The Sixers enter the crucial month of February with heavy pressure to make moves from the fan-base and pundits alike. The squad had big ambitions, finding themselves in the top 5 at one point in preseason championship odds. With the team currently the 6th seed and 10.5 games out in the East, this season has obviously been a far cry from what was expected. Something has to give, but the question is, what?
A team with young All-Star’s in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons alongside solid starters in Richardson, Horford, and Tobias Harris should not be in this position. After letting T.J. McConnell walk in free agency, they still don’t have a clear playmaking point guard off the bench. This team has the potential to make it through the East and challenge the Lakers, Clippers, or whoever wins the West but not in this current state.
The team cannot win on the road and for various reasons. A lot of blame needs to be put on Brett Brown, who CANNOT make in-game defensive adjustments, as we saw Thursday night in Atlanta against the Atlanta Hawks. Allowing a young team with the second worst record in the league to slap you around like that is simply unacceptable.
What shocks me is that this is the same team that dominated the Lakers and LeBron James last Saturday night without Embiid. Overall, this team can certainly make a playoff run but, they need to improve their performance on the road. Especially since at the moment, they would likely not have home court in any playoff series.
Like the previous month, February is filled with important, prime-time games with massive playoff implications. Here are the team’s five games to watch in February, 2020, which includes two road match-ups against the team with the best record in the league.
February 1st @ Boston
The Sixers will again be on ABC Saturday Night Primetime for the second consecutive week. This is the fourth and final meeting between tPhilly and Boston as the Sixers will go for a sweep of the season series.
Boston is really a team the sixers should have no fear of. With Al Horford now on our side, Embiid has dominated the Celtics this year averaging 26.5 points, 13 boards, and 4.5 assists per game in two matchups.
That said, we really don’t know how the team will come out this evening. Boston is a difficult atmosphere on the road but the team will certainly have motivation after what happened in Atlanta on Thursday. Expect Al Horford to be back against his former team.
February 6th @ Milwaukee
A rematch of the Christmas Day blowout should be a good one. This is the first of two matchups in Milwaukee this month. This is sure to be a tough contest with a little added hunger for Milwaukee.
Despite embarrassing the Bucks in their first match-up, the Sixers will be on the road where they have a grim 9-16 record. The game also is the last game of the road trip after they visit Atlanta, Boston, and Miami. As we saw with the Lakers last weekend, sometimes a team just folds at the end of a road trip.
There’s a slim chance that Josh Richardson is available to return for this game after suffering a hamstring injury against Toronto on January 22nd. He’s expected to be evaluated two weeks from then, which would be the day before this game. If he can return, this would strongly improve the Sixers chances at shutting down Milwaukee’s perimeter shooting and sneaking out a win. Let’s hope he’s good to go.
February 11th vs. Los Angeles Clippers
This game should be a good one to tune in for before the All-Star break. Winning this is crucial to set a positive tone before being off for 9 days. The Clippers will be in the middle of an east coast road trip and there’s a chance we could see Kawhi Leonard off for “load management” rest opportunity. It’ll also be nice to see former Sixer Landry Shamet in action, who was traded to the Clippers last year in the Tobias Harris deal and has been a solid role player for LA.
Winning this game would send a strong message that if the Sixers could make the finals, they can keep with either of the two LA teams. The Clippers will have an off night on the road before playing in Philly, so there’s a chance you could meet Kawhi Leonard at any local gentlemen’s club.
February 20th vs. Brooklyn
The last match-up between these teams was one to remember. After a poor first half against a Kyrie Irving-less Nets, the Sixers led by Ben Simmons stormed back to win on MLK Day. Ben seemed unguardable that day and it was fun to see him playing both point guard and center at different times in that game.
The Nets, however, are always a team the Sixers tend to struggle with, as seen in the 1st Round of last year’s playoffs. That said, the Sixers success at home this season will probably overcome this. Brooklyn is a team that is beatable now but things will change when Kevin Durant returns next year.
February 22nd @ Milwaukee
The second of two match-ups this month is not one to miss. If the team can manage one of two on the road, you have to be satisfied with that. Since the loss on Christmas Day, Milwaukee has won 14 of 16. Milwaukee is also said to be active in the trade market, so they could have some new tools come this tilt.
Like many players, Giannis Antetokounmpo idolized Kobe Bryant and has recently deleted all of his social media accounts. It’ll be tough to slow him down but if the Sixers can force him to shoot and go 8-27 from the field again, they can certainly steal a win on the road. But, that’ll be difficult. Just look at his numbers last night in a game they lost at home to Denver.