The 76ers’ 15 home wins this season are tied with the Utah Jazz for the most in the NBA.
Imagine if fans were in the building.
That support is coming soon, and the Sixers players can’t wait to welcome back their fans, even though it will be a limited audience.
On Monday, Pennsylvania loosened its restrictions, saying 15% of arenas’ capacity will be allowed in indoor events, including team and staff members. The city of Philadelphia had to approve of that number before fans were permitted in Flyers and Sixers games. Tuesday, Philadelphia Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said the city has agreed to the change and said it was “effective immediately.”
For the Sixers, the first home game with fans will be their first one after the All-Star break, March 14 against the San Antonio Spurs. Their final game without fans will be Wednesday against the Jazz.
Approximately 3,100 fans will be able to return and view the games starting on the 14th, according to the team.
Still, even a 15%-filled Wells Fargo Center has the Sixers pretty pumped up. Even without their fans, they are 15-3 at home.
“It will be great, especially with the fans,” Sixers power forward Mike Scott said after Monday’s 130-114 home victory over the Indiana Pacers.
Scott, who scored 11 points, hitting all four shots, including three three-pointers against Indiana, is a fan favorite who feeds off their energy.
“It will be great to at least see some people here and have them riled up, cursing and doing all that stuff I like,” Scott said. “So yeah, I can’t wait for that.”
Several NBA teams have been playing with limited fans, but in Philadelphia, the players for the most part have taken up the role, vociferously cheering their teammates.
» READ MORE: Three reasons the Sixers beat the Indiana Pacers
“It’s been a little different, I think everybody’s accustomed to having the fans, just interacting with them, hearing the noise,” said Shake Milton after scoring 26 points off the bench against the Pacers. “I think when they come back it will be fun, it will turn the energy up another notch and Philly fans are already a step above most NBA teams so I think it’s just going to help us even more.”
Against Denver, the Sixers only had eight players in uniform and just seven were available due to injury and health and safety protocols.
In the Portland loss, three-time All-Star Ben Simmons missed the game with left calf tightness, although the Trail Blazers were without All-Star Damian Lillard and several other key players.
In Saturday’s loss, the Sixers played without second leading scorer Tobias Harris, although the Cavaliers lineup was much more depleted, with only nine available players.
Coach Doc Rivers and the players talked about how the Sixers had no energy.
Could the fans have supplied it?
Those are questions that have been asked throughout many NBA arenas this season.
Either way, the Sixers have played well at home without the fans. Last year with them, they were 29-2 at the Wells Fargo Center before the season was halted due to the pandemic after a 124-106 home victory over the Detroit Pistons on March 11. The NBA announced shortly after that game that the season was being suspended.
The NBA eventually returned, finishing out its regular season and conducting its playoffs in the bubble in Kissimmee, Fla.
Several times this season, first-year Sixers coach Doc Rivers has talked about looking forward to playing in front of the Philadelphia fans.
In the past, Rivers has likened Philadelphia fans to Boston, where he coached the Celtics for nine years. He said there are fans of certain teams who truly make a difference and Rivers has frequently cited Philadelphia fans as being difference-makers.
Before Monday’s game when asked about the possibility of fans even at the 15%, his reaction was no surprise.
“Hooray. Yay, I’m happy,” Rivers said. “We want to see our fans here. Listen, we have proven here in Philadelphia that it is a home court. Our fans are phenomenal. We need them here. It would be awesome in the second half of the season if we could have fans. I think it would really boost us.”
On Wednesday, the Sixers close out the first half of the season with a highly anticipated game against the Jazz.
The Sixers (23-12) have the best record in the Eastern Conference. The Jazz (27-8) have the best mark, not only in the Western Conference but the entire NBA.