Now that the All-Star game is past, the Philadelphia 76ers have to focus on their tough matchups for this second half of the season.
The first half of the season was full of disappointment, but the good news is that the Philadelphia 76ers should be full of energy about to start this second half of the year. The Sixers have played 55 games so far and only have 27 games remaining. Of those 27 games, there are eight that should be very important to the 76ers.
Milwaukee Bucks, (February 22 and April 7)
Philly has two more matchups against the top team in the Eastern Conference. The first in February is away in Milwaukee and that’s where the Sixers lost against the Bucks earlier this season. Considering the Bucks are the 76ers biggest obstacle to getting to the NBA Finals, getting a win in Milwaukee would be big for Philly.
The last regular-season matchup will be near the beginning of the postseason, so it’s important for the Sixers to have a big win against the Bucks. In these two matchups, there’s a chance that Al Horford may get the nod as a starter despite his recent demotion to the bench. He and Joel Embiid are a good defensive matchup for the rather large frontcourt of Milwaukee.
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Atlanta Hawks (February 24 and March 21)
Despite Hawks being one of the worst teams in the NBA, they have given the 76ers troubles this season. The current season series is 1-1, but the 76ers win was only by two points and Atlanta won by 10 points. This matchup hasn’t become easier because the Hawks have now upgraded the center position at the traded deadline with the acquisitions of Clint Capela and Dewayne Dedmon.
The Hawks aren’t a team Philly will have to worry about this season in terms of a playoff opponent, but they will be in one or two years. With that in mind, the Sixers need to prove they can defeat the Hawks now before they become a playoff-caliber team.
Los Angeles Clippers (March 1)
There’s no secret that the Clippers are one of the favorites to reach the NBA Finals. Luckily for the 76ers, they defeated Los Angeles in their first matchup this season. Beating the Clippers on their home turf is a must. It would show that Philly is becoming a better road team and it would be a clean sweep of an opponent that they might see in the NBA Finals.
Los Angeles Lakers (March 3)
The Sixers easily defeated the Lakers in their first matchup of the season. Despite the L.A.’s size and more balanced roster, the 76ers still have an advantage over the Lakers. Like with the Clippers, getting a sweep against the Lakers on their home court could be big if the two meet in the NBA Finals.
Toronto Raptors (March 18)
Philly has lost both road games in Toronto this season, but they did win their one home game against the Raptors. That means Philly has to win their last home game to even the season series against Toronto. If they don’t, the Raptors would have even more confidence if the two teams matchup in the playoffs. The Sixers can’t give up a home-court advantage against Toronto.
Houston Rockets (March 31)
Besides the Rockets being a Western Conference contender, they are literally the opposite of the 76ers. By trading Capela, Houston has become the smallest team in the NBA. That means they can play 5-players out. While Embiid and Horford are capable perimeter defenders as centers, this could prove to be a tough matchup defensively.
It doesn’t help that the 76ers lost the first matchup to Houston either, but it will be interesting to see if Philly’s size can punish the Rockets for their lack of it.
Obviously each game that the Philadelphia 76ers play in the second half of the season will be interesting. However, the eight matchups above should help give a pretty good indication of how good the Sixers will be once the playoffs begin.