The unfortunate NBA Playoff reality for the Philadelphia 76ers

Golden State Warriors v Philadelphia 76ers
Golden State Warriors v Philadelphia 76ers / Tim Nwachukwu/GettyImages

The Philadelphia 76ers currently sit fifth in the Eastern Conference standings with 25 games remaining to be played. Before Joel Embiid's injury, the Sixers were a top-three team in the East and there was no question they would have a first-round playoff series starting in South Philly at the Wells Fargo Center. With the new reality the Sixers face, there is legitimate concern they could fall even farther in the standings.

It is no surprise that the Boston Celtics are running away in the Eastern Conference, and truthfully, the whole league. The Celtics boast a 45-12 record with an extremely impressive home record of 26-3. Boston also holds a 7.5-game lead over the 2nd-place team in the Conference, the Cleveland Cavaliers. All that means, the NBA Playoffs run through the Boston Garden, where opposing teams have had scarce success thus far.

Where will the Sixers finish in the Eastern Conference standings?

Unfortunately, this question is causing stress for all Sixers' fans as the harsh reality of being in the Play-In Tournament is becoming more and more likely. Philadelphia has a 1-game lead over the 6th-seed Indiana Pacers and a 1.5-game lead over the 7th and 8th-seed Miami Heat and Orlando Magic. That means they are just 1.5 games from falling into that 7 or 8 spots and facing a less-than-ideal start to a hopefully, long postseason run.

In their last 10 games, Indiana is 6-4, while Miami and Orlando are both 7-3. During that same span, the Sixers are a dismal 3-7. With this trend, by mid-March, the Play-In will no longer be a scary thought, but a harsh reality. At this point, I believe it is more likely than not that the Sixers will be in the Play-In Tournament. They have struggled offensively with production and spacing without Embiid and that is to be expected. Without Embiid, this team is much different (understatement of the century).

If there is a silver lining here, the Sixers hold an 11-game lead over the 11th-seed Brooklyn Nets which all but ensures the Sixers will not fall out of the postseason completely. That does not change the fact that even if Embiid does return, the Sixers' road to the NBA Championship will get exponentially more difficult the farther they fall in the standings. Can this team find a way to stop the bleeding with the rest of the roster getting healthy?