The Philadelphia 76ers finished their most successful regular season in over 17 years on Wednesday night, capped off by 130-95 dismantling of the Milwaukee Bucks. It was their 16th straight win, a team record for consecutive wins in a single season (the team record of 18 straight wins spans across two seasons). 16 straight wins is also an NBA record for a winning streak to end the regular season. Entering the playoffs, there is not a single other team in the NBA playing better than the squad in Philadelphia.
“We are ready to go,” said Ben Simmons after Wednesday’s game. “It’s going to be fun…we have a lot of players who are ready to step up and play.”
Indeed they do. It was the best statistical season for the Sixers in quite some time, and their first playoff berth since 2012. After some truly painful years of The Process, a former laughing stock is now a legitimate contender in the Eastern Conference. Some may not have expected such a quick return to the postseason. But head coach Brett Brown made it his stated goal before the season began.
“I felt to have any other goal was borderline, sort of cowardly,” Brown told Yahoo Sports last week. “I understood that it was going to be a difficult ask. But I think to walk into a locker room and not declare that to be a season goal at the start of the season is not how I’m wired.”
For their efforts, they will have home court advantage for their first round series and possibly the next. Philadelphia hasn’t had home court in a series since 2003. They finished 30-11 at home, and have only lost once at home since December 21st. They were led by Simmons and Joel Embiid.
In the first round, they’ll take on the Miami Heat. The two teams split the season series with two wins each. It could be a tough matchup; Hassan Whiteside is one player with the size to defend Embiid. Dwyane Wade is still hitting game winners at 36 (as the Sixers are very well aware). And, with no disrespect towards Brett Brown, Eric Spoelstra has a long resume as a successful NBA coach. The Heat are disciplined and savy. The Sixers will need to carry the momentum of this 16 game winning streak into the first round.
As for their most important player, Embiid’s status for Game 1 is in doubt. He could possibly return later in the series and bring a new look with him.
Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals will be on Saturday, April 14th at 8pm.