The Philadelphia 76ers will end the first half of the season outside of the playoff picture. If the Sixers want to end the second half of the year inside the playoff picture, they need to start winning immediately. It would certainly help if the Sixers could beat the team directly in front of them for the No. 8 seed, as they will get their chance in Milwaukee on Feb. 13.
The Sixers’ last game before the All-Star break is against the Milwaukee Bucks, who are three games ahead of them for the East’s final playoff spot. As such, this game will make a huge impact on Philadelphia’s confidence in one way or another.
If the Sixers win, they will go into the All-Star break just two games behind for a playoff spot. Despite an underachieving first half without Andrew Bynum, a postseason berth would still be in range for Philadelphia anyway. Since Milwaukee is in a significant slump and would go under .500 with a loss, the chances of catching the Bucks would look pretty good going into the final 31 games.
However, a loss to the Bucks would leave the Sixers in an ugly position. They would be four games back for a playoff berth after the first half, which still isn’t insurmountable. Yet a four-game deficit is a lot uglier for the Sixers than a two-game hole, especially after a loss to their main competition.
This has been a bad enough first half of the season for the Sixers without that final exclamation point. They need to head into the All-Star break with some faith that things will turn around. But it will be harder to believe that if they waste a golden opportunity against the vulnerable Bucks.
Getting blown out by the Los Angeles Clippers on Feb. 11 was somewhat excusable for Philadelphia. Of course, it kept the Sixers from gaining another game on the Bucks in the process. But if they lose to that same Milwaukee team, which is on a four-game losing streak and just lost to the Washington Wizards at home, it will further prove why Philadelphia is on the outside looking in to begin with.