The 76ers’ playoff run is going to be interesting.
The Sixers secured the Eastern Conference’s No. 1 seed on Friday with a convincing 122-97 win over the Orlando Magic. They have an MVP candidate in Joel Embiid and a front-runner for defensive player of the year in Ben Simmons.
Yet, the second-place Brooklyn Nets and third-place Milwaukee Bucks are garnering more hype than the Sixers (48-23), who garnered home-court advantage through the conference finals.
A lot of that has to do with the Nets’ Big Three of Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving and the Bucks sweeping their three-game series with the Sixers.
While an elite team, the Sixers benefited by playing the easiest schedule down the stretch.
So it’s going to be interesting to see how they perform in the postseason, because teams will have time to prepare and scheme. We should be intrigued to see how teams defend Embiid. It’s going to be interesting to see what they do against Simmons and sharpshooters Seth Curry and Danny Green.
Surely, teams will have a plan for Tobias Harris, but Embiid is going to be the main guy.
Do you double-team him? If so, when do you double him? Or do you play him straight up and shut down all of the other guys?
Those are basically going to be the two options teams will have. Teams can try to shut down Embiid and see if the other guys can beat them. They could, instead, try to shut down his teammates and see if the four-time All-Star center can beat them by himself.
Those philosophies can change throughout a game.
Opponents can start out playing Embiid one-on-one and try to shut down the others. Then at some point, try to double Embiid, get the ball out of his hands, and see what happens.
But it’s definitely going to be interesting to see what teams do, especially when Embiid is double-teamed.
Will they double him when he catches the ball? Do they double him when he puts it on the floor? Do they double him from the top? Do they double time from the baseline?
It will also be interesting to see how they’ll rotate out to defend other players.
Which players will they rotate to? Will they leave Simmons or Matisse Thybulle open?
What adjustments are opposing teams and the Sixers going to make from game-to-game?
So it’s definitely going to be interesting to see all those scenarios. The Sixers are expected to play Game 1 of their opening-round playoff series against a to-be-deteremined opponent on Saturday.
They’ll find out who they’ll face on Thursday, when the league will conduct the Eastern Conference’s second-round, play-in tournament game to determine the eighth seed.
The Boston Celtics, Charlotte Hornets, Indiana Pacers, and Washington Wizards are the conference’s play-in participants.
The Celtics are seventh in the conference standings. On Tuesday, they’ll face the eighth-place team. The winner will earn the conference playoffs’ seventh seed. The other two teams, the ninth- and 10th-place finishers, will also play Tuesday with the winner advancing to the second round.
The winner of the 9-10 game will face the loser of the 7-8 matchup. The second-round winner will claim the eighth seed, drawing a first-round matchup against the Sixers.
The Sixers shouldn’t have a problem getting out of the first round.
They have a combined record of 11-1 against the Celtics (3-0), Hornets (3-0), Pacers (2-1), and Wizards (3-0). Their lone loss against the Pacers came Tuesday when the Sixers blew a 16-point, second-quarter lead to lose, 103-94, at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Both teams were undermanned. Embiid (non-COVID-19 illness) and reserves Furkan Korkmaz (sprained right ankle), Shake Milton (sore right knee), and Thybulle (bruised right hand) were sidelined. Meanwhile, the Pacers were without Malcolm Brogdon (sore right hamstring), Aaron Holiday (sprained right toe), Jeremy Lamb (sore left knee), Edmond Sumner (left knee contusion), Myles Turner (partial plantar plate tear, right toe), and T.J. Warren (out since December with a stress fracture in his left foot).
The Wizards are an intriguing team because of the guard tandem of Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal, if healthy. Beal, who missed Washington’s last three games with a left hamstring strain, is the league’s second-leading scorer at 31.4 points per game. Westbrook is averaging a triple-double (22.2 points, a league-best 11.8 assists, and 11.5 rebounds) for the fourth time in five seasons.
As the No. 1 seed, the Sixers were awarded the easiest path to the conference finals. Barring an upset, the Sixers will face the winner of 4-5 playoff series in the second round. Clinching the top seed enabled them to avoid a second-round matchup against the Nets or Bucks.
The Sixers are expected to face one of those teams in the conference finals. But getting there won’t be a guarantee.
As we found out in Thursday’s 106-94 loss at the Miami Heat, the Sixers aren’t good enough to just show up and win.
Teams are going to have more time to come up with game plans and attack the Sixers’ weaknesses. Of course, it’s the same thing for the Sixers, who will likely unveil something we’ve haven’t seen all season.
But will teams back off Simmons like in postseasons past? If so, will he make or even attempt shots?
Will teams use zone defenses against the Sixers from time to time? If so, how will coach Doc River combat that?
Will opponents be physical with them like the Heat were? How will they respond to that?
This postseason run is definitely going to be interesting.