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Sixers Lead Roundtable: Bubble Schedule Predictions

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The Philadelphia 76ers enter the NBA’s Orlando Bubble with high expectations. Philadelphia set these expectations before the 2019-20 regular season, and so far, they have not met them.  The Sixers’ chance to redeem themselves will begin when they finally return to action on August 1st.  They are in a disappointing 6th place in the East, with a 39-26 record.  Luckily, Philadelphia has one of the softest eight-game slates of the twenty-two teams in action.  The Sixers will attempt to chase down the Miami Heat — who have the toughest remaining schedule — for the 4th seed.  Here are some predictions from the Sixers Lead team for each of the games on the 76ers Bubble Schedule.

 

 

8/1: Indiana Pacers

Tim AndrewsOff the bat, the Sixers play one of the more important games to determine seeding in the Eastern Conference.  Both Philadelphia and Indiana are sitting at 39-26, and Indiana has one of the easiest schedules.  Even with the same record, it is the Pacers in 5th with a 2-1 record over the 76ers.  The one win for the Sixers was a thriller, with Ben Simmons coming up Klutch (pun intended) with two game-sealing steals.  Because of Indiana’s easy remaining schedule, it is imperative for the Sixers to start successfully.  Hopefully, this game will go as the season opener against the Celtics did, with a full, healthy lineup playing up to its potential.  With or without Victor Oladipo, the Sixers can pull this one out.  Prediction: Win

Josh Dishman:  Tell me if you heard this before… the Sixers start slowly.  After the long break, the Sixers will need a game to get used to the atmosphere in Orlando. Brett Brown does not always have the team properly prepared in new environments.  Even with the potential loss of Victor Oladipo, the Pacers always play hard and, in this matchup, effort wins over talent.  Prediction: Loss

Paul Van CottNot only is it important for the 76ers to begin strongly in Orlando, but also to win a game of seeding importance.  The 76ers beat Indiana 119-116 on November 30th in Philly, with Joel Embiid putting up 32 points and 11 rebounds.  Then, the 76ers lost the next two matchups, both in Indiana.  With Oladipo possibly sitting out the Orlando games, the 76ers are poised to beat a possible future playoff opponent.  Prediction: Win

Dakota Hurwitz:  The Sixers have been eager to get back on the court since the beginning of quarantine.  I expect them to come out strong with tons of energy, but this will not be an easy fight. We know our Sixers love to resort back to playing slowly.  However, this game is manageable if Victor Oladipo sits out.  Prediction: Win

Dave Pedron:  Brett Brown is likely to spend the first few games of this restart mixing players in different rotations.  Add in that Oladipo may be returning to the Pacers, and this instantly becomes a difficult matchup.  While a victory is certainly possible, it’s more likely than not that mixed rotations and quarantine rust plays a big role, and the Sixers lose.  Prediction: Loss

8/3: San Antonio Spurs

TA:  At 27-36, the San Antonio Spurs are one of the lower-tier teams competing in Orlando.  It is extremely important for the Spurs to win their early games in order to avoid elimination.  San Antonio, however, will be missing LaMarcus Aldridge, who will miss the remainder of the season after undergoing surgery on his right shoulder.  Without the offensive contributions from their star big-man, it may be difficult work against the Sixers’ defense.  This game could be a feast for Joel Embiid on the interior.  Prediction: Win

JD:  The Sixers bounce back with a significant win by a sizable margin.  The Spurs do not have the manpower to keep up with Philadelphia.  With Aldridge out and the Spurs on the outside looking in, they may be using Orlando as a way to examine their younger players moving forward and into the 2020-21 season.  Expect an impressive game from Embiid as the Spurs do not have anyone that can slow down the big man with Aldridge out. Brown gets the best out of his former team as the Sixers get the win.  Prediction: Win

PVC:  These teams have only battled once this season.  On November 22nd, the 76ers defeated the Spurs at home, 115-104.  Tobias Harris had a game-high 26 points coupled by 13 assists from Simmons.  The 76ers are 4-1 against the Spurs dating back to the 2017-18 NBA season.  If the 76ers can shut down DeMar DeRozan, they have a very good shot at winning.  DeRozan is averaging 22.2 PPG, 5.4 RPG, and 5.4 APG, showing he is a multidimensional threat on offense. The Spurs have a deep lineup, plus an all-time great coach in Greg Popovich.  This game will not be easy for the 76ers, but they pull out the win.  Prediction: Win

DH:  Though they have only met once this season, the Spurs are capable of remaining in the game.  With Aldridge out, the Spurs seem to be fading, and this one could be one of the easier ones for the Sixers.  Prediction: Win

DP:  This game would be a much more fitting opener for Philadelphia.  San Antonio is not nearly as deep or as talented as Indiana, and the Sixers should be able to take advantage of that easily, leading to a pleasing win.  Prediction: Win

8/5: Washington Wizards (NBA TV)

TA:  Back in December, the 76ers suffered one of their more embarrassing losses of the season.  Little did anyone know, this was a continuation of their road woes.  Later on that month, the Sixers defeated the Wizards handily in Philadelphia.  Going into the Orlando bubble, the Wizards are one of two teams lucky to be invited.  Sitting 5.5 games back of Orlando for the eight seed, Washington has a tough task to force a play-in game.  Now without Bradely Beal and Davis Bertans, the Wizards will almost certainly miss out on the eight seed.  The Sixers should easily take care of business here.  Prediction: Win

JD:  I want to keep this short and sweet.  If the Sixers lose to the Wizards without Beal and Bertans then they do not deserve to make the playoffs.  The Sixers have played down to the Wizards’ level multiple times throughout the season, but without those two guys Washington has zero chance.  Philly gets an easy win.  Prediction: Win

PVC: The 76ers have struggled against the Wizards this season. On December 5th, the 76ers went into Washington and lost 119-113, even with 33 points from Harris and 21 rebounds from Embiid.  The next time they faced off was on December 21st in Philadelphia.  The 76ers came out with a 125-108 win, led by a 21-point and 13-rebound effort from Embiid.  With Beal and Bertans sitting out, expect the 76ers to take advantage of a depleted roster.   Prediction: Win

DH:  A game without Bradley Beal and Davis Bertans should be exactly what the Sixers need, as the Wizards are currently all offense and no defense.  The Sixers can score at will, while receiving contributions from the bench.  Prediction: Win

DP:  Without Bertans or Beal, it’s hard to imagine this Wizards team beating any semi-motivated playoff team in the bubble.  Therefore, Philadelphia should easily walk to a win in game 3.  Prediction: Win

8/7: Orlando Magic (TNT)

TA:  With a 30-35 record, the Magic are one of two current Eastern Conference playoff teams with a sub-.500 record.  The 76ers lost both games in Orlando earlier this season.  Both games were on the road, however, so of course the Sixers lost.  When this game is played, offense will be difficult to come by.  The Magic have held opponents to 107.3 points per 100 possessions, but their offense could only muster 106.4 points per 100 possessions (4th-lowest in the NBA).  Keep an eye on Nikola Vucevic, who is always capable of going off.  Missing Jonathan Isaac will be a critical loss for the Magic.  He is one of the best young wing defenders in the NBA, and missing that defensive option for either Simmons or Harris might be too much to overcome.  Prediction: Win

JD:  This will be a very close game for Philly.  The Magic match-up well with the Sixers.  From Isaac to Aaron Gordon to Nikola Vucevic, the Magic have a lot of length and always give the Sixers a hard-fought game.  This game could go either way and it will be down to the wire.  Being in Orlando, the Magic players are essentially home, which will carry them to victory.  Sixers lose a close one to the “home” team.  Prediction: Loss

PVC:  Another Eastern Conference team to give the 76ers trouble this season was the Orlando Magic.  On November 13th, the 76ers lost 127-119 in Orlando.  On December 27th, the 76ers lost once again in Orlando 98-97.  With great young players in Gordon, Isaac, and Markelle Fultz, Orlando poses as a threat to the 76ers success in the bubble.  With veteran Vucevic at center, the former 76ers big man may stunt Embiid’s performance.  Unfortunately, I do not see the Sixers overcoming their early season woes against Orlando.  Prediction: Loss

DH: The Magic always play the Sixers tightly, so this game should be a battle.  Gordon, Fultz, and Issac play with speed and intensity; this always seems to lead to some matchup difficulties.  With Orlando fighting for their playoff lives while being at home, this could be a serious challenge.  Prediction: Loss

DP:  Orlando is on the brink of a playoff spot.  In a normal situation, Orlando always plays Philly closely and will continue to do so here, with a little bit of extra motivation.  With the opportunity to move out of the eight seed for Orlando, that motivation becomes important and Philly loses another.  Prediction: Loss

8/9: Portland Trail Blazers (NBA TV)

TA:  The only time the 76ers played the Trail Blazers this season, Furkan Korkmaz capped off a wild comeback in Portland.  However, that game was way back in November.  Now in Orlando, Portland may be the team that benefited the most from the long layoff.  Even with Trevor Ariza opting out of participating, the Blazers receive a significant boost on the interior with the impending returns of Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins.  Paired with the offensive firepower of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, there is a sizable chance the Sixers could drop this game.  Prediction: Loss

JD:   This is a battle of two teams with a lot to play for in Orlando.  Portland comes into the Bubble as the ninth seed in the Western Conference and every game is crucial for a team that began with high expectations.  The theme of the Sixers’ season is rising to the occasion against talented teams and playing down to the level of lower competition.  With Nurkic back, the Trail Blazers are a decent team, but Embiid and Simmons will be up and ready to play.  With Simmons and Richardson matching up well with the two elite guards from Portland, the game stays close throughout with the Sixers pulling away in the 4th.  Prediction: Win

PVC:  These teams have only faced off once this season.  On November 2nd, the 76ers defeated the Trail Blazers in dramatic fashion with a Korkmaz game-winner to push the 76ers past Portland 129-128. It was a rare road win for the Sixers, as Philadelphia struggled throughout that game to keep up with Portland’s shooting from behind the arc.  With stars in Lillard and McCollum, Portland will be a very difficult matchup. Along with Hassan Whiteside at center, the 76ers may not be able to handle all this firepower on offense.  I predict a battle from Portland as they are still fighting to enter the playoffs.  Prediction: Loss

DH:  Both teams are full of dominant all-stars, so this game should be fraught on both ends.  What’s causing me to lean in the direction of a win is that Lillard may be highly unmotivated.  He claimed to not be interested in returning to the court if the Blazers have no shot at reaching the playoffs.  Prediction: Win

DP:  Portland is a team that could be a sleeper to make a little bit of noise in the West.  In order to do that, however, they’ll have to make up 3.5 games and take the eight seed from Memphis.  At this point, I expect Portland to still be in contention, and be way more motivated than Philadelphia.  Prediction: Loss

8/11: Phoenix Suns

TA:  Immediately following the Korkmaz buzzer-beater in Portland, the Sixers traveled to Phoenix and lost their first road game of the season.  Like the Wizards, the Suns are lucky to be invited to Orlando.  They sit six games back of the Memphis Grizzlies, and would also need to jump Portland, New Orleans, Sacramento and San Antonio in order to make the playoffs.  Also similar to the Wizards, the Suns have a gunner that must be kept in check with Devin Booker.  Regardless, the 76ers should win.  Prediction: Win

JD:  The Suns come into Orlando as the 13th seed in the West.  They must come out of the gate quickly to have any shot of catching the Grizzlies and making the playoffs. They will do that.  By the time this matchup occurs, they will officially be eliminated from playoff contention.  Coming off a significant win against Portland, the Sixers are primed for their usual letdown.  But with Phoenix being out of it and having nothing to play for, Philly will cruise to a victory.  Prediction: Win

PVC:  As the case with many of the Western Conference teams, the 76ers faced off against the Suns once this season.  During the first Western road trip for Philadelphia, the Suns won 114-109 on November 4th.  With Deandre Ayton and Booker, the Suns are no team to be taken lightly.  However, the Suns have the 2nd-worst record of all the the teams participating in Orlando.  The 76ers will put away their earlier-season struggles and win.  Prediction: Win

DH:  This seems like a game the Sixers typically lose, as they are known for stooping down to the levels of weaker teams. The Sixers are aware of their next two games and know they have a lot to prove. With that in mind, they will find a way to take care of business.  Prediction: Win

DP:  Phoenix really has no business being in the bubble.  At this point in the restart they will most likely be eliminated from contention, lowering motivation to play.  Philadelphia finally gets the rotation to click and they win big, building momentum for the postseason.  Prediction: Win

8/12: Toronto Raptors (ESPN)

TA:  The toughest matchup that Philadelphia has on its eight game slate also happens to be their only back-to-back.  With only two games left, it will be interesting to see if the Raptors have the second seed locked up.  It is entirely plausible that Toronto will need to win this game in order to clinch the second seed and an easier first-round opponent.  With the extra motivation and a rest advantage, it may be too much to overcome.  Prediction: Loss

JD:  A back-to-back after two big wins in a row?  Sounds like a recipe for a loss and an ugly one.  The Sixers always play hard against the top teams in the Eastern Conference, but I see this as a schedule loss.  Of course the Raptors match-up well against Philly and with seeding implications coming down to the wire, you never know what Sixers team you will get. From what we have seen all season from this team, however, a back-to-back after a few wins means an obvious loss.  Prediction: Loss

PVC:  The Raptors have been a challenging opponent for the 76ers all season.  On November 25th, the Raptors defeated the Sixers 101-96 in Toronto.  Embiid finished 0-11 with zero points on the night, drawing heavy criticism from sports media.  Next on December 8th, the 76ers returned the favor 110-104 in Philadelphia.  Embiid even repaid Marc Gasol, holding him to zero points on 0-6 shooting in 30 minutes.  Once again, the Raptors defeated the Sixers in Toronto 107-95 on January 22nd.  Embiid was out, but given his struggles against Toronto, there is no guarantee that he would have had an impact on the outcome.  The Raptors are legitimate contenders for this year’s NBA Finals.  I expect the Sixers to continue their struggles against Toronto.  Prediction: Loss

DH:  We all know what this outcome will be.  If you need to know more, Kawhi or no Kawhi, it never seems to matter; Gasol, Lowry, Siakam, etc.  Prediction: Loss

DP:  Provided Toronto wins often early, they will be locked into the two seed at this point. Philadelphia will still be jockeying with Miami and Indiana for seeding, leading to a more motivated team. If Toronto opts to limit minutes for rest before the playoffs, Philly should take care of business easily.  Prediction: Win

8/14: Houston Rockets (TBD)

TA:  When the Sixers traveled to Houston in early January, Ben Simmons had a terrific outing.  He put up a triple-double of 29 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists.  Unfortunately, James Harden put up a 44-point triple-double and was too much for the Sixers.  Clint Capela, who Houston traded to Atlanta, also put up 30 points last time.  Both teams will be jostling for playoff position in their final game before the playoffs.  Will the Sixers’ interior scoring be too much for the small-ball Rockets, or will Houston’s three-point barrage be too much?  Prediction: Loss

JD:  Call it a hunch, but the Sixers will rest some players for this game.  Phialdelphia will be locked in with their playoff seed after the previous seven games, and Embiid will have the night off.  With Embiid and possibly more out, the Rockets’ small-ball lineup will have no rim protector to worry about other than, of course, Norvel Pelle.  Philly loses the final game of the regular-season due to load management.  Prediction: Loss

PVC:  These teams have only faced off once this year.  On January 3rd, the Rockets defeated the 76ers 118-108 in Houston.  A Simmons triple-double could not push the Sixers past Houston.  This matchup is a difficult one to predict.  On the one hand, the Rockets traded Clint Capela, leaving them with 6’6″ P.J. Tucker playing center.  Matchups could be a problem for the Rockets with Josh Richardson being the shortest Sixer starter at 6’6″.  On the other hand, Houston has former MVPs Harden and Russell Westbrook.  The Sixers will need to shut Harden down if Philadelphia expects to win.  Westbrook, however, is another problem.  He tore it up in 2020, averaging 31.7 PPG, 8.1 RPG, and 6.8 APG since the turn of the calendar.  Although the Rockets have two superstars, the size problem for the Rockets will limit their success.  Prediction: Win

DH:  This game could be critical for the playoff seeding of both teams.  If that’s not the case, maybe some stars will see a bit of rest right before the playoffs begin.  All in all, a combination of too much Harden and Westbrook will result in a loss for the Sixers.  Prediction: Loss

DP:  What’s the story with Houston right now? As a team that lives and dies by small ball, it could be a disaster for Houston. There will be some chemistry issues, and Philadelphia capitalizes and takes home a win.  Prediction: Win

Overall Bubble Predictions

TA: 5-3

JD: 4-4

PVC: 5-3

DH: 5-3

DP: 5-3

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About Tim Andrews

Big Basketball Fan. Follow me on Twitter @TimAndrews_13. Contributing for @TLSportsMedia / @SixersLead / @TheBLAnalytics Trust the Process.

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