By Art Beitchman

As Joel Embiid’s successful All-Star game appearance fades with time, the final 27 games on the Sixers’ schedule has the team playing meaningful games for the first time in many years.

Embiid posted 19 points and 8 rebounds in a 20-minute run being a main guy as crunch time came. Embiid has arrived on the main stage of the NBA hierarchy and intends to stay there.

Currently at 30-25 with a five game winning streak before the break, the Sixers play the Bulls in Chicago tonight to open the unofficial start of the second half of the season.

They haven’t qualified for the playoffs since 2011-12 season. The last time they had a winning season was 2004-05 when they were 43-39!

With 55 games in the books, the chemistry appears to be better with the starters: Benny Simmons smoother setting up Dario Saric, JJ Redick, Embiid and Robert Covington.

With the addition of free agent signing Marco Belinelli, the team has turned a corner as a destination for top free agents.

Belinelli turned down five other teams, including NBA champion Warriors to play with the upstart Sixers, a great sign down the road for a team on the verge of becoming a championship contender.

Belinelli chipped in 17 points off the bench in the Sixers last win versus the Heat. The swingman looks to be a main man off the bench as the second unit picks up strength in holding leads down the stretch they gave up earlier in the season.

The remaining schedule is favorable for playoff seeding, and Embiid’s thinking is bold calling for a home court playoff spot, 4th seed or better.

They need to stay healthy, play consistent defense in the final 27, getting to 20-7 would give them a 50 win season and plenty of steam going into the NBA playoffs!





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