The NBA released its 2021-22 schedule Friday. And while the league didn’t give the 76ers much favor in the Christmas and opening week games, Philly is featured in 27 nationally televised games on the 82-game slate. That’s the eighth-most in the NBA.
Travel efficiency was a key component to this year’s schedule, which is why the Sixers’ longest home stand is four games and the longest road trip is six. Last season many of the league’s stars suffered injuries in the final two months. The estimated travel mileage is a record low for NBA teams, single-game road trips are down almost three games per squad, and no franchise has a scheduled four-games-in-five days stretch.
Philly has four preseason games, starting Oct. 4 against the Toronto Raptors. They follow that up with another game against the Raptors on Oct. 7 before moving on to the Brooklyn Nets and Detroit Pistons.
The Sixers will travel to New Orleans for their first regular season game and will end the season at home against the Pistons.
Here are seven intriguing games and two key stretches to keep an eye on this season.
Opening week vs Brooklyn
This is the measuring stick game. The Sixers were the No. 1 seed last season, but not many people are expecting them to repeat that with a healthy Brooklyn Nets team as a foe. Their first matchup, at home on Oct. 22, is part of the league’s opening week and nationally televised slate.
The Hawks return to Philly
The revenge game. Trae Young and the Atlanta Hawks are much like the Sixers. Both teams have to prove their legitimacy after experiencing marginal postseason success. This game on Oct. 30 is also at the Wells Fargo Center.
Dame comes to Philly
All right, let’s assume no trade for Damian Lillard is made. Philly fans are known to voice their opinions, and it’s no secret they’re enamored with Lillard. How will the crowd react to Lillard’s being introduced as part of the Trail Blazers’ starting lineup on Nov. 1? Is it a stretch to say Sixers fans will burst out into a “We want Lillard” chant? Probably not. Sixers fans have grown to like Lillard so much that they may pop up near the top of city listens on his new album.
First meeting with the champs
Nov. 9 will be the first time the Sixers and their fans can make peace with missing out on a potential Eastern Conference finals meeting with the Bucks. . The Hawks replaced them, and the Bucks moved on to their first NBA Finals appearance since 1974.
There, the Suns were just too small, and that’s not a problem the Sixers had. Not to mention, former Sixer Jrue Holiday will get a lot of early defensive player of the year love after his playoff run. The Sixers have a couple of guys who want that hardware.
Prime time on ABC
The Sixers get two ABC games this season and one is in prime time against the Golden State Warriors, on Dec. 11. Saturday night ABC games are some of the league’s highest viewed, so Joel Embiid and company will take center stage that night.
This will be the second meeting between the two teams, but the later date means there’s a better chance Klay Thompson could be back from his Achilles injury. The Warriors have been quiet about his status. Thompson said he wants to be back opening day, but GM Bob Myers said he doesn’t know if that’s realistic. Sixers wings guarding the “Splash Brothers” and Draymond Green and Joel Embiid trading some verbal jabs should make for a fun night of basketball.
The Sixers will play at the Washington Wizards on Jan. 17 for MLK Day. They have a day off before and after, so there should be plenty time to tour D.C. and honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy. This game won’t be nationally televised.
Two stretches to watch
The first comes early in the season. From Nov. 13 to Dec. 8, the Sixers will play 10 of 12 games on the road. Road matchups against the Utah Jazz, Denver Nuggets, Boston Celtics, Atlanta, and Charlotte Hornets are included. These games do the Sixers no favors. Even their first game after the 12-game stretch is a home matchup on the second night of a back to back. Brutal.
By the end of March, the Sixers will probably be in a battle for playoff seeding. If that’s the case, they’d be much better off as the team being chased. They’ll play seven of nine on the road from March 23 to April 7. This road trip isn’t as brutal as the first, but it offers one of the hardest three-game stretches of the season. The Sixers will play the Lakers, Clippers, and Suns from March 23 to 27. To make things harder, games against Miami and Milwaukee will bookend the three-game road trip.
The four other road games are against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Indiana Pacers, Detroit, and Toronto. That’s four teams that missed the postseason last year, so it shouldn’t be too bad. Plus, the Sixers close the season with Indiana and Detroit at home after the road stretch.