We all know the cliches in this business that is the NBA: take it one game at a time. Don’t think about games way down the road, just stay present. Players and coaches recite these ad nauseam. That type of Zen perspective can be invaluable for keeping a short memory and delivering a winning effort as much as possible. But for us fans, it’s not as important. We can steal a peek at the upcoming schedule and make some inferences. Let’s jump in.
Tonight @ Washington Wizards 7:00pm
Nothing too daunting this evening. The Sixers will continue to be without scourge of the high perimeter, Josh Richardson, who has battled a hamstring issue. The good news is that other than Bradley Beal, there have not been too many Wiz who have stepped up to really hurt opponents this season. I love the Sixers chances of making it out with a win and making their push passed Miami in the standings for the four seed.
Saturday vs. Cleveland Cavaliers in Philadelphia
The Cavs have been surprisingly pesky in Philadelphia. I think the Sixers sometimes sleep walk into this contest before Brett Brown has to give them smelling salts along the sidelines. Hopefully recent experience hosting the Cavs has them play hard earlier and rest more later (ideally once the game is safely away). The next three get exponentially tougher so they’ll kick themselves if they drop one against the Wiz or Cavs.
Sunday vs. Raptors in Philadelphia
Man. Now this is a revenge game of revenge games. First Toronto knocks the Sixers out of the playoffs by a few bounces of a ball. Then recently they host the Sixers who have a 6 point lead late during a game Joel Embiid can’t buy a bucket because of all the real estate Marc Gasol and Nick Nurse etched out in his mind. The Sixers could really use a win here. The problem is that the Raps play tonight (thursday) and then not again before this showdown. The Sixers of course, host the Cavs and will be on their second of a back-to-back. Between home court (in their favor) and the rest situation (in Toronto’s favor) it makes for a very close battle.
It will be interesting to see if the Sixers give Embiid a rest for the Cavs game. They can certainly beat Cleveland without him (one would hope) and then he could be truly fresh for his rematch with Gasol. Also, Kyle Lowry who was out the last time the teams met is active again. That won’t make things any easier.
Tuesday, 12/10 vs. Nuggets in Philadelphia
Another tough one against one of the top big men in the game, Nikola Jokic. He’s a stylistic contrast to Embiid. One of the most unselfish players in the game. It is extremely dangerous to double him because he’s so good at finding the open teammate. Embiid’s weakness is perhaps being doubled. So they’re in some ways mirrors. Joel’s biggest edge over Nikola is defensively. Jokic has improved on defense, but not to the level the Sixers enjoy on a nightly basis out of Embiid. Should be another fun one. It will be the Nuggets 4th and final game of a road trip so hopefully all the flat land and thick air of Philadelphia will leave them missing their precious altitude.
Thursday December 12th @ Boston Celtics.
The Sixers coasted passed their rival on the first night of the year. Since then, the Celts took over the lead in the division. But now find themselves just a half game up on Philadelphia. Boston will get to host (the bad news) but they’ll have played the night prior in Indiana, so they may not be as fresh as Philadelphia.
All in all, there are some winnable games ahead on the docket. There are certainly some tough games. But no “scheduled Ls” as we say, when a team comes in on a lengthy road trip with a back to back facing a well-rested beast in their home town. They’ll have chances. Hopefully, their execution and their health will hold up a bit better than it has earlier in the season.
Coming away with wins against both the Wiz and Cavs would be a nice start. It doesn’t seem especially likely they’d sweep the Raps, Nuggets, and Celts. But if they could take two of those three, along with the two bunnies that would be a very important four out of five.
But like they say, one game at a time.