With the Philadelphia 76ers possessing the longest current winning streak in the NBA at eight games, and the Boston Celtics channeling Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and free fallin’ down the Eastern Conference standings, the unlikely has happened: the Sixers are currently the two seed in the East!
Thanks to the magic of percentage points, if the season ended today (it doesn’t), the Sixers would host a potential second-round playoff series between themselves and the rival Celtics. Both clubs are also only two games back of the Bucks for the top spot in the East, which is obviously huge in laying a path where you would only need to defeat, at most, one member of this Eastern Conference triumvirate in order to reach the NBA Finals. Let’s see how things might shake out with about a dozen or so games left in the regular season.
Milwaukee: The Sixers currently lead the season series, 2-1, with a game in Milwaukee yet to come on Sunday, April 2. If Philadelphia wins again in Cream City, they’ll win the season series and any potential tiebreaker and we can probably seriously consider entering a headspace where the Sixers have the league’s best record. If the Bucks win, it’s probably unlikely we would need to worry about a tiebreaker, but if it did still come into play, it would likely drop down to conference winning percentage as the determining factor. Both teams are currently 29-15 in the East.
Boston: The Celtics have already won the season series by virtue of winning the first three meetings this year. The Sixers will need to finish a clear game above the Cus Crise squad in order to own the higher seed. The final meeting on April 4 in Philadelphia may loom large.
(Side-note: Man, those three days from April 2 to April 4 may have a lot to do with how Sixers fans end up feeling about this season. Hope your personal schedules are clear.)
After starting this current winning streak against Milwaukee, the Sixers had a bit of a reprieve in their schedule, with the only team I would deem dangerous being Cleveland. As a result, they’re back to having the toughest remaining schedule in the league, per Tankathon.
Boston has the ninth-hardest remaining schedule, and Milwaukee is 17th. All of the Sixers’ remaining opponents are at least in position for the play-in tournament, whereas the Bucks have games left against the Pistons and Spurs, the clubs with the worst two records in the league who will be doing everything possible to be Woeful for Wembanyama. The Sixers are also the only of these three teams to have more road games left than home games (Milwaukee has six of each remaining, and Boston six home games to only four roadies).
Things certainly look challenging to close out the season. However, line up whoever you want, I say, and the pick-and-roll combo of Joel Embiid and James Harden will knock em’ down. We’ve seen Boston lose to Houston and Utah just in the last week, so what’s on paper obviously isn’t always what’s going to come to fruition. Things will be settled on the court, and right now, that’s where the Sixers look pretty darn good.