While the playoffs are all that matter for the Philadelphia 76ers, how far they go could be highly influenced on how they do in the regular season.
One of the old tripe phrases about the NBA is ‘The regular season doesn’t matter to players, they only try in the playoffs’. There might be some truth to that. The past two NBA champions, the Golden State Warriors and Milwaukee Bucks, were just the No. 3 seed in their respective conferences.
Of course, Sixers fans know that being the No. 1 seed did not help them get out of the second round in 2021, just an embarrassing loss to the No. 5 Atlanta Hawks.
However, looking at the current NBA standings, being a high seed, particularly in the top two, could be very important to a team in the Eastern Conference.
With the caveat that the NBA season has barely gotten past the halfway mark, it appears that five teams have separated themselves from the rest in the East: Celtics, Bucks, Sixers, Nets and Cavaliers.
Although a few games back of the top teams, the Miami Heat are lying there at No. 6. Does a team really want to take on Jimmy Butler, Tyler Herro, Bam Adebayo & Co. in the playoffs, if they can avoid it?
Are you up for Philadelphia 76ers-Knicks or Bulls?
The teams that finish in the top two of the East get to avoid a really tough first round match. Besides going through the ringer of a seven-game series with Brooklyn or Milwaukee, having an easier opponent would allow to give its stars, Joel Embiid and James Harden, the ability to at least not play a ton of minutes.
If the standings hold up, it would probably mean a date with either the New York Knicks or the Chicago Bulls. Are they patsies? No, but a much preferred opponent to the alternatives in the ulta-competitive top 6 tier.
It might be a perfect situation, play an opponent you have to prepare for and execute to win, but, if you play your game, you should always beat.
Then, there is the old home court advantage to contend with.
After a slow start, the Sixers are flaming hot on their home court. If there is a Game 7, you want it at The Center.
Yes, the Sixers blew Game 7 vs. Atlanta (the Ben Simmons afraid to shoot open layup game) but this is a different squad. The crowd cheering is something they thrive on.
WIll it be hard to be a top two seed?
In short: Yeah.
According to Tankathon, the Sixers have the second toughest remaining schedule in the entire NBA. They are only a couple hundreths of a point behind the Knicks for toughest schedule.
So, the road to victory is full of strong opponents. Also, March is filled with road trips and back-to-backs. Definitely beware the Ides of March.
But the tough schedule also means the Sixers are playing the other top teams in the East, so wins mean even more. Of course, knowing what is ahead, the Sixers could use some long winning streaks in January and February and have a cushion for when March rolls around.
Now that the Sixers have a toehold on second place, it would benefit them greatly if they can finish there at the end of the season. If Boston trips up and Philly has a chance at the No. 1 seed again, all the better.
It really does matter.