ball at Villanova and whose mother is an executive for Harris-Blitzer Sports and Entertainment, the ownership group of the Sixers). Mikal was selected 10th overall by the Sixers and then traded to the Suns for Zhaire Smith. Unfortunately, Zhaire’s recent injury may force him to be sidelined for this game. But if he’s back, it will be interesting to see if the two get an opportunity to guard or score against each other. Both players will want to prove something to their respective teams that passed the players up. The storyline could end up irritatingly overplayed, but the on-court matchup would be fun with two defensively-talented rookies going head-to-head.
Home vs. Oklahoma City Thunder, Jan. 19th: The last time these two teams squared off in South Philly, it took three overtimes to declare a winner. While the Sixers lost the game, Joel Embiid appeared to be getting deep under Russell Westbrook’s skin. I want to see Joel go back to the mind games against Russ, and bait Russ into a technical-foul-earning, emotionally charged blow up. And then proceed to dunk Russ into a coma, as Jo nearly did here:
AND THE STARE DOWN. Have mercy.
Away vs. Toronto, Oct. 30th: The first look the Sixers will get against Kawhi as a Raptor. This game draws my interest for a few reasons. I’m really curious to see how Toronto deploys Kawhi Leonard defensively. Will they stick him on Ben to make the Sixers’ key initiator uncomfortable? Or will the Raptors hide that strategy for the playoffs, and give Kawhi a less strenuous task in guarding Robert Covington or JJ Redick? (Maybe they’ll never ask Kawhi to guard Ben.) If there’s anyone who is unlikely to give off signals with body language or friendly post-game chitter-chatter, it is Kawhi. But I would like to see if he shows any love to Joel or Ben or Markelle Fultz or Brett Brown. Remember that Kawhi could be a free agent in the summer of 2019, and he had reportedly been interested in being traded to Philly to reunite with Coach Brown and compete for a title.
The Boston games: October 16th in Boston (Opening Day). December 25th in Boston (Christmas Day). February 12th in Philly. March 20th in Philly. I want them and I want them now.
Back-to-backs: Liberty Ballers’ Adam Aaronson compiled all of the Sixers’ back-to-backs (the second tweet of the following two):
Back-to-backs— Adam (@SixersAdam) August 10, 2018
10/23 @ DET 10/24 @ MIL
10/29 vs ATL 10/30 @ TOR
11/3 vs DET 11/4 @ BK
11/16 vs UTA 11/17 @ CHA
12/16 @ CLE 12/17 @ SA
1/1 @ LAC 1/2 @ PHO
1/8 vs WAS 1/9 @ WAS
2/12 vs BOS 2/13 @ NY
3/5 vsORL 3/6 @ CHI
3/19 @ CHA 3/20 vs BOS
4/3 @ ATL 4/4 vs MIL
4/9 @ MIA 4/10 @ CHI
The Sixers have one more back-to-back that is missing from the above tweet: 11/9 vs. CHA and 11/10 @ MEM. (Shoutout to LB commenter ThugOverton for pointing that out.) So 13 back-to-backs overall, same as last season. While back-to-backs have for the most part meant a no-go for Joel Embiid in previous seasons, we’ll have to wait and see how the Sixers will handle Jo and back-to-backs this season. Honestly, I’d be okay with Brown and co. deciding it’s best to rest Jo in those scenarios again this year, maybe outside of a few games. I’d like The Process out there for both games when @ DET & @ MIL (Oct. 23-24) and vs. WAS & @ WAS (Jan. 8-9), and maybe @ CLE & @ SA (Dec. 16-17) .