Two of the hottest teams in the NBA’s Eastern Conference are set to square off tonight as the 76ers host the Cavaliers. The 76ers have won three straight and seven of their last ten. On the other side, the Cavaliers are chasing their eighth straight win.
Who: Cleveland Cavaliers (12-7) at Philadelphia 76ers (11-7)
When: 7 p.m. ET
Where: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, PA
Enemy Blog: Liberty Ballers
TV: Fox Sports Ohio, NBA League Pass
Online: Fox Sports GO, NBA League Pass
Cavs injuries: Isaiah Thomas (OUT - hip), Derrick Rose (OUT - ankle), Tristan Thompson (OUT - calf), Iman Shumpert (QUESTIONABLE - knee)
76ers injuries: Nik Stauskas (OUT - ankle), Markelle Fultz (OUT - shoulder), Justin Anderson (OUT - shin splints), Ben Simmons (TBD - elbow), Joel Embiid (PROBABLE - illness)
Three keys to the game:
- Ben Simmons was reportedly an active participant at in shootaround while dealing with an elbow injury, and it looks like 76ers fans should expect him to play. LeBron James and Jae Crowder will have their hands full with this matchup. Simmons can’t shoot, like, at all (he hasn’t attempted a non-heave three all season), but like Giannis Antetokounmpo, he knows how to attack angles and find his way to the rim, using the space his defenders give him as a runway. Philly is littered with shooters, and he’ll find them if the Cavs don’t rotate correctly.
- The 76ers are absolutely enormous. With Simmons starting at point guard, they’ve got four players in their starting lineup that are at least 6’9”, and J.J. Redick can more than hold his own against somebody like Jose Calderon on the defensive end. This team is long and switchable, and Joel Embiid is a terror in the paint on defense. The Cavs will have to work for their shots in this one.
- How will the Cavaliers try to slow down Joel Embiid? The 76ers center is enormous, is quick on his feet and has elite touch around the rim and as a shooter. Kevin Love could be completely overmatched defensively in this one, and this is the kind of game where the Cavaliers really miss Tristan Thompson.
I already said it, but Kevin Love at least has to make Joel Embiid work for his buckets, and if they stash him there, he has to hit his open threes. Embiid’s going to get his in the post as Love just isn’t equipped to deal with his size, but Love has to limit him on the boards and make him pay for sagging into the paint on defense. He also can’t afford to get into foul trouble given the shallow depth at backup center the Cavs are currently dealing with.
Fear the Sword’s Fearless Prediction
With the Cavs as banged up as they are, there’s too many hiding spots for Philly’s liabilities and too many areas to expose the Cavaliers on the other end. Philly earns the win at home 106-98.