By Eric Jacinto
Tonight, the 76ers start the second half of their season against the Miami Heat and will be without Joel Embiid tonight and for at least a week due to left knee soreness. He had an MRI yesterday and there was no structural damage; he'll be re-evaluated in about a week or so.
The 76ers, have 24 games left including tonight at home versus the Miami Heat, the next four games after tonight are against the Portland Trail Blazers at home (Saturday), at New Orleans Pelicans (Monday), at Oklahoma City Thunder (Thursday) and at home versus the defending Champions, the Golden State Warriors next Saturday Night, Match 2nd at 8:30PM ET on ABC.
The key to the second half of the season, is to win the games against the bad teams and 13 of their last 24 games are against losing teams, they must win those games if they want to get a good seed for the playoffs. The 76ers, are currently fifth in the east and tied with the Boston Celtics but since the Celtics have won the season series (3-0) already they're in fourth and own the tie breaker. If the playoffs started today they would play the Boston Celtics. The most important factor in all this is Joel Embiid needs to be healthy if they want any chance in the playoffs and make a deep run. Brett Brown and the medical stuff need to make sure Embiid doesn't come back to soon and they also need to be more strict with him and not let him play when he needs to rest. They need to take control and just say NO to him when he wants to play because if he's not healthy the 76ers will be sitting at home with a first round exit which is not good especially with the trades they made this season getting Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris. If they want to keep either or both guys, they can't not go out in the first round of the playoffs. The Philadelphia fans expect a deeper run than last year and if that doesn't happen the fans will not be happy and it could very well cost Brett Brown is job if they don't make a deep run. Fans will be calling for somebody's head and that likely would be Brett Brown.
This team is very capable of making a deep run in the playoffs and possible get to the finals but the health of Joel Embiid is the key, it's not to say the health of the other starters or players on the team aren't important either, it is. They need to be fully healthy going into the playoffs or else it will probably be one and done for this team. This new starting five as only played four games together and with Embiid missing at least three games or more that's not good for the team chemistry as they need to learn to play with each other before the playoffs start.
Brett Brown is also a key to the second half of the season as he now as the best starting five in the east, he needs to do a better job coaching against the top teams like the Boston Celtics, the Milwaukee Bucks and the Toronto Raptors. He also needs to do a bette job with his rotations with the bench, they don't have a great bench but he needs to have the starting five of Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Jimmy Butler, Tobias Harris and JJ Redick out there more together to get used to playing with each other. We will see if Brown is the coach for the future in the next two plus months hopefully. I've been a big defender of Brett Brown and if we don't make it to at least the Eastern conference finals, I maybe on that fire Brett Brown wagon.
Finally, I believe the 76ers will surpass their win total of 52 wins and get to about 55-58 wins. I think they have a decent chance of winning the division if the Toronto Raptors fall a little bit and slip against some teams, they're 5.5 games back of the Raptors for first place in the Atlantic division. I honestly believe, they will get the third seed in the east and will play the Brooklyn Nets in the first round of the playoffs, I also think they will get to at least the Eastern conference finals and play the Milwaukee Bucks.