Fresh off a win against the San Antonio Spurs, the Cleveland Cavaliers will turn around and face nearly the opposite kind of team in the Philadelphia 76ers. Unlike San Antonio, the Sixers are having an excellent season having won seven of their last ten. Led by Joel Embiid and James Harden, both of whom are having MVP-caliber seasons, the Cavs will have their hands full in a primetime matchup in the City of Brotherly Love.
Who: Cleveland Cavaliers (38-22) at. Philadelphia 76ers (37-19)
Where: Wells Fargo Center
When: 7:30 p.m. EST
TV: ESPN, Bally Sports Ohio, NBCS - PH,
Spread: Sixers -1.5
Opposing Blog: Liberty Ballers
Cavs’ expected starting lineup: Darius Garland, Donovan Mitchell, Isaac Okoro, Evan Mobley, Jarrett Allen
Cavs’ injury report: Ricky Rubio (QUESTIONABLE - illness), Mamadi Diakite (OUT - G League assignment), Isaiah Mobley (OUT - G League assignment), Dylan Windler (OUT - G League assignment)
Sixers’ expected starting lineup: James Harden, De’Anthony Melton, Tobias Harris, P.J. Tucker, Joel Embiid
Sixers’ injury report: Joel Embiid (QUESTIONABLE - foot), P.J. Tucker (PROBABLE - foot), Furkan Korkmaz (OUT - personal), Mac McClung (G League assignment), Louis King (OUT - G League assignment)
What to Watch For:
Facing the three-seed Sixers, on the road, and on national television, will bring a different feeling to this matchup. The Cavs are playing well of late, anchored by excellent play from their big men and the superstar backcourt. But that will get a real test against the Sixers, who are a legitimate championship-caliber team with battle-tested veterans and head coach. This is a team built to make a deep playoff run, and those are their expectations.
Joel Embiid is averaging 33.2 points, 10.1 rebounds, and 4 assists per game. James Harden is averaging 21.5 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 10.8 assists per game, in a renaissance season. That is a difficult two-headed monster to try and stop, the Cavs will be put to the test.
The Sixers are sixth in the league in defense and eighth in offense. Slowing down Embiid will be a tall order for Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley. Isaac Okoro will likely be thrown on Harden. Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell will be relied on to keep the offense going, as usual, but the Sixers will have bodies to throw at them to try and slow things down. The NBA playoffs are a game of matchups, a chess game between coaches trying to put players in the right positions. There will be an aura of that tonight.
Hold the Line
By that, hold the three-point line. The Sixers are fourth in the league in three-point percentage and 10th in three-point attempts per Cleaning the Glass. What has been discussed all year long is the Cavaliers’ inability to stop opposing teams from taking and making three-pointers. Per Cleaning the Glass, the Cavs allow opposing teams to shoot 37.3% from deep and a staggering 41.3% from the corner. The Sixers have Mr. Corner Three himself in P.J. Tucker (who himself is shooting 40% from the corner per Cleaning the Glass), and a plethora of other shooters who can snipe the Cavs from deep.
They have not been tested too hard in that regard lately, based on recent matchups. San Antonio is 25th in the league in three-point percentage. The Bulls are dead last in three-point attempts per game. The Pelicans are 24th in three-point attempts. There will be a stark contrast in that regard in facing the Sixers. If they are to win, the Cavs will need to guard the three-point line harder than usual.
Cedi Osman and Danny Green
The numbers suggest that the Cavs benefit from Cedi Osman being on the floor. The Cavs shoot more efficiently with him out there, with an efficiency differential of +5.4 and +4.8 points per 100 possessions per Cleaning the Glass. Osman’s ability to stretch the floor makes a big difference and fits in any bench lineup, and that may prove necessary to keep up with the Sixers.
But now Danny Green is a Cav, having officially signed his deal on Wednesday. Does that bump Osman from the rotation?