Do Philadelphia 76ers need to worry about the latest slump?

Doc Rivers, Sixers (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
Doc Rivers, Sixers (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images) /

Basketball is a very unpredictable game. A week ago, the Philadelphia 76ers were challenging for the top spot in the league, and in just four games, they are struggling to hold on to the third spot in the East. Though they hold 2.5 games advantage over the fourth-seed Cleveland Cavaliers, their recent form and game-play suggest that they must sweat it out to stay at number three.

Starting the March with a 9-1 record, the Sixers looked solid in offense, and their defense was also doing “Ok” in those games. But after that, three losses in four games made the picture slightly problematic. Averaging over 120 points in the first ten games in March, the Sixers could put 109 on the board in later rounds. Their defense was all over the place, dropping some important games on the run. So shall the Philadelphia 76ers need to be concerned about their recent slump?

Known reasons for the Philadelphia 76ers’ losses

The Philly team was expected to close the gap between the top teams in a hot run. But rather, the team fell flat against opponents they bettered early in the season. The Bulls even won their first game against Joel Embiid in 13 encounters which started the Sixers’ fall.

Some of the reasons for those losses were very clear. Fatigue, Harden’s fitness issue, tired Joel Embiid, offensive flop show from the bench players, and defensive woes. In all, nothing was going in the right direction for Doc Rivers and his team.

In 61 games played so far, Embiid was on the floor for nearly three quarters and was the most efficient performer too. But finally, a slight foot injury and fatigue toll affected JoJo’s performance and, eventually, the outcome of the games. Similar would be the case for the 76ers’ facilitator, James Harden. The Beard sat out the last three games with Achilles issues. He played in 53 games for the Sixers this season but clocked the most minutes in the team.

While Embiid and Harden could get some exception in the losses, the rest of the team needed to step up. Particularly the bench players should play their hearts out in closing games to get more game time in the postseason. Sadly it didn’t happen in any of those three losses. Poor shooting show, lack of playmaking abilities and defensive lapses made the contender Philadelphia 76ers look like a mid-table team.

How can the 76ers bounce back in the playoffs?

Philadelphia 76ers already qualified for the postseason and are now playing for “a preferable seeding” entering the 2023 playoffs. They have strong opponents in the remaining eight fixtures and must be at their best to keep a hold on the third place. The Cavs have six games in hand, three of which are against weaker opponents. Considering a two-game differential between the two teams, the Philadelphia 76ers need five wins to ensure a higher ranking going into the playoffs.

Frankly speaking, no one can predict the position with which the Sixers will start their playoff run this season at the moment. But Doc Rivers and the Sixers need to cleverly pick their opponents in the remaining games to maximize their chances to stay in the top-3. Entering the playoffs with an unwanted record would hamper their stakes in the title chase. So let us evaluate the Sixers’ positives, irrespective of their standings in the league.

Even in the recent losses, there were some silver linings for the 76ers. The 22-year-old Tyrese Maxey appeared to be an offensive leader, even if Embiid had a bad day. And veteran Tobias Harris played aggressively, which was a positive sign over his slightly subpar performance so far in the season. De’Anthony Melton also showed some offensive spark in his shooting, which provides the Sixers with a much-needed two-way player in the playoffs.

With returning well-rested Harden and probably Embiid, too, the Philadelphia 76ers will be back with their stronger self in the playoffs. Harden holds the key for the team, as his effective play-making will make others perform efficiently. Philadelphia does have a strong line-up going deep till the 7th and 8th players and strong claim for the title this year. So looking at the Eastern Conference table, the Sixers are bound to meet the Bucks or the Celtics in the second round, which are also winnable games – provided the star players remain 100 percent for the games.

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