2020 NBA return schedule: the biggest takeaways from Sixers’ new schedule

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Before the NBA season was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Sixers had to have one of the mildest schedules in the NBA.

Before the All-Star game, they had the third toughest schedule in the league. They were supposed to have the second easiest after the break.

While the NBA 22-team return-to-play format has put a key in all of this, the Sixers are still in pretty good shape compared to the official league schedule released Friday night.

Here’s a look at the eight seeding games the Sixers will play at Disney World:

Indiana (August 1, 7 p.m.)
San Antonio (August 3, 8 p.m.)
Washington (August 5, 4 p.m.)
Orlando (August 7, 7:30 p.m.)
Portland (August 9, 6:30 p.m.)
Phoenix (August 11, 4:30 p.m.)
Toronto (August 12, 6:30 p.m.)
Houston (August 14, TBD)

Together, their opponents are 261-255. It’s a cumulative percentage gain of .554.

While there are some tough games – including the Pacers’ start – it still lines up quite favorably. They’ve already ended their season with players like the Bucks, Lakers, Clippers, Nuggets, Celtics, Heat, Jazz and Thunder.

They will only play one game (Raptors) against one of the top eight in the league. This match against Toronto could also serve as a decent barometer for Joel Embiid against his boogeyman Marc Gasol. The biggest question may be whether it matters or not. Is there an advantage for the Sixers to move up the rankings? As the sixth seed, they would face the Celtics, a team they have beaten three times out of four and who seem to match well.

If they were to advance to the fourth or fifth seed, it could mean facing the Heat or the Pacers. Miami took three of the four against the Sixers. There is no doubt that Jimmy Butler would be particularly motivated to eliminate his former team.

Indiana has nothing to laugh about either. If goalkeeper Victor Oladipo decides to play, he will be further removed from the terrible quadriceps injury he suffered in January of last year. A healthy Malcolm Brogdon, who has battled injuries all season and recently tested positive for COVID-19, could also be a huge joker for the Pacers.

Since the NBA playoffs don’t re-seed, the Sixers would also skip the NBA’s best dollars until the Eastern Conference finals by finishing sixth.

Most importantly, the Sixers are using these remaining eight games to answer serious questions about their team. Can Joel Embiid qualify for the NBA playoffs? Will Ben Simmons be healthy? Will Al Horford be a good player in the starting lineup? Will we see the defense of the intimidation ball promised by Brett Brown?

The remaining schedule will not matter if these questions cannot be answered at the time of the playoffs.

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