The Philadelphia 76ers will be tested mightily by their post-All-Star beak schedule, starting Thursday night against the Grizzlies. Of the NBA's 30 teams, the Sixers have the toughest remaining schedule in terms of overall opponent win percentage. Their remaining opponents have an average win percentage of .540, and they have a lot of games crammed into a short period of time. Philadelphia is one of just four teams league-wide that still have 25 or more games to go, and they'll spend most of March on the road.
Behind Philadelphia, the Clippers have the second-toughest remaining schedule, followed by the Hawks, Kings and Raptors. On the flip side of things, the Mavericks have the easiest path through the rest of the regular season. Coming out of the All-Star break, the Sixers sit third overall in the Eastern Conference with a 38-19 record.
Here's a succinct summary of just how tough Philadelphia's remaining slate is from NBA.com's John Schumann:
The one team with a tougher remaining schedule than the Clippers in regard to cumulative opponent winning percentage is the Philadelphia 76ers. And the Sixers' post-break schedule is as busy as it is difficult. They're one of four teams in the league with 25 games left to play over the final 46 days of the season, and they're one of six teams with at least one stretch of five games in seven days. Theirs is a five-game trip from March 1-7 that begins with games in Miami, Dallas and Milwaukee.
The Sixers have been one of the league's best road teams (15-11), but their 15 post-break road games are two more than any other team has left to play. Their sixth-ranked offense also has the league's toughest remaining schedule in regard to opposing defenses, with 12 of their 25 games against teams that currently rank in the top 10 defensively. That includes their first four games out of the All-Star break, when they'll face the Grizzlies (third defensively), Celtics (fourth) and Heat (fifth), with their second game against the Heat being the start of the aforementioned five-game trip.
The upcoming stretch is enormous for Philadelphia, as it will determine what their playoff path looks like. Over their final 25 games, the Sixers should have three main goals. The first -- and most important -- is to stay healthy.
The team isn't going to be able to make any sort of real run in a competitive Eastern Conference if they're not at, or very near, full strength for postseason play. Specifically, Joel Embiid and James Harden. Philly's dynamic duo has struggled with injury issues in recent years and their health is paramount for Philadelphia's success. Had Embiid not missed the first two games of the team's semifinals series against the Heat last season, things might have turned out differently, but I digress.
The second goal should be building chemistry. The team has obviously been doing this all season, as evidenced by the growth of the two-man game between Embiid and Harden. But a couple of new additions -- Jalen McDaniels and Dewayne Dedmon -- have been made in recent weeks, so those guys have to gain familiarity with their new teammates, and vice versa. Also, coach Doc Rivers will need to figure out where the new guys fit in the rotation while ironing out potential playoff lineups.
Lastly, the team's third goal should be to hang onto the third spot in the standings. Climbing up in the standings would be good, too, but it'll be a tall task to catch Boston or Milwaukee. But if the Sixers hold onto the third spot, they would avoid playing one of the top two seeds until the second round, and they would potentially avoid the top overall seed until the conference finals. In short, hold position, keep the key contributors as healthy as possible, and see what the postseason brings.
The Sixers were well aware that the backend of their schedule was no walk in the park, and the importance of the stretch isn't lost on the group.
"Everybody looked at the back half of the schedule when it came out. Now it's here and it's like, 'Damn.' It's like that test that your teacher reminds you of in college and then you're like, 'Shoot, I didn't know that was going to pop up that quick,'" Sixers forward Georges Niang said, via the Philadelphia Inquirer. "I know all the guys are ready."
"This is what we prepared for,' he added. "These are going to be some really intense games... Because these games are for seeding, and you're trying to catch people. The teams that are lackluster and take it easy fall on their face. You don't want to be one of those teams."
A whole lot rides on how the Sixers finish out their current campaign, as the future in Philadelphia for Harden, Rivers, and others could hang in the balance. Buckle up.