Bob Cooney- To Rest, or Not to Rest, That is the Question for Sixers
Do not fret, Sixers fans. The push that many were hoping for over the final 10-15 games of the season, to try and get a higher seed for their playoff run, isn’t going to happen now. Coach Doc Rivers said as much after the Sixers stomped the Chicago Bulls last Wednesday to improve to 49-23. Rivers talked particularly about James Harden sitting out the game with a sore Achilles tendon. The third-year coach recalled that in his previous two playoff runs here, health was the biggest issue in thwarting them from advancing past the second round, so this year was going to be different with a keen eye on having all bodies as healthy as possible.
Many eyes rolled in the Delaware Valley as the coach’s words meant home-court advantage had been ceded to both the Celtics and the Bucks. But look at the big picture. The push, really, has already been made.
Following a 132-123 overtime loss to the lowly Houston Rockets back on Dec. 5, the Sixers were a .500 team at 12-12 and tied for the 7th seed in the Eastern Conference. Early in the season? No question. But with injuries to star players James Harden, Joel Embiid, and Tyrese Maxey in the fold, all the team did over the next 48 games was win 37 of them, planting themselves firmly in the seedings behind Milwaukee and Boston.
So where do the Sixers go from here? Recent memories haunt me. Visions of another second-round exit are clearer than the bottled water that are quickly exiting the shelves at local stores. But what clouded those playoff exits, at least in the mind of the head coach, were the various injuries that seem to always plague this team at this time of year. So health is at a premium, even over wins in these final 8 games. And the advantage of home court won’t be gotten against the Bucks and Celtics. But the bigger advantage – a healthy Joel Embiid and James Harden – is what Doc Rivers is playing for in these final games.