The Philadelphia 76ers must take advantage of every chance to gain ground in the playoff chase. At the least, the Sixers can’t afford to lose ground, which they didn’t on Feb. 11. But although they didn’t drop a game in the standings, the Sixers blew their chance to take advantage of losses by the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks.
The Sixers never had a chance against the Los Angeles Clippers on Feb. 11, losing by 107-90. This should have dropped them further behind the Celtics and Bucks, since they were playing the Charlotte Bobcats and Washington Wizards respectively. However, both Boston and Milwaukee suffered upset losses to bail Philadelphia out.
The Celtics had risen up to the No. 7 seed in the East, due to a seven-game winning streak without Rajon Rondo. Yet after a triple-overtime win over the Denver Nuggets on Feb. 10, Boston had nothing left against Charlotte the next night. Despite the Bobcats owning the worst record in the NBA, they still got past the Celtics by 94-91.
Boston had pulled 4 1/2 games ahead of Philadelphia thanks to its winning streak. But now that it is over and the Celtics have now lost Leandro Barbosa to injury as well, they may be ready to come back down to earth. Nevertheless, the Sixers failed to put any more immediate pressure on them.
With the Celtics winning again, the Bucks had fallen to the No. 8 seed and become the top target for the Sixers to catch. Philadelphia was three games behind Milwaukee going into Feb. 11, and would have fallen four games back if the Bucks hadn’t lost to the lowly Wizards at home by 102-90.
Milwaukee had been much hotter earlier this season, but has gone 3-7 in its last 10 games. This should make the Bucks easier to overtake, but the Sixers can’t wait around too long. If they don’t close the gap now before the Bucks snap out of this slump, it may become too late.
Fortunately, the Sixers can put more pressure on the Bucks by beating them in Milwaukee on Feb. 13. If they do that, they will only be two games back for a playoff spot. But if they hadn’t tanked against the Clippers, they would have had a chance to make it a one-game deficit.