The first 56 games of the Sixers schedule represented a grueling test for this young squad. 30 games on the road, 20 against the Western Conference, 16 back-to-backs, the Ice Capades trip. To have survived at only two games below .500 is an accomplishment, all things considered. Now it's time to sprint to the finish. Forget surviving, now it's time to thrive, to feast on a much easier schedule over the final 26 games.
Over the final 50 days of the season, the Sixers will play 26 games total:
- 15 home games
- 11 road games
- 5 back-to-backs
- 15 games against sub-.500 teams
- Only 5 games against truly elite teams (.700+), 2 of those at home
- One game against the Knicks to secure the tie-breaker in that series, in Philly.
If the Sixers continue to play the type of basketball we've seen over the past 40 games, we're looking at somewhere around 44 wins, but that's putting the cart before the horse.
The overall remaining schedule looks relatively easy, but the immediate schedule coming out of the break is what we need to focus on. The next seven games, to be exact:
- vs. Washington (.273)
- vs. Detroit (.362)
- @ Cleveland (.179)
- vs. Dallas (.714)
- vs. Minnesota (.228)
- vs. Golden State (.464)
- @ Indiana (.455)
Not a single back-to-back in that group of games. The Sixers absolutely must emerge from this stretch no worse than 5-2. In all honesty, they should be 6-1, but you have to factor in one slip-up, and I'm not even sure if a road loss in Indy would be considered a slip up at this point, but losing that game would cost the Sixers the tiebreaker against Indy, so they have to have it.
Doug Collins has done a superb job of focusing this team, avoiding trap games. He's got his work cut out for him in the coming weeks. They need to be up for these games, they need to take every one of these teams seriously. It starts tonight with Washington. The Wizards have one win on the road this entire season, and they positively stole two games from the Sixers early on. Make a statement tonight and set the tone for a strong second half. The schedule may be cake, but you still have to win the games.