By Connor Thomas

 

When this week started, the Sixers were owners of the longest win streak in the NBA, and were firmly in position to clinch the 1 seed in the Eastern Conference Playoffs. Philly needed only 1 more win to lock down that top seed… And then Joel Embiid got sick. And a couple other players were ruled out for Tuesday’s game in Indiana against the Pacers. And all of a sudden the Sixers found themselves on the wrong end of a 103-94 final in a game that many fans had circled as the celebration of the 1 seed. Last night’s game in Miami was no better. Actually, it was much, much worse. A clearly sick Embiid attempted to play but did not make much of an impact at all as the Heat routed the Sixers, dominating them from start to finish. Now, the flood gates of eccentric doubt have opened, as fans have begun to panic about the team’s ability to compete on the road to an Eastern Conference Finals and hopefully an NBA Finals appearance. Questions have been raised this week everywhere from “How sick is Embiid really?” to “How soon can we fire Doc Rivers?” There has been a whirlwind of worry in the Greater Philadelphia Area since the Tuesday night loss in Indiana, and while it is nowhere near the majority of the fan base, it is important that if you find yourself in the camp of those worriers you read this next sentence:

Calm down, take a deep breath; the Sixers are FINE.

Yes, it annoys a lot of people when a team treats games like they don’t matter. But the fact of the situation is that those two games did not matter. The Sixers were never going to take over the best overall record in the NBA to lock down home court advantage in The Finals. They’re also not losing out of the 1 seed. The final 2 games of the Sixers season are both at home against the 21-49 Orlando Magic. The Sixers could play the Magic, a glorified G League team, 100 times, and they would win 99 of them. With the 1 seed truly on the line, it would be a Miracle On Ice level upset for the Magic to win both games. Unfortunately for any Brooklyn Nets fans looking to vulture the 1 seed, Mike Eruzione does not play basketball for the Orlando Magic. When the dust settles at the end of the regular season, the Sixers will still be the 1 seed, and will still have the easiest path to the Conference Finals.

Is Joel Embiid’s sickness a little bit troubling? Sure, but thanks to the new play in tournament for the lower seeds in the playoff picture, he’ll have time to rest before the Sixers’ first round matchup. Matisse Thybulle’s hand swelling that has kept him out will heal. There is no reason, barring anything that occurs in these final 2 games, (knock on wood) that the Sixers should not be fully healthy and rested as they prepare for their playoff run. In late June/early July as the Sixers are competing for a chance to go to the Finals, we won’t be worrying about a loss in Indiana, or a beating doled out by the Miami Heat. Doc Rivers has still been one of the best coaches in the NBA this year, Ben Simmons has still been the DPOY, and Joel Embiid is still possibly the best basketball player on the planet right now.

So just like the players and coaches need a mental reset before they begin the arduous task of fighting their way to The Finals, we as a fan base need to do the same. Collect yourself, rationalize your thoughts, and think of the season as a whole for what it’s been: the best in the conference. Take another deep breath, enjoy the clinch coming this weekend, and most importantly do something that Philadelphia has been doing for the better part of a decade now. Keep trusting the process.