SAN FRANCISCO – In regards to the schedule, the hard part is over for the 76ers.
This past week’s visit to Los Angeles to play the Clippers and Lakers marked the Sixers’ last two road games against teams with a winning record. On Thursday, the Sixers snapped their nine-game road skid with a 125-108 victory over the Sacramento Kings (27-35). And the hope is that they’ll welcome back Joel Embiid, their best player, on Wednesday.
That’s not all.
As of Friday afternoon, they had the NBA’s easiest remaining schedule, according to Tankathon. Their 19 opponents have a combined winning percentage of .437.
That bodes well for the undermanned squad that’s finding a rhythm and is looking to secure home-court advantage, at least in the first round of the playoffs.
Heading into Friday, the Sixers (38-25) were in fifth place in the Eastern Conference, a ½-game ahead of the Indiana Pacers. The top four teams receive home-court advantage in the opening round.
They’ll definitely get a lift once Embiid returns from a sprained left shoulder. Saturday’s contest against the Golden State Warriors (an NBA-worst 14-49) at the Chase Center will mark the fifth game Embiid has missed because of the injury.
The three-time All-Star center is progressing, has received daily treatment, and has resumed on-court basketball activities. The expectation is he’ll return Wednesday night against the Detroit Pistons at the Wells Fargo Center.
Ben Simmons (pinched nerve in lower back) and Josh Richardson (concussion protocol) are also sidelined.
But their absences has enabled the Sixers to get extended looks at certain players.
Shake Milton is proving that he should have an edge on becoming the fifth starter once Simmons, Embiid, and Richardson all return from injury. Raul Neto is also showing that he can be capable of getting playoff minutes.
Fourteen of Neto’s 16 points in Thursday’s victory came in the third quarter on 5-for-5 shooting. And Alec Burks had 17 points off the bench, marking his ninth game with the Sixers since being acquired from Golden State.
“Alec, when he turns it up like that, you feel like everything he shoots, he’ll make,” Al Horford said. “That’s what I quickly learned with him. And with Raul, it’s just good to see him get an opportunity, take advantage of it, and really show what he can do.”
The Sixers have also been getting really good ball movement, which has resulted in shooting 69 of 151 (45.7%) on three-pointers in their last four games.
“We are getting really good looks, and need to continue that,” Horford said. “We need to go to move the ball and go from good to great shots.