It’s not the first time that Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doc Rivers has complained about the schedule. And it probably won’t be the last, No. 1 seed or not.
The NBA scheduling makers did the Sixers no favors, something Rivers previously chalked it up to the league not thinking they’d be this good. It’s a fair point, especially looking back on that brutal Milwaukee trip. Now the team gets set to play eight games in 14 days, including two back-to-backs (May 7-8, May 13-14) and four road games. The cross-country trekking is what had Rivers upset the most considering the insane amount of time on an airplane.
“It’s the worst scheduling of the year,” Rivers told reporters. “We are 45 minutes from Houston and we’re going to fly to Chicago and play Chicago, and then fly back to Houston. It makes no sense, but it is what it is. I’m sure every team has had one of those or two of these during the year, and we’re just going to have to buck up and win the game anyway.”
Major difference – with this Nets loss Sixers should be favorites to nab the No. 1 seed https://t.co/CL1R7leWLb
— Harrison Sanford (@HarrisonSanford) May 2, 2021
The only saving grace is the Sixers face relatively weak teams who own a combined record of 195-318. (.380 winning percentage). The Indiana Pacers (May 11) and Miami Heat (May 13) are potentially the only playoff teams they’ll face during that stretch.
All-Star point guard Ben Simmons joked about the scheduling after his tip-in at the buzzer on a Joel Embiid miss handed the Sixers a 113-111 victory in overtime on Sunday night versus the San Antonio Spurs.
“I just wanted to get on the plane to Chicago,” Simmons told reporters. “I was just doing what I could wherever I could with my team defensively and offensively.”
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Resting Starters vs. Playoff Seeding
The other factor for Rivers to consider has to do with resting players down the stretch. While Sixers players continue to talk about securing the No. 1 seed in the postseason, the head coach must weigh the benefits. He can’t afford to watch any of his guys — let alone an All-Star like Simmons or Embiid — go down with a serious injury. It’s a delicate balance.
“We are not going to look at the standings or anything like that to decide what we are going to do,” Rivers told reporters. “We obviously have a plan on what we want to do, and so we’ll follow it.”
— Tom Moore (@TomMoorePhilly) May 3, 2021
The Sixers (43-21) hold a half-game edge over the Brooklyn Nets (43-22) for the top spot in the Eastern Conference with nine games left. They own the tie-breaker there, but the Milwaukee Bucks (43-22) is giving chase and recently swept Philadelphia to take that tie-breaker.
“We have a few games left to really get that first seed and I think we can do it,” Simmons said. “We got to take control and get that one seed.”
Sixers Rise to No. 2 in NBA Power Rankings
The NBA’s official power rankings were updated on Monday and the Sixers rose up from No. 4 to No. 2, per NBA.com. They cited the team getting healthy at the right time, plus the Nets playing without James Harden as reasons for bumping them up. The Phoenix Suns (46-18) hold the No. 1 spot, followed by the Sixers, Denver Nuggets (43-21), and Brooklyn Nets (43-22).
Ben Simmons is back and the Sixers are back in control of the top seed in the East. They had lost four straight games without him, but they’ve won their last eight that Simmons has played, having held their opponents to just 100.9 points per 100 possessions in his 223 minutes on the floor over that stretch. With the Lakers struggling and the Sixers playing a softer schedule (six of their final eight games are against teams that rank in the bottom 11 offensively), there’s a good chance that Philly will end the season as the No. 1 defense in the league.
— NBA (@NBA) May 3, 2021