2022-23 76ers schedule: Top five games, including season opener against Celtics, rematch against Heat

After a disappointing end to their 2021-22 season, the Philadelphia 76ers retooled in the offseason and will now re-enter the new year with championship aspirations. However, before the team can try to advance to their first NBA Finals appearance since 2001, they will first have to get through the 82-game regular season.

The full ’22-23 schedule was released earlier this week, so now we know exactly where and when the Sixers will play all of those games. While all games are important and interesting in their own way, some are inherently more exciting than others. Here’s a look at five of Philadelphia’s most intriguing games of the upcoming campaign.

The Sixers’ upcoming campaign starts with a bang out of the gate as their first game comes against the defending Eastern Conference Celtics in Boston. The game will serve as an (extremely) early solid measuring stick for Philly to see how they stack up against last season’s best team in the East. After all, if the Sixers are going to make their first Finals appearance in over 20 years next season, they’ll have to get past Boston (and Milwaukee, Miami, etc.) to do it.

For what it’s worth, the two teams split their four regular season matchups last season, though both teams made some solid additions in the offseason. The Celtics added Malcolm Brogdon and Danilo Gallinari to their rotation, while the Sixers signed PJ Tucker and Danuel House and traded for De’Anthony Melton. Also, James Harden didn’t play in Philly in any of the four meetings against the Celtics last season, so he’ll provide a different wrinkle that Boston hasn’t seen alongside Joel Embiid. These two teams have a rich rivalry, so it’s nice that we won’t have to wait too long to see them play in the new season.

The Sixers won’t have to wait too long for another good test against an Eastern Conference foe as their second game of the season comes against the Milwaukee Bucks. Had the Bucks been fully healthy in the playoffs last season, there’s a real possibility they would have advanced to the NBA Finals for the second consecutive season, and they project to be a legitimate contender again this season. They have arguably the best player in the game in Giannis Antetokounmpo and a great supporting cast around him. Watching Antetokounmpo and Embiid is always attractive.

Both teams have also given us some entertaining and memorable matches recently. Last season, two of their three matchups were decided by a single basket. Also, who could forget the moment Antetokounmpo took a courtside seat after sinking the Sixers in overtime two years ago?

Hopefully, this first competition between the two teams will be another good one.

Anyone who’s paid attention to the team over the past year knows exactly why this game is on the list: It could be the first time Ben Simmons has faced the Sixers in Philadelphia since he refused to play again with the team until he was finally traded to the Nets in February. His behavior before the trade catapulted him to the status of one of Philadelphia’s most hated athletes in recent memory, and so the vitriol from fans will be palpable when (and if) Simmons takes the floor.

The Nets played in Philadelphia after the trade last season, but Simmons didn’t adjust. Still, that didn’t stop the Philly faithful from letting their feelings for the former prized pick be known, as they booed and heckled him at every possible opportunity. Assuming Simmons plays this time, the energy level at the Wells Fargo Center will be off the charts. Not to mention the fact that the two teams could be competing against each other for playoff positions in the Eastern Conference.

This game features a matchup between the two best (and most dominant) centers in the game today, Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic. As we know, Embiid finished as runner-up to Jokic in the MVP voting in each of the last two seasons, and as such, a bit of a rivalry has developed between the two. Since the players compete in two different conferences, they don’t face each other too often, which makes the times they do have even more special.

To this point, the two star centers have played just six times total, with Embiid and the Sixers winning four of those contests. In games played against Jokic, Embiid has averaged 22.2 points, 10.8 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 2.2 blocks per game, while Jokic has averaged 21.5 points, nine rebounds, 7.2 assists and a block per performance against Embiid. They’ve never met in the playoffs, and unless the Sixers and Nuggets make the Finals, that’s not going to happen this season. So this regular season game is the best we’re going to get.

This is a game that some Sixers players will likely have circled on their calendars, as it’s the team’s first chance to get some revenge on Miami after the Heat eliminated them in six games in the Eastern Conference semifinals last last season If Joel Embiid had been healthy throughout the series, maybe things would have turned out differently, but hey, we can’t rewrite history, and as it stands, it was the Heat who ended the championship aspirations of Philadelphia last season. The Heat are projected to be a legitimate player in the Eastern Conference again, so it will be interesting to see how the teams stack up in the new season after the offseason adjustments both sides made.

Speaking of offseason adjustments, this game also has an interesting wrinkle as it will be PJ Tucker’s first game against his former franchise after the Sixers traded him away from Miami in free agency. The Heat weren’t too happy about losing Tucker, as he was a huge part of what they did on both ends of the court, but in this situation one team’s loss is another’s gain. Given that background, both teams could come away with extra motivation for this one.

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