2019 Philadelphia 76ers

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

5 bold Sixers predictions for second half

Dave Uram
February 19, 2019 - 11:49 am

NBA basketball returns Thursday with 24 games left for the 37-21 Philadelphia 76ers before the playoffs. That gives Brett Brown just under two months to learn his new starting five, which must develop impeccable chemistry to compete with the elite of the East. 

Here are five bold predictions for the second half, one that should be a lot of fun for Sixers fans if everything goes to plan. 

Sixers go 20-4 to finish the regular season 

The 76ers are going to finish with 57 wins, which will be their most since 1984-85 when they lost in the Eastern Conference Finals to the Boston Celtics. The Sixers finished with 56 when Allen Iverson took them to The Finals in 2001. 

Their losses will come at Oklahoma City, to Golden State at home, in Houston and in Milwaukee.

While the rivalry between Joel Embiid and Russell Westbrook is glorious, Westbrook and the Thunder seem to have the edge against the Sixers, finding ways to win very close games even if they're in Philadelphia. It's the rivalry alone that will spark Westbrook with some extra boost, making winning at Oklahoma City on February 28 particularly difficult. 

A loss to Golden State two days later in Philadelphia will make it two straight defeats for the 76ers, and a 3-2 record out of the break. The Warriors, most likely with Klay Thompson this time, will get revenge for falling to the Sixers in Oakland earlier this season.

Panic will then ensue, especially when the Rockets get that same kind of revenge in their building three games later. The Sixers won't have Corey Brewer this time around to pester James Harden.

Things will turn around briefly with a big Sunday afternoon win over the visiting Pacers on national television, but reality will set back in a week later when the Bucks squeak out a close one in Milwaukee. The Bucks are arguably the best team in the East, so while a loss to them would be disappointing 12 games after the All-Star break and 16 games since the blockbuster Tobias Harris trade, it will send a "wake-up" signal to the Sixers and ignite another long winning streak before the postseason. 

The Sixers will finish the regular season campaign on a 12-game winning streak with home victories over Boston and Milwaukee, pacing them third in the East heading to the playoffs, with a first round match-up against the pesky Nets. 

Brett Brown's job will be questioned at least once 

​This is by far the best 76ers team since the '80s, this making it the best during Brown's six years as head coach. Due to heightened expectations and pressure on Brown, his job status will be questioned at least once, especially if they lose two of the three games against Milwaukee (2) and Boston.

Brown needs to find a way to make Philadelphia's new "Fab Five" work. The franchise gave up a lot of future assets to bring in Tobias Harris and dealt two starters for Jimmy Butler. Brown's seat will be hot if the Sixers are seeded fourth or worst, or don't make it past the second round. Some people may even give him heat if the 76ers don't win the East. 

The head coach is certainly aware of these expectations. 

Joel Embiid wins Defensive Player of the Year, not MVP

Michael Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon are the only players to win Most Valuable Player and Defensive Player of the Year in the same season since the latter started in 1983. They will remain the only two to do so after this season because neither Joel Embiid nor Giannis Antetokounmpo will win both.

Antetokounmpo will take home MVP because the Bucks are going to be the top seed in the East. Embiid will capture Defensive Player of the Year because the voters will realize that when he's not in the game, the Sixers defense is significantly worse, more so than when Antetokounmpo is on the bench. Malcolm Brogdon and Khris Middleton compliment Antetokounmpo. 

Ben Simmons will make a three-pointer

​The Sixers remaining 24 regular season games features three dates against the 14-44 Bulls, two games against the 19-39 Hawks and one match-up against the 12-46 Cavaliers, three of the five worst teams in basketball. In at least one of those blowouts, Ben Simmons will make a legitimate, in rhythm three-point shot. 

Sixers advance to The NBA Finals 

As mentioned earlier, back-to-back losses to Oklahoma City and Golden State will concern the fan base, as will losing to Milwaukee on the road on national television. 

some fans will expect this new starting five to be in complete sync immediately after tip-off Thursday night against Miami, but that simply isn't realistic. These next 24 games are the perfect opportunity to face the the right amount of elite opponents, while tune things up against easier foes. 

Finishing with the third seed will put the Sixers up against Brooklyn in the first round, a series they will win in six due to the fact the Nets play really hard and give the Sixers problems with their back court. In the end, experience will be the difference. 

The second round will see the 76ers face the Raptors with the first two games in Toronto, a pair the Sixers will split before winning the next two games in Philadelphia, losing Game 5 in Toronto and clinching the series at home in Game 6. ​Without any substantial insight, I truly believe the latest loss to Toronto at Wells Fargo Center was the final straw that forced Elton Brand to strike a blockbuster trade with the Clippers to land Tobias Harris. Both teams improved their roster after that game, with the Raptors picking up Marc Gasol. That being said, JJ Redick didn't play in that close Sixers loss and Jonas Valanciunas, who gave Embiid major problems, is no longer in Toronto. Despite losing the season series to Toronto 3-1, the Sixers will be much harder to eliminate come the playoffs. 

Then, it's the Eastern Conference Finals, and you might be thinking I'm pairing the Sixers up against the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks. However, I believe four-seeded Boston will upset the Bucks in seven games, creating a rematch between Philadelphia and the Celtics, this time with the Sixers owning home court advantage. A win over Boston in March will give them the confidence they need against a Celtics team that has owned them. Furthermore, the luxury of four home games will pay dividends as well. The Sixers will outlast the Celtics in a grueling seven-game series and advance to The NBA Finals, where they will lose to the unbeatable Golden State Warriors in six.