The Sixers lost their third and final Orlando scrimmage last night, but who really cares?
Joel Embiid didn’t play, the games are meaningless, and the team is just trying to knock off the rust, get the gears moving a little bit, and build that fitness base ahead of Saturday’s restart.
At the risk of sounding negative or cynical, the Pacers game also does not matter. Technically, yes, it counts in the standings and will help determine seeding in the Eastern Conference, but there’s really no incentive to move up for the following reasons:
- there’s no home court advantage
- the Sixers should want to play Boston in round one, in the 3/6 game
- going that route allows you to avoid Milwaukee in round two
It’s that simple. Since home court does not exist, you’re just jockeying for the preferable path to the Eastern Conference finals, and going Boston/Toronto vs. Miami/Milwaukee is a better route forward, in my opinion.
Realistically, there’s not going to be much conference movement once these restart games begin. The Sixers won’t fall to 7th, because the Nets are 8.5 games back. They probably won’t get up to 3rd, because Boston is 4.5 games ahead. Maybe Miami climbs up to third, while it’s hard to see the Raptors ceding a three-game advantage to fall behind the Celtics.
Take a look:
The most movement is going to be in the 4-6 range, with the Sixers, Pacers, and Heat. It’s highly likely that a Victor Oladipo-less Indiana team drops down to 6th place, which puts the Sixers in 5th instead.
Is that what we really want? Does a 4/5 game against Miami, who beat the Sixers twice this year, become more preferable to a 3/6 game against Boston, whom the Sixers beat 3-1 during the regular season? Keep in mind, too, that there’s no difference between the 4 and 5 seeds, since it’s a neutral court series.
That’s where my head is at. It would feel good from a macro-level, psychological standpoint to see Brett Brown’s team climb up to the 4th or 5th seed, but it really does not result in anything tangible or advantageous because of the funky start/stop nature of this pandemic-affected season.
What the Sixers need to focus on during these eight games is the following:
- continue with the Ben Simmons/Shake Milton lineup and further grow Ben’s off-ball game
- get Joel Embiid fully fit
- bring along everybody else’s fitness base while ramping up towards playoff minutes
- figure out the wing rotation
- get Al Horford into a groove and comfortable in his role (coming off the bench perhaps)
- land the plane, just in time for the playoffs
That’s all it is.
If these three scrimmages were glorified exhibitions, then the next eight games are a continuation of the “preseason.” They’ll count in the standings, but the standings don’t matter very much unless you’re comfortable with getting Milwaukee in the second round, vs. trying to punt that matchup until the finals, if the Sixers make it that far.
Use these games to prepare for the playoffs, then it’s really time to play. Wins and losses don’t matter right now.