Sixers set up for success with remaining schedule

There are just 27 games remaining in the Sixers’ first post-tanking season. The good news is that the ultimate goal of the playoffs is not only attainable, but the Sixers have a chance to make more out of this final push.

Sitting at seventh in the East with a 30-25 record, with honors being thrown left and right at the Sixers’ young core, the team appears to be set up for success. The Sixers have a favorable schedule and a good amount of momentum propelling them forward.

Breaking down the schedule

Of the 27 games left for the Sixers in the 2017-18 campaign, 17 are against teams with losing records, giving the Sixers one of the league’s easiest schedules through the rest of the season.

The Sixers come out of the all-star break with eight of the first 10 games on the road — this will be the toughest stretch. Five of the eight road games are against Eastern Conference playoff contenders. The Sixers have lost four straight on the road and are just 12-15 this season when they aren’t at home.

After the Sixers play the Nets in Brooklyn on March 11, things start to look a lot better. The Sixers will only have six more games on the road through the end of the season. The Sixers have played well at home, where they are 18-10 on the season and 11-0 in 2018.

Another reason the Sixers’ schedule has been deemed one of the easiest for the remainder of the season is that 23 of the 27 games are against teams in the East, the weaker conference. But only five games separate the third seed (Cleveland) and the eighth seed (Miami), so games against Eastern teams will have heavy playoff implications.

Momentum

Heading into the break, the Sixers were on a five-game winning streak. They’re going to look to carry that momentum into the final part of the season.

Additionally, the Sixers have the best defensive rating in 2018 (100.3), and have constantly been in the top five for the majority of the season. Lately, when the Sixers have had lapses in offensive execution, it has been their defense that has kept them in games.

Camera icon Yong Kim / Staff
New Sixers Marco Belinelli shoots the basketball during warm-up before the Sixers play the New York Knicks on Monday, Feb. 12.

‘s debut was a high moment for the Sixers in their final game before the all-star break. With Joel Embiid out against Miami, which is right on the heels of the Sixers in the standings, it was a statement game for the Sixers.

In addition to Belinelli’s 17 points off the bench that night, two other bench players combined for 20 points (Richaun Holmes and Trevor Booker). The Sixers’ bench is one of the least-used in the league and one of the lowest in offensive production. The Sixers are hoping that the addition of Belinelli will give them some more consistent firepower in the reserve unit for the final stretch of the season.

The variables

The only variable that really matters heading into the final part of the season is health, particularly the health of Joel Embiid.

Embiid has missed 11 games this season and the Sixers are just 3-8 when the 7-foot-2 center is missing. He is at the crux of everything the Sixers do offensively and he is an invaluable towering presence on defense. The Sixers absolutely need Embiid on the floor if they want to make any noise in the postseason.

Embiid missed the final game before the all-star break with right ankle swelling and soreness, but he competed in three events in Los Angeles, including scoring 19 points in the All-Star Game on Sunday. So, for right now, it looks like all systems are a go.

The health of the rest of the starting lineup is equally important. The Sixers’ starting five is one of the most heavily used and most effective in the league. But, as mentioned before, there is a huge drop-off when it comes to their bench. So the success of the team really relies on the availability of Embiid, Ben Simmons, Dario Saric, Robert Covington, and JJ Redick.

So far, Redick has been the only other starter to miss significant time because of injury, but like Embiid, he’s healthy right now.

Starting strong

The Sixers’ first games out of the break are at Chicago on Thursday then at home against Orlando Saturday. These two games are must-wins for the Sixers. They are against two of the East’s bottom dwellers.

This provides the Sixers with the opportunity to carry the momentum from before the break into the final stretch, get a couple of wins under their belt, and possibly an opportunity for some rest for the starters if they take care of business early in the games.

We’re officially in the final stretch of the season. The playoff race is tight, so a strong start would go a long way in helping the Sixers get to where they want to go.