The Philadelphia 76ers 2020-21 campaign didn’t end the way that the team had hoped. But, the good thing about the NBA is that there’s always next season, and the Sixers will enter it eager to bounce back from their early exit in postseason play. The league released the complete schedule for the upcoming ’21-22 campaign this week, so now it’s just a matter of counting down the days until the start of the season. As it does every year, the Sixers’ schedule contains some interesting aspects. Here is a look at five key takeaways from Philadelphia’s schedule.
1. No shortage of nationally televised games
Sixers fans that aren’t located in Philadelphia will still have plenty of opportunities to watch their squad next season. The Sixers will have 27 nationally televised games across ESPN, ABC, TNT and NBA TV. They have 11 games on NBA TV, seven games on ESPN, seven on TNT, and two on ABC. Only seven other teams will have more nationally televised games than the Sixers next season — the Lakers, Warriors, Nets, Bucks, Suns, Celtics, and Knicks.
When it comes to nationally televised games, the Sixers sure have come a long way since the 2015-16 season when they were one of just three teams in the entire NBA that didn’t appear on national television at all. The Pistons and Nuggets were the other two.
2. An early test against the Nets
The Sixers won’t have to wait long to see how they stack up against one of the East’s elite teams. Heading into the season, there are many that view the Brooklyn Nets as the favorites to come out of the conference. In fact, a lot of people think that Brooklyn would have won the title last season had they been able to stay healthy due to the sheer level of talent on their roster.
The Sixers kick off their home slate next season with a matchup against Brooklyn on Oct. 22. At that early point in the season, all key contributors should (hopefully) be healthy, so the game should serve as a solid early-season measuring stick for both teams. For what it’s worth, the Sixers won two out of three regular season meetings between the teams last season, but Kevin Durant didn’t play in any of those games. Neither the Sixers or Nets were able to advance past the second round of the playoffs last season, but they’ll both be determined to do so this season, so this game could potentially serve as an extremely early Eastern Conference finals preview (although the reigning champion Bucks might have something to say about that).
3. 76ers won’t have to wait long for a rematch against Atlanta
Despite the fact that they finished with the best record in the Eastern Conference last season, Philadelphia’s playoff run came to an early end in the conference semifinals at the hands of the Atlanta Hawks. The Sixers were heavily favored heading into the series, but the Hawks proved to be the better team over the course of seven games. The series loss left a terrible taste in the mouth of Sixers executives, players, and fans alike.
When the upcoming season tips off, the Sixers won’t have to wait long for a rematch with the Hawks, as Atlanta will travel to Philadelphia for a mischief night matchup.
This game should be a good one, as Atlanta will be eager to prove that their playoff victory over Philadelphia wasn’t a fluke while the Sixers will be looking to show that they’re the superior team. Nothing that the Sixers can do in this game will make up for their disappointing playoff performance against Atlanta, but a victory would be good for team morale, at least.
4. December on the road
The Sixers will spend a large chunk of the month of December on the road. The team is scheduled to play 15 total games in December, and 10 of them are away from the friendly confines of the Wells Fargo Center in South Philadelphia. 10 road games are the most that the Sixers play in any single month during the upcoming season. They kick the month off with a game in Boston against the Celtics on Dec. 1 and they wrap up the calendar year with a game against the Nets in Brooklyn on Dec. 30. Their December slate also includes two games in Charlotte, games in Atlanta, Toronto, Washington and Memphis as well as an additional game each in Boston and Brooklyn.
Two years ago, the Sixers were a terrible road team and they finished the regular season 12-26 away from home. Last season, they improved in a big way in that category and finished the season with a very respectable 20-16 road record. The hope has to be that they’ll be able to build off of that and continue to be a tough team to topple on the road. If not, December has the potential to be a very long month for Philadelphia.
5. A tough stretch at a crucial time
Nothing about playing an entire 82-game schedule is easy, but some sections of the season are more difficult than others, and the Sixers have a really rough stretch in late March. In a five-game stretch from March 23 to March 29, the Sixers have to play against the Heat, Lakers, Clippers, Suns, and Bucks. All five of those teams project to enter the ’21-22 campaign as legitimate contenders, and the games against the Lakers, Clippers and Suns are all on the road. At that point in the season, the Sixers will likely be embroiled in a battle for playoff positioning in the East. How they perform during that five-game stretch could potentially mean the difference between having homecourt advantage or not at some point in the postseason.