There were many who doubted the NBA would get to to this point, but on Saturday the 76ers will open with the first of their remaining eight regular-season “seed” games when they take on the Indiana Pacers.

The games, which are taking place in a “bubble” in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., actually look good on television and they will get even better when the virtual crowds are added during the seed games.

Basketball is back and the Sixers will be out to show that they are much better than their current No. 6 seed in Eastern Conference.

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— Marc Narducci (offthedribble@inquirer.com)

Thoughts on the first two scrimmages

The Sixers opened with a 90-83 win over the Memphis Grizzlies and followed that up with Sunday’s 102-97 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder in their first two scrimmages, but both scores were deceiving.

In both games, the Sixers starters outplayed their opponents. Memphis’ five starters had a combined plus-17 rating, while the Sixers starters were plus-43. The Sixers led by as many as 29 points.

Against OKC, the Sixers led by as many as 24 points. The Sixers starters were a combined plus-69 while OKC’s five starters were a combined minus-68.

More than a stat sheet can show, the Sixers starters and reserves played with a lot of energy in both games.

Here are some takes from the first two games.

  • Ben Simmons looks sensational. Simmons had missed the final eight games leading up to the NBA suspension with a back injury, but whether he was at power forward or point guard, he was in full command with nine assists each game. He will have to cut down on the five turnovers he had against OKC, but regardless of where Brett Brown plays him, Simmons appears ready for a big return. He was easily the best player on the court in both games.
  • Shake Milton is being played tighter, something he acknowledged after Sunday’s scrimmage. This again should be no surprise. Milton shot 60.4 percent from three-point range in his last nine games before the season was suspended. Teams weren’t going to allow him to keep firing wide open shots. He is 4 of 9 from three-point range, so Milton is taking good shots, remaining patient.
  • Furkan Korkmaz is struggling to find his rhythm. He is 4 for 15 from the field, including 2 of 9 from three-point range and a number of those threes were forced. Again, we’ll give the disclaimer, it is only two scrimmages, but he seems like he need to relax.
  • Tobias Harris is continuing what he did in the regular season, taking players, mostly smaller ones, off the dribble and getting off good shots.
  • Matisse Thybulle remains a defensive presence, with a team-high five steals in the first two games. His offense has yet to come around. Yes, he had that monster driving dunk against Memphis, but he is just 1 for 7 from three-point range.

The Sixers round out their scrimmage schedule Tuesday against Dallas.

Joel Embiid is the key to the Sixers' chances of making a deep playoff run.
YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
Joel Embiid is the key to the Sixers' chances of making a deep playoff run.

Starting five

Regardless of position, it’s difficult to keep up with Ben Simmons.

In his latest Sixers mailbag, Pompey looks at the roles of Glenn Robinson III and Furkan Korkmaz, the player he thinks can exceed expectations, and more.

In case the Sixers need a third center either due to injury or foul trouble, Norvel Pelle remains a viable option.

Even without a crowd, the scrimmages have played well on TV and they will only get better.

Injury update

The 76ers said that Joel Embiid, Raul Neto, and Glenn Robinson III were expected to be participate in what was supposed to be a light practice on Monday morning.

Embiid missed Sunday’s scrimmage with right calf tightness, Neto was sidelined with back tightness and Robinson suffered a left hip pointer in the second quarter.

The team said that an update on their status for Tuesday’s scrimmage against the Dallas Mavericks will be provided on game day.

All three continue to receive treatment and remain day to day.

Tobias Harris' game has picked up where he left off in March.
YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
Tobias Harris' game has picked up where he left off in March.

The argument for staying at the No. 6 seed

While all the competition in the playoffs will be difficult, the Sixers best chance to reach the Eastern Conference finals would be to avoid the favored Milwaukee Bucks until the conference championship series.

For that to happen, the Sixers would be better off staying at the No. 6 seed than possibly moving up to the fourth or fifth. (They could also avoid the top seed until the conference final by moving up to the No. 3 seed. They are currently 4.5 games behind No. 3-seeded Boston).

Having two rounds to get into gear would be a better way to face Milwaukee. That’s not to say the Sixers would have it any easier in earlier rounds against the likes of Boston, Miami and Toronto. It’s just that facing the Bucks with some true momentum would be the best way to beat them.

Brett Brown has said he doesn’t think about any of this. He is just worried about having his team playing its best when the playoffs begin.

Important dates

Tuesday: Sixers vs. Dallas Mavericks (scrimmage) at HP Fieldhouse, 8:30 p.m., NBC Sports Philadelphia.

Saturday: Sixers vs. Indiana Pacers at Visa Athletic Center, 7 p.m., NBC Sports Philadelphia.

Aug. 3: San Antonio Spurs vs. Sixers at Visa Athletic Center, 8 p.m., NBC Sports Philadelphia.

Aug. 5: Sixers vs. Washington Wizards at The Arena, 4 p.m., NBC Sports Philadelphia/NBA TV.

Aug. 7: Orlando Magic vs. Sixers, HP Fieldhouse, 6:30 p.m. NBC Sports Philadelphia Plus/TNT

All of the events are at Walt Disney World.

Passing the rock

Question: When is Joel being traded? - Michael Gibson from Facebook

Answer: Thanks for the question Michael. In answering that question my guess would be never. OK, there could be a day that he is traded but it’s difficult to see it in the near future. No doubt this question came as a result that he missed the second scrimmage with the calf injury. Embiid remains one of the players in the NBA who can carry a team on his back. If you doubt it, just ask him. He turned 26 in March, is just really entering his prime and is a three-time All-Star. Embiid is signed with the Sixers for three more seasons after this one. People say that the Sixers can get a bundle for Embiid, but a team rarely receives equal value when trading an All-Star. Yes, the injuries are a concern, but for one of the major difference makers in the NBA, it doesn’t appear Embiid will be changing addresses anytime soon if at all.