Happy Friday, peeps.
The 76ers are six games away from completing another successful season. Wednesday’s victory over the Dallas Mavericks enabled them to reach 50 wins in the fewest games since the 2000-01 season.
At 50-26, they only needed 76 games to reach the milestone. The Sixers accomplished that feat in 72 games during the 2000-01 campaign. That season also marked the last time they reached the NBA Finals, falling to the Los Angeles Lakers.
We’ll learn this postseason if the Sixers will be able to win their fourth NBA title. For now, they’re third in the Eastern Conference, 2 ½ games behind the second-place Boston Celtics. The Celtics (53-24) will travel to the Wells Fargo Center Tuesday night holding the playoff tiebreaker over the Sixers.
» READ MORE: Dominating both ends of the court, Sixers’ Joel Embiid should dethrone Nikola Jokić as MVP
But in the meantime, I’ll answer a few of your mailbag questions.
Missed out on the party? No worries. Submit questions for next time by tweeting @PompeyOnSixers with the hashtag #PompeysMailbagFlow.
Q: Do you see any real advantage of being either the three or four seed? Both give you home court in round one. Think Sixers should rest Joel Embiid, James Harden and other players down the stretch? — @rick13tr
KP: Thanks for the question, Rick. If the Milwaukee Bucks keep the top seed, the Sixers would be better off as the No. 4 seed. As the fourth seed, the Sixers would be in line to face Milwaukee in the second round if both teams win their opening-round series. The Sixers match up better against the Bucks (55-22) than the Celtics.
Boston defeated the Bucks, 140-99, at Fiserv Forum Thursday to pull within two games of first place. This game after the Celtics looked vulnerable in Tuesday’s blowout loss to the Washington Wizards. But they’re a tough matchup for the Sixers. Boston All-Stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown can get whatever shot they want against the Sixers. And they’ve struggled to defend Celtics post players, who pull defenders out to the perimeter.
However, the Sixers have had success against MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks. They’ve also taken advantage of Antetokounmpo’s preference to roam around on defense instead of guarding his man. Now, the Sixers would lose home-court advantage in the second round as the third and fourth seed. So that wouldn’t make a difference. But based on previous meetings, the Sixers should have a better chance to steal a road game in Milwaukee.
Q: Why does Sixers coach Doc Rivers value Georges Niang so heavily? Jalen McDaniels and Danuel House Jr. should be used in the playoffs rather than him, who is a tough defensive player. — @pisqeuets
KP: I appreciate the question. The answer is simple: Niang makes shots. You need shooters on the floor to play off James Harden and Joel Embiid in the pick-and-roll, and Niang is the team’s best shooter. He does need to improve his defense, as opposing teams will attack him over and over again in the postseason. So Niang’s minutes will be cut if he doesn’t show improvement. But the Sixers don’t have a big on the roster that can stretch the floor like Niang coming off the bench.
He’s made a habit of torching the Bucks and the New York Knicks. And he showed his value by draining four three-pointers against the Mavs Wednesday night. Again, Niang must display defensive improvement to remain on the floor this postseason. The Sixers will use also McDaniels in the postseason. He’s been a solid addition, and can defend four positions. House, meanwhile, will be a situational option.
Q: How deep do you think Doc will go in his playoff rotation and who will get minutes? — @austinle15
KP: Thanks for the question, Austin. I think we saw a sneak peek of the Sixers’ playoff rotation against the Mavs. Tobias Harris, P.J. Tucker, Tyrese Maxey, Embiid and Harden were the starters. De’Anthony Melton was the first player off the bench, followed by Niang, McDaniels, Paul Reed and House, who only played four seconds.
Melton and McDaniels are locks to be in the rotation. How long Niang plays will depend on his ability to make shots and defend. The Sixers will have some flexibility at the backup center position. Ideally, they’ll want Embiid to be on the floor as long as possible. However, they could use Tucker in some small-ball situations.
When the Sixers need a guy to shoot it a little bit, they can insert Dewayne Dedmon. The Sixers can go with Montrezl Harrell when they need a low-post scorer. And if they need defense or energy, they’ll probably go with Reed.
Right now, I would lean toward the Sixers going with Reed over Dedmon and Harrell.
Q: Doc has kept us at the top of the conference since he’s arrived. Why does everyone hate him so much? — @SoulBrother#1
KP: Thanks for the question. A lot of the disdain for Rivers has to do with his postgame exchanges with members of the Philadelphia media, a perceived lack of in-game adjustments and history of second-round exits.
Rivers has been unable to advance beyond the second round during first two seasons with the Sixers and in seven seasons with the Los Angeles Clippers.
» READ MORE: From one Doc to another, it’s obvious that Rivers has the Sixers on a roll
In 2008, he led the Celtics to an NBA championship over the Lakers. His Celtics lost to the Lakers in the Finals in 2010, and they reached the conference finals two seasons later.
But with the Clippers, Rivers had six postseason appearances. They reached and lost in the second round three times. The last two times — 2015 and 2020 — they were a game away and failed to advance, blowing a commanding 3-1 lead both times.
He led the Sixers to the East’s No. 1 seed in 2021. However, they lost to the Atlanta Hawks in the second round. And last season, the Miami Heat ousted them in the second round.
In all fairness, Rivers has made better adjustments this year, and his coaching is a major reason for this season’s success. However, he’ll ultimately be judged by what the Sixers do this postseason. For now, fans will continue to hold his recent postseason failures against him.