76ers predicted to face a scary first-round opponent in the playoffs

Bleacher Report expects the Philadelphia 76ers to be matched up with a spicy opponent in the first round of the playoffs.
76ers, Joel Embiid
76ers, Joel Embiid / Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

After last night’s outing, the Philadelphia 76ers tout a 33-24 win-loss card, a record good for fifth place in the jampacked Eastern Conference. By all measures, the team is still a safe bet to make the playoffs, even with reigning Most Valuable Player Joel Embiid still expected to be sidelined for at least a month more.

Having said that, the 76ers can no longer afford to lose much steam, if at all. They lead the sixth-seeded Indiana Pacers by only a half-game in the standings for the final guaranteed playoff spot, and are just 1.5 games out of the play-in tournament picture. Indiana, Miami, and Orlando all have more bearable slates to finish their campaigns, while Philly will have one of the toughest schedules remaining.

B/R predicts the 76ers to face a scary first-round opponent in the playoffs

At this rate, it’s more likely that the 76ers will enter the playoffs as massive underdogs, even if Embiid comes back for the postseason. In fact, Bleacher Report predicts that they will immediately run into a mammoth in the first-round.

B/R’s Greg Swartz has Philadelphia finishing the season as the seventh seed and facing second-seeded Milwaukee right from the get-go. The Bucks, in large part due to a striking re-tooling, has been on-and-off this season by their standards, but remain lethal in the playoffs due to their veteran experience, championship pedigree, and sheer star power.

Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard form a potent one-two punch that would be tricky to game plan against in a seven-game series. Brook Lopez and Khris Middleton — though banged up — are both elite, battle-tested complements. The 76ers have their own two-headed totem to bank on in Embiid and Tyrese Maxey, but the Bucks have every resource to make this a difficult series to win for Philadelphia.

Embiid will almost certainly be limited if he returns, giving Milwaukee a wrinkle to exploit on both ends, especially with Antetokounmpo and Lopez still being elite in their own right as a point-preventing tandem, though Maxey could feast given the Bucks’ sporadic perimeter defense.

The 76ers have some edges of their own, especially with their deeper cast of role players and options on the tertiary to neutralize the Bucks’ concentric attack. Coaching is also something they can leverage, as Nick Nurse’s game-planning and archive of tactics is dep enough to throw Milwaukee off.

Hopefully, the Philadelphia 76ers can gel quickly as a unit even before Joel Embiid makes his return from injury. If so, thye should still have a fighter’s chance against the Milwaukee Bucks.

Oh, and have we talked about how Milwaukee is lead by a notorious botch artist in the playoffs?

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