The Philadelphia 76ers, coming off a disappointing 2021-22 campaign, retooled over the offseason and will once again enter the new year with championship hopes. There is still an arduous 82-game regular season to go through before the team can even think about making a run at the NBA Finals for the first time since 2001.
This week saw the release of the complete ’22-23 schedule, detailing when and where the Sixers would play each of their 82 games. While each game is vital and fascinating in its own right, some are simply more exciting than others. Five of Philadelphia’s upcoming games stand out as particularly intriguing.
Oct. 18th, Boston Celtics vs. (Away)
The Sixers’ upcoming season opens with a bang, as they’ll be taking on the Eastern Conference champion Celtics in Boston in their season opener. Philadelphia will get a good (extremely early) look at how they stack up against the East’s best team from last season in this game. Indeed, the Sixers will need to get past Boston (and Milwaukee, Miami, etc.) if they are to make their first Finals appearance in over 20 years next season.
Even though both teams improved with new players during the offseason, the two teams split their four regular season meetings from the previous year. The Sixers signed P.J. Tucker and Danuel House and acquired De’Anthony Melton via trade, while the Celtics added Malcolm Brogdon and Danilo Gallinari to their starting lineup. James Harden, who did not suit up for any of Philadelphia’s four meetings with Boston Celtics last season, will complement Joel Embiid in a way that Boston has not yet seen. It’s great that we won’t have to wait too long to witness this heated rivalry between these two teams in the upcoming season.
October 20th, Milwaukee Bucks (Home)
The Sixers’ second game of the season is against Eastern Conference foe the Milwaukee Bucks, so they won’t have to wait too long for another good test against an Eastern Conference opponent. The Bucks are expected to be a legitimate contender once again this season, and there is a good chance they would have reached the NBA Finals for the second year in a row had they been at full strength throughout the playoffs last year. Giannis Antetokounmpo is one of the best players in the NBA, and he is surrounded by talented teammates. It’s always exciting to see Antetokounmpo and Embiid square off against one another.
As of late, we’ve also been treated to some truly memorable and exciting matchups between these two teams. Two of the three games between them from last year’s regular season came down to a single basket. What’s more, two years ago, Antetokounmpo sank the Sixers in overtime while sitting on the court.
Let’s hope these two teams put on a good show early in the season.
Date: Sunday, November 22nd, 2017 Venue: Brooklyn Nets (Home)
If you’ve been following the team at all over the past year, you know why this game is on the schedule: Ben Simmons, who famously refused to play for the Sixers again until he was traded to the Nets in February, may be making his first appearance against the Sixers in Philadelphia. The animosity of the Philadelphia crowd will be palpable when (and if) Simmons takes the court because of his behavior before the trade, which made him one of the city’s most reviled athletes in recent memory.
The Nets traveled to Philadelphia to play the 76ers after the trade, but Simmons sat out the game. Even so, the home crowd in Philadelphia made its displeasure with the once-touted draft pick abundantly clear by booing and heckling him at every available opportunity. If Simmons is healthy enough to play this time around, the Wells Fargo Center will be rocking. Furthermore, the two clubs could be in direct competition for a spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Basketball, January 28th, Denver Nuggets (Home)
Here we have a matchup between Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic, two of the best and most dominant centers currently in the NBA. Since Embiid has come in second place to Jokic in MVP voting the past two years, a healthy rivalry has developed between the two players. The players don’t get to play each other often because they’re in different conferences, so when they do, it’s a big deal.
Six games have been played between Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo, with Embiid and the Sixers coming out on top four times. On average, Embiid scores 22.2 points, grabs 10.8 rebounds, dishes out 3.3 assists, and blocks 2.2 shots per game when facing Jokic, while Jokic scores 21.5 points, grabs nine boards, dishes out 7.2 assists, and blocks one shot per performance when facing Embiid. Unless both the Sixers and the Nuggets make deep playoff runs and meet in the NBA Finals, this will be their first playoff meeting ever. Thus, the best we can hope for is this contest during the regular season.
Time and place: Wednesday, February 27th, Miami Heat (Home)
A few Sixers will have this game circled on their calendars because it’s their first chance to get back at Miami for knocking them out of the playoffs in six games last year. Perhaps things would have been different if Joel Embiid had been available for the duration of the series, but alas, we cannot change the past, and the Heat ultimately dashed Philadelphia’s title hopes from the previous year. Following the offseason changes made by both teams, it will be exciting to see how the Heat fare against their Eastern Conference rivals in the upcoming season.
It’ll be P.J. Tucker’s first game against the Heat since the Sixers signed him away from them in free agency, adding an intriguing twist to the game that has everything to do with offseason changes. Tucker was an integral part of the Heat’s success on both ends of the court, so his departure was a blow to the team, but his departure was a boon to the Thunder. Given this history, it’s possible that each team comes into the game with a renewed sense of purpose.
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