The Philadelphia 76ers have to be happy with the first half of the 2020-21 season.
The team sits at first place in the Eastern Conference with a 21-11 record. Joel Embiid is one of the front-runners for the MVP award this season. New additions Seth Curry and Danny Green have fit in well, improving the offense and spacing for Embiid and Ben Simmons. Tobias Harris and Shake Milton have taken positive steps under new head coach Doc Rivers.
Whether the Sixers can carry their excellent form into the second half of the season remains to be seen. Below, we'll take a look at the second-half schedule they'll face as they attempt to do just that.
First Game of the Second-Half Schedule: Chicago Bulls (away) at 8 p.m. ET on March 11
Championship Odds: +1600, per FanDuel Sportsbook
Second-Half Schedule: NBA.com
Milwaukee Bucks (First Home Matchup Wednesday, March 17, at 7 p.m. ET)
It's possible the Eastern Conference could come down to these two teams. That makes any matchup between them informative.
The Sixers are one of the few teams with a few viable options to throw at Giannis Antetokounmpo on the defensive end in Embiid and Simmons. The Sixers would often put Embiid on the Greek Freak and keep their other defenders home on his drives, hoping to keep his supporting cast from getting into a rhythm while living with Antetokounmpo's scoring.
It remains to be seen how they'll handle him in the Rivers era. These teams didn't play in the first half, and their matchups down the stretch will be circled on the calendar for every NBA fan.
Brooklyn Nets (First Home Matchup Wednesday, April 14, at 7 p.m. ET)
For one, the Nets appear to be one of Philly's major potential roadblocks in the East. There's the storyline of the Sixers being in the running for James Harden before he was traded to the Nets, with Simmons ostensibly being the main attraction in their prospective trade package.
Speaking of Simmons, who will he guard in this matchup? He's one of the NBA's best and most versatile defenders, but he can't defend Durant, Harden and Irving at the same time.
But the Nets have their own questions in this matchup. Notably, who on their roster can hope to slow down Embiid? DeAndre Jordan hasn't exactly set the world on fire this season. And will the Nets improve defensively?
The Sixers are a very good defensive team. The Nets...are not. That could play a big part in how this matchup shakes out.
If Embiid continues to play like an MVP, the defense remains stout and if Harris stays a legitimate second scorer, the Sixers are going to be in the hunt for the top overall seed in the East. There will be questions to answer, though.
Will they improve the roster at the trade deadline? They desperately need depth. Will Simmons grow his offensive game? When he's aggressive and attacking on that end, the Sixers are tough to beat. When he's tentative, they become more predictable, especially in the halfcourt. And will other teams that started slow get hot down the stretch?
The Sixers are one of the better teams in basketball. Just how good they can be remains to be seen.
The Sixers finish 48-24 and claim the No. 2 seed in the East behind the Bucks.
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