The Philadelphia 76ers are a team that needed the All-Star break. Needed it bad. Eight losses in a row. Back to back losses by a combined 88 points followed by a five point loss to the Utah Jazz immediately preceding the break. One win in their last 12 games. They are bad. You know this. It's by design. After starting the season off respectably, the Sixers have in some ways collapsed. Can they get back on track at home against a Cavaliers team that should have some momentum?
Who: Cleveland Cavaliers at Philadelphia 76ers
When: 7:00 ET
Where: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
How do I watch? Fox Sports Ohio, NBA League Pass
The Cavaliers have won four straight games. It's been pretty awesome. I went to the game last Wednesday in Detroit and saw the team beat the Pistons. The first half looked like it might be a regression to the team we have seen all too often this season. Stretches of inconsistent effort, no ball movement or trust in teammates ... all the symptoms were there. They trailed by 11 at halftime.
But the second half was a different story. The Cavs picked up their defensive intensity right away in the 3rd quarter, and the offense finally came around in the 4th. Kyrie passed out four assists, Tristan Thompson was active rebounding and scoring, and when it came time Irving put the game on ice with a big time three pointer and free throws. It was exactly the half you didn't expect from a team with 19 wins, sans Anderson Varejao.
But it happened, and the Cavaliers keep winning and keep smiling. Dion Waiters and Irving dominated All-Star weekend. They were pumping each other up on Twitter. The Cavaliers are fun right now. I wasn't sure we would get to feel that way again after the rough homestand and trip to Texas. But basketball seasons are long. The Cavs have 29 games. They remain 13 games under .500. They are three games out of a playoff spot. That isn't insurmountable, but it doesn't help they are chasing multiple teams.
They can do it. The health of Varejao, who will again be out tonight, remains important. Even as Tyler Zeller has improved, he has struggled to stay out of foul trouble. Anthony Bennett is good sometimes, not good at others. Henry Sims has appeared a little overwhelmed at times. Point being: there isn't a lot of depth in the frontcourt.
Will the Cavs make the playoffs? I don't know. As Diana Ross says in this preview's song, it's important to "live believing, dreams are for weaving, wonders are waiting to start."
The 76ers have dreams of Joel Embiid. Or Jabari Parker. Or Andrew Wiggins. There is a good chance they get one of them. A loss to Cleveland helps them get there. So far Philadelphia has Michael Carter-Williams and Tony Wroten looking like long term parts of their rebuild. Nerlens Noel will have every chance to show he is healthy and an NBA starter. They are likely to add two lottery picks to the mix this summer. The 76ers are in a bad situation now, having chosen to bottom out. I hope for their sake they are able to get out of the cellar relatively quickly; we know from the Cavs rebuild that flipping the switch to winning isn't all that easy.
If the Sixers hang around with the Cavaliers tonight, it will because Evan Turner plays above his head, or Spencer Hawes gets hot from distance, or Thad Young has a strong performance. I have to believe either of those guys would be open to being moved. Maybe they have motivation to show prospective teams they are worth acquiring. I don't know.
The 76ers play a really fast pace. They aren't particularly good at it. Look for lots of points and probably a lot of turnovers.
Fear the Sword's fearless prediction: The Cavs avoid a post-break hangover, get fifth straight win 111-103.
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