The Sixers have sold out their last 103 home dates. They led the league in average attendance last season (20,441) and are No. 1 this year (20,487).
The 76ers could make things a little easier on themselves.
The Sixers had a chance to blow out the Jazz on Monday night, jumping out to a 26-point lead in the second quarter. Utah was playing its fifth and final game of an Eastern Conference road trip and had been hammered by the Raptors the evening before while Brett Brown’s team was off.
But the Jazz managed to make it interesting, closing to within seven points late before falling 103-94.
The Sixers had been in a similar situation five days earlier, scoring 11 of the first 13 points against the seemingly lifeless Kings, who were closing out a four-game Eastern swing. While the Sixers still prevailed 97-91, allowing Joel Embiid and veteran Al Horford to rest in the fourth quarter instead of having to log 32 minutes apiece could’ve helped in terms of wear and tear over the course of an 82-game season.
Though some of the games could be more one-sided, the 15-6 Sixers finding ways to win at the Wells Fargo Center is extremely significant. Philly improved to an NBA-best 10-0 at home by upending Utah.
A year ago, the Sixers went 31-10 in South Philadelphia after a 10-0 start en route to a 51-win season and the third seed in the Eastern Conference. That gave the Sixers homecourt advantage in a first-round playoff win over the Heat, but not vs. the second-seeded Raptors in an incredibly tight seven-game defeat.
The Sixers have an opportunity to earn a top-two seed in 2019-20, which would mean homecourt advantage for at least two rounds.
Yes, they need to be better than 5-6 on the road — and I think they will be — but continuing to win at home is the key.
“We say every game before we go out there, ‘protect our house,’” forward Tobias Harris said after Monday’s win. “We’ve stated that we want to be a home-court team come playoffs. That’s a big thing for us, so we’re striving for that.”
This season, the Sixers own marquee home victories over the Celtics and Heat, with each coming by double digits.
It doesn’t hurt that the Sixers have sold out their last 103 home dates. They led the league in average attendance last season (20,441) and are No. 1 again this year (20,487).
The building is loud and the fans are really into the games. Even with the home success, the Philly faithful won’t hesitate to let the players know — by booing — if they think the Sixers are capable of more.
“The fans show up every night,” Horford said. “That’s something we appreciate. It gives us energy, gets us going when we go on those runs like that. We really feed off of them. It’s very clear it’s made a difference to us.”
“Our crowd, our energy, the atmosphere — it’s real,” Harris said. “When you come out here and play against us, it’s a dogfight not only how we play, but also how interactive and excited our fans are.”
After visiting the Wizards on Thursday night, the Sixers host the Cavaliers Saturday evening and the Raptors Sunday night. Toronto is one of the teams ahead of the Sixers in the conference.
The Nuggets, who went into Tuesday in second place in the West, come to town next Tuesday. Toronto and Denver should give the Sixers a pretty good indication where they stand.
There are some encouraging signs.
First-year Sixer Horford is getting more comfortable playing alongside Embiid and Harris, after some early-season struggles, is averaging 20 points on 53% shooting — 44.1% from 3-point range — over the past nine games.
“I think now we’re at the point where we can continue to build off of (what we’ve done at home),” Horford said.
They have 31 more opportunities in South Philly to help secure the highest seed possible and set themselves up for playoff success.
Tom Moore: firstname.lastname@example.org; @TomMoorePhilly