After the recent heartbreak, the Philadelphia 76ers move to the third place in the East and still will be looking to challenge for the top seeding in the league. Many pundits considered the Sixers the fourth-best team in the East at the start of the season. And with a huge surge in the offense, the Philly team proved them wrong to some extent. Now with 8 wins in 10 games, the 76ers could make a push for all-important “Numero Uno”.
Everyone knows that going into the playoffs with top seeding has its benefits. From home-court advantage to a bit easier route to the NBA finals. The East teams have performed better this season than their Western Conference counterparts. So, topping the East would also hand the team home-court advantage in the Finals.
Milwaukee Bucks recently had a season’s best 16-game winning streak to pull themselves ahead in the “top seed” race. And the Sixers had an equivalent run of their own. Boston Celtics are 2nd in the East and now has only 10 games left to take a shot at the top. On the flip side, they are missing some key players and are also on the wrong side of the results in recent games. While, Cleveland Cavaliers, sitting at the fourth position, are seven games behind the top seed and even have fewer games in hand to change the scenario.
So, it comes down to the Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers to have a legitimate shot at the highest ranking in the league. We will evaluate their upcoming matches and the possibility of exchanging their positions in the league.
Chances for the Milwaukee Bucks to retain the top spot
Currently sitting at the top of the table, the Bucks have a clear advantage over their opponents. They already have secured their playoff spot and just looking to solidify their position as the top team of the 2023 season. The Bucks have 11 games remaining in the regular season and hold a healthy 2.5-game lead over the 2nd-placed Celtics. They still need 10 wins to avoid ambiguity in the rankings, making every game vital.
Going through the Bucks fixtures, they will have six away games and five home games in 19 days. Strong at the Fiserv Forum Arena, the Bucks have difficulty turning games in their favor while playing away from home. Ironically they will face only two playoff contender teams and the Nuggets away, making their away fixtures easier, closing the regular season.
At home, the Bucks will have tougher opponents. It includes the Grizzlies, the Sixers and the Celtics, making the home fixtures more dreadful. They will also have Chicago Bulls as their last opponents at home on 7th April. The Bulls might not be the team to fear – statistically, but they can win big on a given night.
Considering the current team positions, results and load management – I am predicting 8 wins out of 11 for the Bucks – ending their season with a 59-23 record. This is completely based on their current rocky form, even in the winnings. The wins will be equally divided into home and away fixtures and surely opens a window for the top seed challenger – the Philadelphia 76ers. Now let us review the 76ers’ fixtures to measure their chances to topple the Bucks.
Chances for the Philadelphia 76ers to go top of the leaderboard
The current Philadelphia 76ers team is looking very smooth sailing into their games. Top MVP candidate Joel Embiid is playing for just three quarters in the games – even with James Harden missing the game. It shows the level of confidence this team has at the moment. That’s the reason for their massive chances to top the league this season.
Philly team has 11 games in hand, and even though they win all the games, their position in the league will be decided by the Bucks’ results. To make things interesting, the 76ers and the Bucks will have a game on 2nd April, which holds utmost importance than ever. If the Sixers can win that game, the game differential will be down by 1.
In all, the Sixers have four home games and seven away games, spanned against 11 different teams. All these 11 teams are in the postseason or the playoff race. It will be an immense task for the Philly team to get a 100% win record in that period, with the fatigue playing huge role on the road.
After an overtime loss to the Bulls, they will have a redemption opportunity on March 22nd. Then the Sixers will head to the West side for games against the Warriors, the Suns, and the Nuggets. After hosting the Mavs at home, Sixers will play their intra-conference opponents to finish the regular season. These opponents are trickier, but the Sixers are in ferocious form and hold a better record this season against them, except the Celtics and the Mavs.
Just like the prediction regarding the Bucks’ wins, looking at the fixtures, Harden situation and records, I am expecting maximum 9 wins from the remaining 11 games for the Sixers banking on their hot offense at the moment. This will end the Sixers’ season with a 57-25 record, falling short of the top seed.