Coming off a 1-3 road trip that ended with a disappointing 118-114 loss to the Golden State Warriors on Saturday, the 76ers now return to the friendly confines of the Wells Fargo Center for a four-game homestand against the Detroit Pistons, Indiana Pacers, Washington Wizards, and Toronto Raptors.
The Pistons are up first on Wednesday at 7 p.m.
The Sixers (38-26) sit in sixth place, one game behind Indiana and three behind fourth-place Miami.
Here are eight things to watch as the Sixers begin their longest remaining homestand and prepare for the final 18 games of the regular season.
A Sixers official said on Monday that there won’t be an update on Embiid until Tuesday. He has been out since suffering a sprained left shoulder in the Sixers’ 108-94 loss at Cleveland on Feb. 26. The expectation is that Embiid will return on Wednesday.
Embiid has missed 21 games this season; the Sixers are 11-10 in those games. They are 27-16 with him in the lineup, although nobody needs these figures to know the importance of Embiid at both ends of the court.
The Sixers, as everybody knows, are world-beaters at home, posting a 28-2 record at the Wells Fargo Center. Of their remaining 18 games, 11 of them are in Philadelphia. Of the seven remaining road games, only one team is .500, Memphis, which is 32-32. The other six opponents -- Charlotte, Minnesota, Chicago, Washington, San Antonio and New Orleans -- entered Monday a combined 105 games below .500.
If there was ever a time to make a late-season run, it’s now.
The schedule lightens up, but the loss to Golden State shows that the Sixers can’t be too comfortable. The Warriors (15-49) have the NBA’s worst record and trailed by as many as eight in the fourth quarter and still sent the Sixers home with a big L.
The Sixers had high hopes after acquiring Glenn Robinson III and Alec Burks from Golden State at the trade deadline. Is it possible that the former Warriors are beginning to find comfort?
Robinson was 0-for-10 from three-point range in his first eight Sixers games and also said he wasn’t told of his role, a claim that coach Brett Brown vehemently denied. Either way, he has averaged 15 points and shot 6-for-10 on threes in the last three games. Whether he starts or comes off the bench, the Sixers need scoring production. That is even more true of Burks, who isn’t the same defensive player as Robinson.
After scoring 19 points in his second game as a Sixer, Burks struggled before averaging 13.8 points and shooting a respectable 37.5% from three-point range in his last four games.
There is no word when Richardson will return after suffering a nose contusion and concussion during the Sixers’ 136-130 loss on March 1 at the Los Angeles Clippers.
Brown has often referred to Richardson as one of the most important players on the team because of his two-way ability. Yet before the Clippers game, Richardson had not been playing well, although he was having a good game that day before suffering the injury. In the five games before the Clippers game, Richardson averaged 9.8 points and shot 18.2% from three-point range. He has been very good at times this year but hasn’t sustained consistency.
One more free suggestion to the coaching staff: Don’t use him at point guard. He doesn’t have a natural feel, and playing the position seems to take away from his offense. He has talked about how intent he is on getting everybody involved, but he seems much more comfortable at shooting guard.
Simmons may have his detractors, but the Sixers are a much different (worse) team when he’s not in the lineup. He has missed 10 games this season and the team is 5-5 without him. Simmons has been out the last seven games with a nerve impingement in his lower back. He is soon to be reevaluated and the Sixers will have a better idea on the next steps for his return.
While the Sixers might not earn home-court advantage for the first round of the playoffs, having a healthy Simmons and Embiid should make them a formidable playoff opponent.
The NBA has sent a memo to teams with potential contingency plans in dealing with the coronavirus. One potential idea is playing games without fans.
On Monday evening the NBA, NHL, MLS and Major League Baseball issued a joint statement saying that all clubhouses and locker rooms will be open only to players and essential employees of teams until further notice.
Media access will be conducted in designated locations outside of the clubhouse and locker rooms.
The Sixers postponed Monday’s Youth Foundation Gala. The team said the event involved interaction with fans, and teams have been advised to exercise caution in this area.
Milton, who was told after the All-Star break by Brown that he didn’t fit in the rotation, has taken advantage of Simmons’ absence. He has started the past seven games and averaged 18.7 points, 4.4 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.6 turnovers while shooting 62% from three.
Whether Simmons returns or not, Milton should be a rotation fixture. If Simmons returns, Milton should be a backup to both Simmons and Richardson.
One thing is for sure: Milton’s days of DNP-Coach’s Decision should be over.
Horford has posted two straight solid games, averaging 20 points and nine rebounds, but he has struggled all season playing well with Embiid. According to NBA.com stats, the net rating of Embiid and Horford together is -1.1. (Net rating is offensive rating minus defensive rating).
Horford has to gain confidence from the last two games, in addition to his plus-41 performance in the Sixers’ 125-108 win at Sacramento.