Previewing the Seeding Games

by Brian Seltzer and Lauren Rosen

Clear your calendars.

Put your Zooms on hold.

Start lining up the Grubhub orders. 

Not only do we now know the details, we also have dates. At least the first few.

With the NBA on Friday unveiling the schedule for "seeding" games as part of its return-to-play plan, the 76ers' first eight match-ups have been set.

The league will use these games to decide which of the 22 teams traveling to Orlando, Florida next month will qualify for the four-round postseason, as well as the pairings for the first round.

The Sixers, which were 39-26 and ranked sixth in the Eastern Conference at the time the regular season was suspended, have already secured a playoff berth, but will have an opportunity to improve their positioning right off the bat with an Aug. 1 meeting against the fifth-place Indiana Pacers.

Indiana carried an identical 39-26 record into the hiatus as well, but with a successful showing in the opener of the restart, the Sixers could potentially move ahead of the Pacers in the standings.

The Sixers' seeding slate also features a bout with the defending NBA champion Toronto Raptors, which sit 7.5 games in front of the Sixers for second place in the East.

The Sixers will square off with the San Antonio Spurs, Washington Wizards, Orlando Magic, Portland Trail Blazers, Phoenix Suns, and Houston Rockets before the playoffs begin. Five of the Sixers' eight opponents will resume play with losing records. 

Brett Brown's squad will also take part in exhibition games - dates and opponents yet to be determined - in advance of the seeding phase.

Here's a look back at what these opponents were prior to the NBA's stoppage in play, and how the Sixers fared against them. 

INDIANA PACERS (5th-East, 39-26)

Before the Break:

Indiana went its first 47 games without its best player, but still has impressively put itself in the running for a top-four seed. Victor Oladipo returned to action Jan. 29, a little more than a year after rupturing his quad. The two-time All-Star went into the hiatus on the heels of a season-high 27-point performance against the Boston Celtics.

Season Series Recap:

The Sixers trail their season series with the Pacers, 2-1. Each team held serve at home. 

Nov. 30 @ PHI (119-116 W): Joel Embiid went for 32 points and 11 rebounds, highlighted by a 15-for-15 effort from the free throw line. Ben Simmons had a 15-point, 13-assist double-double.

Dec. 31 @ IND (115-97 L): Embiid was out of the line-up, and the Sixers struggled from beyond the arc. Domantas Sabonis and T.J. Warren combined for 44 points.

Jan. 13 @ IND (101-95 L): The Sixers were again without Embiid, again had a tough game from 3-point territory, and were done-in by Indiana's 61-point second half.

Seeding Phase Match-Up:

Game 1 - Sat., 8/1 @ 7:00 PM ET

SAN ANTONIO SPURS (12th-West, 27-36)

Before the Break:

For the first time since the 1996-97 campaign, Gregg Popovich's first as San Antonio's coach, the Spurs will finish the regular season with a losing record. Nevertheless, the Spurs are still in the hunt for the eighth seed in the Western Conference. All-Star DeMar DeRozan (22. ppg) was San Antonio's top scorer before the NBA went on break. LaMarcus Aldridge, meanwhile, has been ruled out for the rest of the year with a shoulder injury.

Season Series Recap:

Nov. 22 @ PHI (115-104 W): The Sixers overcame a 29-point effort from San Antonio's DeMar DeRozan. Joel Embiid racked up 21 points and 14 rebounds, while Ben Simmons registered a triple-double (10 pts, 10 reb, 13 ast).

Seeding Phase Match-Up:

Game 2 - Mon., 8/3 @ 8:00 PM ET

WASHINGTON WIZARDS (9th-East, 24-40)

Before the Break:

The Wizards currently hold the ninth seed in the East, and will face an uphill battle to catch the no. 8 Orlando Magic (30-35). If anyone can will the Wizards forward, it’ll be Bradley Beal - who’s averaging a career-high 30.5 points this season. 

Season Series Recap:

The Wizards and Sixers split their first two matchups of the season, 1-1, each team defending its home court.

Dec. 5 @ WAS (119-113 L): The Sixers started strong, but had trouble with turnovers (21) and Davis Bertans’ 5-for-5 3-point shooting in the second quarter were too much to overcome.

Dec. 21 @ PHI (125-108 W): With the 76ers' stars all healthy, the team notched a balanced victory over the Wizards at home. Joel Embiid finished with 21 points, 13 rebounds, and two blocks, while Ben Simmons flirted with a triple-double (14 pts, 11 reb, 8 ast, 4 stl). 

Seeding Phase Match-Up:

Game 3 - Wed., 8/5 @ 4:00 PM ET

ORLANDO MAGIC (8th-East, 30-35)

Before the Break:

Playing in their home city, the Magic will aim to defend their playoff position when the season resumes. Currently holding the no. 8 seed in the East, the Magic have a 5.5 game cushion over the no. 9 seed Wizards. Nikola Vucevic leads his team in both scoring (19.5 ppg) and rebounding (11.0 rpg) in the first part of the season.

Season Series Recap:

The Magic have won both of this season’s matchups with the Sixers. The two games were played in Orlando.

Nov. 13 @ ORL (112-97 L): In the absence of Joel Embiid, the Sixers struggled to combat Orlando’s balanced performance, as seven Magic players finished in double figures. Big man Nik Vucevic finished with a game-high 25 points and 12 rebounds.

Dec. 27 @ ORL (98-97 L): In a back-and-forth affair that featured 16 lead changes and eight ties, the Sixers’ push in the final seconds wasn’t enough. Tobias Harris and Joel Embiid each finished with 24 points and 11 rebounds.

Seeding Phase Match-Up:

Game 4 - Fri., 8/7 @ 6:30 PM ET

PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS (9th-West, 29-37)

Before the Break:

It was a disappointing first part of the season for Portland, which in 2019 reached the Western Conference Finals for the first time in 20 years. Damian Lillard (28.9 ppg) and C.J. McCollum (22.5 ppg) will look to lead the Trail Blazers' restart, but the team will be without veteran Trevor Ariza, who had been playing well before the hiatus.

Season Series Recap:

The Sixers and Blazers only played once during the regular season, but the back-and-forth battle was certainly memorable (at least for one of the teams).

Nov. 2 @ POR (129-128 W): Fur. Kan. Korkmaz. Need we say more?

Seeding Phase Match-Up:

Game 5 - Sun., 8/9 @ 6:30 PM ET

PHOENIX SUNS (13th-West, 26-39)

Before the Break:

The Suns are in pursuit of their first playoff berth since 2010. Phoenix was led by Devin Booker (26.1 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 6.6 apg) in the first part of the season. After Deandre Ayton missed 25 of the Suns' early games (banned substance), the 2018 no. 1 pick averaged 19.0 points and 12.0 rebounds per game.

Season Series Recap:

In the only meeting between the 76ers and Suns this season, Phoenix handed the Sixers their first loss of the season. The Sixers began their season 5-0.

Nov. 4 @ PHO (114-109 L): Despite a season-high 32 points from Al Horford and a 24-point, 10-rebound double-double from Tobias Harris, the Sixers ultimately failed to overcome the pairing of Devin Booker (40 pts) and Ricky Rubio (21 pts, 10 ast) in the second half.

Seeding Phase Match-Up:

Game 6 - Tue., 8/11 @ 4:30 PM ET

TORONTO RAPTORS (2nd-East, 46-18)

Before the Break:

Regardless of how much talent a team retains coming off a championship season, it can't be easy moving on from your top player. But that's kind of how Toronto made it look. Oh, and key returning members of the roster Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka, Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol, and Fred VanVleet all dealt with pre-hiatus injuries, too. Nevertheless, the second seed in the Eastern Conference is the Raptors' to lose.  

Season Series Recap:

The Sixers went 1-2 against Toronto in the regular season. The home team won each time.

Nov. 25 @ TOR (101-96 L): The Sixers' first game back at Scotiabank Arena since Game 7 of the 2019 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals had all the postseason feels, even if the personnel was different. Despite Joel Embiid going scoreless, the Sixers hung tough before Toronto pulled away in the final minutes. 

Dec. 8 @ PHI (110-104 W): Matisse Thybulle broke out in a big way, as the rookie's 20 points off the bench loomed large in the Sixers' favor. Tobias Harris netted 26.

Jan. 22 @ TOR (107-95 L): The Sixers' auspicious start was not to be. Playing in the absence of Embiid, they led 35-26 after a quarter, but the Raptors turned the tide by giving up just 15 points in the second frame. VanVleet went 6-for-7 from deep to finish with 22 points.

Seeding Phase Match-Up:

Game 7 - Wed., 8/12 @ 6:30 PM ET

HOUSTON ROCKETS (6th-West, 40-24)

Before the Break:

While Houston holds the no. 6 seed in the West, their record matches that of the Thunder, which hold the no. 5 seed. The Rockets are only 4.0 games back from the no. 2 seed. The first season of the James Harden-Russell Westbrook reunion has led the Rockets to a 113.4 offensive rating (2nd in NBA). The Rockets continue to lead the league in 3-point shot attempts, averaging 44.3 attempted threes per game in the first part of the season. Harden tops the league in scoring.

Season Series Recap:

The Rockets took the first meeting between the teams in Houston, fueled by Harden’s 44 points and six threes.

Jan. 3 @ HOU (118-108 L): After a strong start for the 76ers, the Rockets controlled the second quarter, which would prove costly. Ben Simmons led his team with an impressive 29-point, 13-rebound, 11-assist triple-double.

Seeding Phase Match-Up:

Game 8 - Fri., 8/14 @ TBD

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