Will neutral courts help or hinder their chances?

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The Philadelphia 76ers have the rare distinction of being a truly great home team and an utterly abysmal road team. How will neutral courts affect them in the NBA’s Disney restart?

The Philadelphia 76ers are easily the NBA’s most infuriating, maddening team. They can beat absolutely anybody, at least on their home court. On the road, however, they transform into a distracted, disengaged mess that is vulnerable to defeat at the hands of even the worst teams in the league.

With a 29-2 record at home, it’s almost unfathomable that they could be the Eastern Conference’s sixth seed. It’s the best home record by a game over the mighty Milwaukee Bucks and their 28-3 record, and nobody in the Western Conference is in the same stratosphere on their own home court.

When the Sixers play at home, they’re outscoring their opponents by a massive 10.3 points per 100 possessions, behind only the Bucks who are ridiculous and outscoring their opponents by 14.0 points per 100.

At home, the Philadelphia 76ers have beaten a murderer’s row of NBA teams. They’ve defeated the Boston Celtics twice, the Miami Heat, the Toronto Raptors, the Milwaukee Bucks, the Los Angeles Lakers and the LA Clippers. Their only two home losses came in back-to-back fashion in mid-December against the Heat and the Dallas Mavericks.

It’s a talented squad, one of the most talented in the NBA. With stars like Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, they can go toe-to-toe with almost any star-studded team in the league simply based on their top-end talent. That’s what makes their road struggles so confounding and frustrating.

Everything is different for the Sixers when they go on the road. They have a truly unbelievable road record of 10-24. Only seven teams in the NBA have worse road records, and obviously no other playoff team can match up with this woeful mark. Mind you, the Brooklyn Nets (12-20) and the Orlando Magic (14-20) aren’t that far off, but neither of those teams had any claim on being a top-tier championship contender.

It’s not a surprise when bad Eastern Conference playoff teams have bad road records. It is a surprise when the Sixers are THIS bad away from home.

The Sixers have lost to teams like the Atlanta Hawks and the Cleveland Cavaliers on the road, and if you can lose to those teams, you can lose to anybody.

It’s not bad luck, either.

This team gets run off the court, relatively speaking. They get outscored by 5.4 points per 100 possessions on the road, seventh-worst in the NBA, so they’re not losing via a series of fluky events.

This Jekyll and Hyde act won’t work anymore in Orlando when the NBA season relaunches. Games will be played on neutral courts at Walt Disney World’s Wide World of Sports, which means that both homecourt advantage and road-court disadvantages are out the window.

In most cases, both handicappers and analysts agree that homecourt is worth between perhaps 1.5 and 2.0 points, but clearly the gap is much larger for an outlier team like the Sixers.

Considering how vast the chasm is between home and road for the Sixers, it’s nearly impossible to forecast how neutral court play will impact them. Will playing in the same vicinity for all games, close to their own home base hotel, make all games feel like home games? Or will the absence of their own rabid Philadelphia crowd be the overwhelming impact for them?

Effort and focus have been major issues of concern for this team when they play on the road. After months away from basketball (at least sanctioned, organized basketball, perhaps being able to play again as a team in pursuit of a championship will be enough to get them all on the same page, playing hard for the same goal.

Or, because these are the Philadelphia 76ers, maybe it won’t.

Next: Sixers: 3 players who must step up in the playoffs





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