At 26-12 the Sixers are still holding onto the top spot in the Eastern Conference, but for how long?

The Brooklyn Nets are hot on the heels of the 76ers sitting a half a game out and 9-1 in their last 10 games. With the Sixers losing their MVP candidate Joel Embiid for the foreseeable future, the Nets are licking their chops as the number 1 seed looks a lot more obtainable now.

The Sixers’ next ten games, presumably without Embiid, start out relatively easy but end with a rough stretch against some top teams in the Western Conference.

March 14, vs the Spurs
March 16, vs the Knicks
March 17, vs the Bucks
March 20, vs the Kings
March 21, at the Knicks
March 23, at the Warriors
March 25, at the Lakers
March 27, at the Clippers
March 30, at the Nuggets
April 1, at the Cavaliers

The Nets are currently without Kevin Durant due to a left hamstring strain, but head coach Steve Nash doesn’t believe it to be serious. Over the Nets’ next ten games, Durant should return and Blake Griffin will all but likely be debuted and worked into the offense. The next ten games for the Nets will feature their “big four” and have some ideal opponents to debut them against.

March 15, vs the Knicks
March 17, at the Pacers
March 19, at the Magic
March 21, vs the Wizards
March 23, at the Trail Blazers
March 24, at the Jazz
March 26, vs the Pistons
March 29, vs the Timberwolves
March 31, vs the Rockets
April 1, vs the Hornets

The Sixers and the Nets are scheduled to meet up on April 14 in Philadelphia. While it could certainly still be a battle for first place, in all likelihood the roles will be reversed and it will be the Sixers looking up at the Nets.

For the Sixers to remain in the mix for the number 1 position in the Eastern Conference, they need to play their best basketball without their best player. This means Ben Simmons will need to continue being aggressive getting to the basket, Tony Bradley and Dwight Howard will have to consistently play the way they played against the Bulls and lastly, the team can’t afford to be as hot and cold from deep as they have been this season.

Over this upcoming stretch, Doc Rivers will need to be at his best as well. This is why the Sixers hired Doc Rivers because he is a veteran coach and should be able to navigate through the uncertainty of an NBA season. With Joel Embiid out, it should be the Doc Rivers show and allow him the opportunity to incorporate different players into his offense.

While the Nets are the biggest threat, they aren’t the only threat. The Bucks are only two games out of first place and are as dangerous as ever. The Heat were in the NBA Finals last year, and after a slow start to the season are currently playing their best basketball as they’re also 9-1 in their last 10 games. The Celtics have always been a thorn in the Sixers’ side and should not be underestimated.

Sixers fans have been on a high for the first portion of this NBA season, but they came crashing down with Joel Embiid after dunking on Garrison Mathews of the Wizards. This stretch of games will make or break the 2021 Philadelphia 76ers.

Photo via Getty Images (CBS Sports)

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