(Checks schedule) Where do the Sixers play tonight? Not in Philadelphia? Guess that’s a loss.
Sadly, that line of thinking serves as only a slight exaggeration this season. The Sixers enter Monday night’s action mired in a five-game losing streak on the road, and now sit at 7-13 away from the comfy confines of The Center. It’s wonderful that Philadelphia is tied for the second-best home record in the league at 18-2 (Miami is 17-1, Milwaukee is also 18-2), but the Sixers need to start winning some road games if they hope to have that crucial home-court advantage in the playoffs.
At this point, catching Milwaukee for the top seed in the Eastern Conference seems like an impossible feat. However, just three games separate the second through sixth seeds. Not only would the two-seed get home-court advantage in a potential second-round matchup, but it ensures avoiding that competition tier and getting to play someone like Orlando in the first round. The Sixers need to have those thoughts in mind instead of that “flip the switch” mentality.
The regular season may be of reduced significance, but one or two games could really make the difference come April and May. Brett Brown touched on that idea a few days ago following the Boston win when mentioning the importance of having clinched the season series (and a possible tiebreaker) against the Celtics. Maybe win a road game more than one out of every three tries and tiebreakers won’t come into play.
The Sixers should have no shortage of motivation to come out with a good showing after what happened less than two weeks ago. On New Year’s Eve, Philadelphia suited up on this same court in Indiana and got absolutely shellacked by the Pacers, 115-97. The final score looking even that close was merely a result of garbage time, as Indiana led by as many as 36 points in what was likely the Sixers’ most lackadaisical effort of the season.
Fortunately for the Sixers, although Joel Embiid is out following Friday’s surgery on his hand, the Pacers are also likely to have one or more key members of their starting lineup out of commission. Malcolm Brogdon missed Friday’s win over Chicago was strep throat and was still feeling ill yesterday. He is listed as questionable, and would likely be less than 100 percent physically if he did suit up. Meanwhile, Domantas Sabonis underwent an MRI on Saturday after experiencing knee soreness. Although the results were clean, it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see the Pacers sit him as a precautionary measure.
The stakes are pretty clear for the playoff picture. A game against a Pacers club also bunched in that second tier beneath Milwaukee is almost doubly important. Unlike Saturday night in Texas, the Sixers need to play two good halves of basketball tonight. Let’s see if they have it in them.
Who: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Indiana Pacers
When: 7:00 pm ET
Where: Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, Indiana
Watch: NBC Sports Philadelphia
Listen: 97.5 The Fanatic
Philadelphia: Joel Embiid (out - hand)
Indiana: Victor Oladipo (out - knee); Malcolm Brogdon (questionable - strep throat); Domantas Sabonis (questionable - knee)