There’s a ton on the line for the three seed in the Eastern Conference. The Boston Celtics, locked in the two spot, have lost their best two players for the season. The Toronto Raptors and a much harder road to the East Finals looms in the four spot. The Cavaliers already own the tiebreaker over the 76ers, but a win on the second half of a back to back would all but secure their spot. Let’s see if they can do it.
Who: Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Philadelphia 76ers
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Enemy Blog: Liberty Ballers
TV: NBA TV, Fox Sports Ohio
Online: Fox Sports Go
Cavaliers injuries: George Hill (TBD - ankle sprain), Jose Calderon (TBD - hamstring)
76ers injuries: Joel Embiid (OUT - orbital fracture)
Three keys to the game
- The Cavaliers get a break in this matchup with Joel Embiid out of the lineup. The team doesn’t really have anybody they can throw at the 76ers behemoth, and he presents matchups for about 99 percent of NBA teams. The Cavaliers should have a much easier time scoring at the rim without Embiid in tow.
- Ben Simmons has had bursts against the Cavaliers, but in LeBron James and Jeff Green, the team has two players with size and athleticism to throw at the super-rookie. Simmons has led them admirably as Philly’s stormed to a 12-game win streak, but as far as workable matchups go, this should be one for the Cavs.
- Who the hell starts at point guard? The Cavaliers played Washington without Jose Calderon or George Hill, and despite solid play in stretches from Cedi Osman, they really missed having a point guard on the floor. Everything came down to LeBron James, and the offense really stagnated when James sat (though playing Larry Nance and Tristan Thompson together might have caused that one.)
Rodney Hood has been aggressive as of late and playing much better than at any point of his Cavaliers tenure. He’s been handling the ball in the pick and roll and pulling from three without hesitation. He’ll have a tough cover on the other end in J.J. Redick. He’ll have to make Redick pay on offense while sticking to him on defense in this game.
Fear the Sword’s Fearless Prediction
The Cavaliers really could use the win, and the 76ers have been feasting on easy competition. There’s plenty of reasons the Cavs should lose, but my gut is calling for a win. Cavs 113, 76ers 109.