Narrative Check: How Many “Marquee” Wins do the Sixers Have?

Photo Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

One of the things about the NBA this season is that we’ve been robbed of marquee matchups on a regular basis.

Early on, it was COVID protocol. Then you add in load management and injury and trying to navigate back-to-back games. With a crunched schedule presented to us in an outlier season, we’ve often watched games where neither team is at full strength.

This has resulted in one member of the Crossing Broad crew insisting in our Slack channel that the Sixers don’t have many quality wins. He thinks they’re going out in the second round.

You can define “quality” however you want, but allow me to lay out his argument and then we’ll go over it and see whether it’s worth anything.

Says this individual:

Full strength playoff teams they’ve beaten:

-Lakers (last second Tobi basket)

-Utah Jazz (OT – most impressive win of season)

Full strength playoff teams they’ve lost to: Portland, Jazz, Portland, Suns, Bucks, Clippers, Nuggets, Warriors, Suns

The individual curiously leaves out a lot of the Eastern Conference opponents, but also says that the Sixers have gotten the benefit of the doubt in playing the following teams without the following players:

  • Brooklyn without KD & Kyrie
  • Miami without Jimmy Butler (2x)
  • Boston without Jayson Tatum (2x)
  • Brooklyn without KD & Kyrie (lost anyway)
  • Golden State without Steph
  • Lakers without LeBron & AD
  • Brooklyn without KD & Kyrie & Harden
  • Clippers without Kawhi Leonard

That’s how he presents his take.

And here’s the problem –

We need to now go through each of these games to find out if the Sixers had Joel Embiid, Tobias Harris, and Ben Simmon available. Then we need to weigh it on some arbitrary scale and determine which team was at lesser strength, and how many of those performances really stand out.

Last night, they didn’t have Harris or Simmons (or Seth Curry, for that matter).

In the other games he mentions:

  1. They were full strength in the LA and Utah home wins, and both were fantastic, high-level basketball games.
  2. In the first Portland game, the Sixers were without Simmons, but Portland didn’t have C.J. McCollum OR Damian Lillard.
  3. They were full strength in the Portland road loss. Blazers didn’t have McCollum.
  4. Embiid didn’t play in the Utah road loss, Clippers road loss, Bucks home loss, or Denver road loss.
  5. They were full strength in the first Phoenix loss.
  6. Simmons and Harris didn’t play in the second GSW game.

So there are a ton of asterisks to apply there. Only a couple of those games could we truly say the Sixers were full strength and should have won.

But to this individual’s other point –

Yes, they did benefit early on from dodging other stars. They missed Jimmy Butler twice and got Miami coming off a COVID situation. They beat Boston twice without Tatum. They missed Kawhi at home and didn’t play a full-strength Nets team a single time.

At the risk of burying the lede here, or going too far into the weeds, we’re trying to determine how many marquee wins the Sixers have this season. For me, number one is LA and number two is Utah. Options for their third-best win could be the OT victory at Madison Square Garden, without Embiid. You could go with the Boston road win, when the Celtics did have Tatum available. Maybe trouncing Dallas in Dallas to end a four-game road trip makes the list.

Otherwise, it’s mostly been an exercise in taking care of business and beating the lesser teams on the schedule. The Sixers have generally closed out those squads in straightforward fashion, but had hiccups trying to finish off LA and a short-handed Brooklyn, which may be a cause for concern as head toward meaningful playoff basketball.

You have to tell me if you agree with this CB individual or not. He thinks the Sixers don’t have any big wins outside of LA and Utah. Is that fair?

If anything, I think what we’ve learned is that this regular season has been all over the place. Too many games where stars were missing because of protocol or injury or load management, and it really cut down on the amount of full strength, marquee matchups that we’d normally get in any other year. This has affected everybody, and not just the Sixers.