The Sixers bounced back nicely Tuesday in Charlotte. The Hornets are far from a great team but after the turnover-fest, debacle in Milwaukee on Sunday, it was a nice page-turner. So, as we take a little inventory as to where this team stands with just 19 games to play, there's a tug of war between the wonderment of how far this team has come and the reality of what lies ahead.
If the playoffs started today, the Sixers would be the sixth seed and take on the three-seeded Cavaliers in the first round. A lot could change between now and the close of the season.
The Sixers are just two games out of the third spot occupied by Cleveland, but for our purposes, let's go with the premise they finish sixth.
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Here are the pros and the cons as they head into the postseason.
Joel Embiid is a force on both ends. He flat-out takes games over with his ability to enforce his will on the block and his touch from the outside. He also alters not just opponents shots but thought processes when it comes to going to the rack.
Ben Simmons is poised beyond his years and even without the benefit of a jump shot, can affect games in so many ways. Scoring, passing, rebounding. Sixers shooters get remarkably clean looks when he kicks it out on a drive.
They now have a cadre of shooters with the additions of Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova to go along with JJ Redick. Those add also bring big-time pop to the bench. And you know night in and night out, Dario Saric will give you everything he has.
The Sixers are 20-10 at home, first in rebounds per game and third in assists. They're 10th in scoring and 14th in points given up per game. They also have seven players scoring in double figures.
The Not So Good
Turnovers. Did I mention turnovers? The Sixers give the ball away like it's candy on Halloween night - 17.2 per game, which leads the NBA. Yes, their young, but that has to be at least curbed. They are 15-18 on the road, tied for the lowest winning percentage of any team in the top eight in the East.
The Cavs have beaten the Sixers twice in three meetings this season. But the Sixers knocked off LeBron's squad last week in the only meeting since Cleveland overhauled their roster. The Cavaliers are a tough team to handicap, on one hand, they have James who is all-world, capable of carrying bad teams by himself to great heights, and perennially gets his teams to the finals. And they'll be getting Kevin Love back soon. But they've been a mess all season, hence the trades. They've played uninspired, disinterested, defenseless, basketball for long stretches. And Kyrie Irving is not walking through that door anytime soon. Then there's the specter of James bolting once again after the season ends. All that said, it's not impossible to think the Sixers could upset them.
Regardless of how the playoffs shake out, it's remarkable how far the Sixers have come in a year's time.