The 76ers Look to Earn Move Up in the Final Third of the Season

The 76ers Look to Earn Move Up in the Final Third of the Season
Last year the 76ers finished 51-31 and earned the third seed in Eastern Conference playoffs.

This season it appears the Sixers have taken a step back, but they are 34-21 at the all-star break and were fifth in the Eastern Conference.
 
Where were the Sixers at this point last season?
 
They were 35-20, just one game better than they are now.
 
So why does it seem so worse?
 
First off, the Eastern Conference appears to be better than originally expected.
 
At the beginning of the season, Milwaukee was the Eastern Conference favorite and the Sixers were considered the top challenger.
 
They could very well be the teams that end up squaring off for the Eastern Conference title, but Toronto, has been better than expected despite the loss of NBA finals MVP Kawhi Leonard. The Raptors appear to be legitimate contenders. So do the Boston Celtics, who might be one interior player short. The Celtics don’t match up well with the Sixers, having lost the season series 3 to 1.
 
Still, they have the ability to win the Eastern Conference.
 
Miami, after going 39-43, has been the surprise of the Eastern Conference. At the break, the Heat were fourth in the Eastern Conference, 1.5 games ahead of the Sixers.
 
The Indiana Pacers also have to be considered an Eastern Conference contender, making six teams with a realistic chance of winning.
 
The Sixers know that they have to improve on the road. They are 9-19 on the road, compared to 25-2 at the Wells Fargo Center.
 
In addition, coach Brett Brown’s team has gone though a series of injuries. They finished with three straight wins (all at home) before the all-star break and they have the potential to carry that into the final 27 games.
 
The key will be how Joel Embiid plays. He has dealt with the finger injury that caused him to miss nine games.
 
He has the ability to carry the team.
 
While fellow all-star Ben Simmons still refuses to shoot three’s, he has done so many other impactful things, including driving to the basket, even in a half-court setting.
 
Simmons should also earn spot on the fist-team all-defensive team. He has been much more aggressive taking it to the basket and he continues to get his teammates involved.
 
His leadership has improved and if Embiid is the major key, Simmons isn’t far behind. How the two all-stars elevate the rest of their teammates will determine of the Sixers can advance past the second round, where their season has ended in each of the last two seasons.

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No, the Sixers haven’t been as dominating as expected, but there is plenty of time and it would be premature to count them out.

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Author: Marc Narducci; Photo by Marc Narducci

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