Before the NBA hit the pause button on the season in mid-March, the Philadelphia 76ers were the league’s most inconsistent team. No other franchise had a bigger disparity between how well it played at home vs. on the road. The Sixers were a league-best 29-2 inside the friendly confines of the Wells Fargo Center, but owned a dismal 10-24 record in away games.
At home, they secured impressive wins over the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers and Milwaukee Bucks. On the road, however, the 76ers suffered embarrassing losses to the likes of the lowly Atlanta Hawks and Washington Wizards. At 39-26, Philly currently sits in the sixth spot in the Eastern Conference standings — behind the Bucks, Raptors, Celtics, Heat, and Pacers — after many expected them to compete for the top seed prior to the season’s start.
Many of the Sixers’ issues with inconsistency were due to injuries, as they were without three different starters — Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and Josh Richardson — for extended periods of time. However, some of the team’s struggles were due to chemistry, or a lack thereof, according to forward Tobias Harris. During a recent appearance on ESPN’s “First Take” Harris admitted that the Sixers struggled with cohesion throughout the season, and acknowledged that they failed to live up to the lofty expectations bestowed upon them.
“I’ll just say, and I’ll keep it real, we haven’t had the best chemistry throughout the whole year,” Harris said, via NBC Sports Philadelphia. “It took us a while to kind of get everyone together, we battled injuries from the start to the end. And right now, if we’re the sleeper, then we’re the sleeper. Truth be told, how we’re viewed, that’s someone else’s opinion, but I know when I look my guys in the eye and we have conversations, we have one goal in mind, and that’s to go out there and play and win a championship.
“That’s the only view that matters to me. What people have to say about our team, I get it, because we haven’t met our expectations so far this year. But we have a new opportunity in Orlando to go out and just play ball, and really scratch a new surface of what we can accomplish.”
Despite their up-and-down season, Harris remains confident that the Sixers are capable of capturing the title when the season resumes in Orlando at the end of July.
“I’ve always been in contact with all of my teammates throughout this process,” Harris said. “Mainly just to make sure guys are in a good space mentally, asking, ‘Hey, do you want to go hoop out here? What’s your opinion?’ Not really holding much judgement to it. … I believe that when we go out here and go hoop, we have a chance to win a championship. We’re going to be healthy, a lot healthier than before — having Ben recovered and fully healed is big for us — and we’ve just gotta go out there and play basketball.
“This for us is kind of like an AAU tournament. We’ve just gotta go out there and hoop, play our best and do what we do. But I really believe that we’re going to have a clear-cut shot to win a championship, and I stand on that.”
Considering the injury issues that they dealt with, and the fact that 40 percent of the starting lineup was new, some struggles were to be expected for the Sixers. However, given the talent on the team — and the payroll — it’s fair to say that they underperformed during the first portion of the season. In Orlando, though, they will get a fresh start and a new opportunity to prove themselves. Over the course of the season, the Sixers showed their ceiling with some major wins — like over the Bucks on Christmas Day, or their 17-point victory over the Lakers in January — and that ceiling is extremely high.
On any given night, the Sixers can compete with — and defeat — any team in the league. Consistency will be key for them in Orlando. If they can string solid performances together consistently they could potentially go on a deep run. Thanks to the win-or-go-home nature of the postseason, perhaps as a unit the Sixers will gain a singular focus that may have been missing during some road losses in December and January. Head coach Brett Brown and general manager Elton Brand have said repeatedly that the Sixers, as currently constructed, were built for postseason play. In Orlando, we’ll find out if that’s true.