This is a big one. With a win here, the Cleveland Cavaliers still have a shot at getting up the East’s No. 3 seed. The 76ers would still have the advantage, but the Cavs would only two games back and have a tiebreaker advantage.
For what it’s worth, Basketball Reference has the Cavs getting the third seed in 26.4% of its scenarios.
Who: Cleveland Cavaliers (44-27) vs. Philadelphia 76ers (45-22)
Where: Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse — Cleveland, Ohio
When: 7:30 p.m. EST
Spread: 76ers -2.5 (via Draft Kings)
Opposing Blog: Liberty Ballers
Cavs expected starting lineup: Darius Garland, Donovan Mitchell, Isaac Okoro, Lamar Stevens, Evan Mobley
Cavs injury report: Jarrett Allen (OUT - right eye), Isaiah Mobley (OUT - G League assignment/two-way)
76ers expected starting lineup: James Harden, Tyrese Maxey, Tobias Harris, PJ Tucker, Joel Embiid
76ers injury report: Jalen McDaniels (OUT - hip contusion), Jaden Springer (OUT - G League assignment), Mac McClung (on assignment, G League), Louis King (on assignment, G League)
What to watch for
Joel Embiid at the free throw lineIn the two games between these teams, Embiid scored 19 points in a Cleveland win and 29 points in a Cleveland loss. The main way he’s scored is via the free throw line — he went a combined 18-21 from the line in the two games.
The free throw totals are important for a game where the Cavs against won’t have Jarrett Allen. That means Evan Mobley likely draws the Embiid assignment and there will be lots of double teams. Expect Embiid to look to draw lot of fouls when doubles come or by going before the double comes to meet him.
Cleveland needs aggressive Evan Mobley. Speaking of Mobley, Cleveland need an aggressive Mobley against Embiid. As he’s had his offensive ascent, a key has been Mobley’s aggressive and looking for his own shots. It comes in a variety of ways — pushing off of live rebounds, post ups, in the pick-and-roll, etc. — but it’s all about him looking to do more.
Embiid is a big test for this version of Mobley. There is arguably no player in the league that deters players from attacking the paint more than Embiid. When Embiid is on the floor, teams are shooting 67.5% at the rim vs. the 76ers — a bit worse than league average, but an very good number.
Mobley has to go at Embiid. He is likely to fail and have his shot blocked or contested a few times. But the Cavs need to be willing to try because he’s also succeed.
Cedi Osman or Dean Wade minutes? Both Osman and Wade say minutes Tuesday against the Hornets with Allen and Donovan Mitchell both out. Allen is still out, so there is maybe need for minutes. Maybe J.B. Bickerstaff goes with Robin Lopez for Joel Embiid-related reasons, but the Cavs may need to look to space things out more vs. Embiid to create more room to work in the paint. That could mean an opportunity for Wade to find his footing or for more Osman minutes after he had 24 points on Tuesday.
Ricky Rubio, by the way, is available. This will be the first (and only) back-to-back he plays this season.