When Joel Embiid went down with a knee injury last January, the Philadelphia 76ers were expected to slide down the standings and this was exactly what they did over the next two months.

By the time he returned in early April, the Sixers fell all the way from fourth down to eighth place in the East. His return was too late to rally Philadelphia back up the standings to a guaranteed playoff spot, although they did manage to climb up by one spot to seventh. This secured them home court in the 7-vs-8 play-in game where they faced the Miami Heat.

Thanks to some second half heroics from veteran forward Nicolas Batum who scored 20 points off the bench, the Sixers pulled off a 105-104 victory to secure seventh place in the East. Embiid hit only six-of-17 field goals, yet made up for it by hitting nine-of-10 free throws en route to finishing with 23 points, 15 rebounds, five assists, and a steal. The win not only punched Philadelphia’s ticket to the playoffs, but also put them in a prime position to make the franchise’s first Eastern Conference Finals appearance since 2001.


The Sixers are set to face the second seed New York Knicks in the first round and unlike these past few months, the injury luck is on their side.

New York will be playing without its three-time NBA All-Star forward Julius Randle who was declared out for the rest of the campaign due to a shoulder injury. While the Knicks still managed to win 50 games this season, including a 21-15 win-loss record since Randle’s season-ending injury, this series against a complete Philadelphia team will be an uphill climb for them.

If the Sixers emerge victorious versus New York, they will then face the winner of the best-of-seven between the Milwaukee Bucks and Indiana Pacers. A series against either team should be winnable for Philadelphia–that is, if Embiid stays healthy–to set up an Eastern Conference Finals showdown against the Boston Celtics.

Though the Sixers would be definite underdogs if they face the Celtics, making it past the second round for the first time since Allen Iverson’s glory days would already be a major achievement for this team. Anything can happen as well once they make it that far and if the breaks of the game go their way, a trip to the NBA Finals would only be a few wins away.

The regular season has been far from ideal for Philadelphia, but this upcoming postseason is shaping up to be a much better situation for them. This team has been on the unlucky side of many playoff series over the past few seasons, yet this just might be the year that things finally go the Sixers’ way.