The Philadelphia 76ers can’t afford to lose too much in the second half of the season. In fact, the Sixers can barely afford to lose at all, given the slim margin of error they’ve left themselves. Therefore, not only do the Sixers need to win a few games they aren’t expected to, they have to win the ones that they are.
One such game is on Feb. 20, as the Sixers visit the Minnesota Timberwolves in their first post All-Star break contest. Technically, a loss to Minnesota wouldn’t be an upset, since Philadelphia is on the road and is only 2 1/2 games better than the home team.
Still, the Timberwolves have nothing to play for and no room in the crowded Western Conference playoff picture. What’s more, they don’t even have Kevin Love around to strike fear in any opponent. Therefore, there is little excuse for a team fighting for the playoffs to lose to the Timberwolves.
The Sixers’ ability to fight is debatable, however, given their 22-29 record. They’re going to need a long winning streak or two to get back in the hunt, and this would seem to be a good place to start. At the least, they don’t need another losing streak to bury them further, and that could start with a loss in Minnesota.
After facing the Timberwolves, the Sixers have to face the Miami Heat, New York Knicks and Chicago Bulls during the rest of February. But if Philadelphia can’t even beat Minnesota, beating some of the best in the East would be too much to ask for. If that is the case, then the Sixers’ playoff hole could become overwhelming before March even starts.
The Sixers certainly need a win over the Timberwolves to balance out a likely loss to the Heat on Feb. 23. Philadelphia has shown no ability to beat Miami in the last two years, and that was when it was a playoff team.
Although beating the Timberwolves and losing to the Heat would still leave the Sixers at 23-30, it is better than the 22-31 record that would be on the horizon with a loss in Minnesota. With the Knicks then hosting the Sixers on Feb. 24, Philadelphia could be 10 games under .500 by the end of this weekend. Therefore, avoiding that by defeating the Timberwolves would be the bare minimum of damage control.