We’ve all trusted the process since the beginning of it in 2013, and now the time has arrived for us to enjoy the moment. With the Miami Heat’s loss to the Pacers this past Sunday night, our Philadelphia 76ers will be playing playoff basketball by clinching a spot in the top 8 of the Eastern Conference Standings. However, it is yet be known what seed this young and wildly talented squad will finish up with. The 76ers are a team that squads could be frightened to see in the first or second rounds, and here are three teams that they’d match up best with for the opportunity to not only play in but to advance in the postseason.
The Indiana Pacers are no longer the Paul George dependent squad which they were for the past recent campaigns. They’ve managed to send him off and not lose the numbers he produced as Victor Oladipo, who was the main piece of the Paul George trade to Thunder, has blossomed into an All-Star in his first year with the averages of 23.2 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 4.1 APG, and 2.3 SPG all while shooting a career high 46.7% from the field. The Pacers have bested the Sixers two out of three games of play this season, however the Sixers are a better team than Indiana and didn’t play well at all in both losses. One loss was on the second night of a back-to-back and the second loss they just played really poor. This is the most probable 4-5 match up and that’d be good for the Sixers, especially with a healthy Markelle Fultz.
Yes, this is one of those “be careful what you wish for” scenarios. Of course the first thing you’ll realize when you bring up playing the Cavs you see LeBron James with sirens and lights flashing all over the place, especially “Playoff LeBron” in what’s been The King’s greatest season yet; you also see the franchise who’s has ruled the Eastern Conference for the last 3 seasons. This Cleveland team is much different. Their worst nightmare has occurred and LeBron, for the most part, is back to carrying the team all by himself. This is a Cavs team with much less playoff experience than they thought they’d have going into this campaign. The Sixers have the chance to tie the season series with Cleveland in the coming weeks and show that they’re here to play; the Sixers’ lack of playoff experience could actually help them against a squad like the Cavaliers, along with their defensive skill, and explosive offense-especially with Robert Covington shooting how he can shoot.
The Sixers split with the Wizards this season, but they’re a better team with a good match-up when playing against each other. Washington has been playing without John Wall since before the All-Star Break and this has allowed Bradley Beal to step his game to the next level and become more of a leader. The Sixers’ two losses to the Wizards are very justifiable; the first loss was opening night, they were a team full of players who’ve never played together, didn’t know their roles and were very inexperienced. In the second loss the Sixers were on the second night of a back-to-back and were still incorporating Marco Belinelli into the rotation. The last thing to keep in mind, after months of performing without Wall on the court with the Wizards, is there going to be a few struggles with team chemistry?
The Wild Card
Markelle Fultz returned on Monday night against the Denver Nuggets. Fultz shined and showed flashes of both potential and rust after missing 68 games; he scored 10 points, dished 8 assists and grabbed 4 rebound all in 14 minutes of play. He is the player that can move the Sixers up from “playoff team” to “conference contender”. He was the number one pick in the 2017 NBA Draft and has nine games remaining to get acclimated back into the rotation. If Fultz can play how he did in the NBA Summer League, it could essentially give the squad a sixth starter, a great sixth man and a tremendous back-up point guard. He has a set of the longest arms you’ll see on a guard, paired with top-tier athleticism; if he can settle in and continue to just play basketball as he did on Monday, the Sixers could turn into a very dangerous team.