Preview: 76ers finish homestand back-to-back hosting Cavaliers.
The 76ers are heading right back to Wells Fargo Center after taking down the Thunder last night to host a much tougher opponent in the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Cleveland comes into tonight’s matchup winners of their last ten contests, including an active four-game win streak. The Cavaliers currently sit at the second spot in the Eastern Conference standings with a record of 35-21.
The 76ers hold a very similar record of 33-22 after last night’s dismantling of the Thunder, good for the fifth seed in the East. If you couldn’t already tell, the Cavs and Sixers hold a mere one-and-a-half game difference between each other yet are three spots apart in the standings. If that doesn’t tell you how close the East seeding picture is, I don’t know what will. A win tonight for Philly would bring them within a half-game of the Cavaliers with the All-Star break right around the corner.
James Harden Debut Update
Once again the biggest thing on the minds of 76ers fans is the first game of James Harden’s career as a Sixer. As of now, there is no official date set, as Harden is expected to go through an evaluation as he arrives in Philly this weekend.
The 76ers want to make sure Harden is fully healthy after dealing with a nagging tight hamstring over the past couple of weeks. Reports from today suggest that the Sixers hope Harden will be able to make his season debut next Tuesday at home against the Celtics, a fitting beginning for the beard against a bitter rival. Until the evaluation occurs though, all this talk means nothing.
- Darius Garland (Questionable)
- Lauri Markkanen (Out)
- Colin Sexton (Out)
- James Harden (Out)
- Paul Millsap (Out)
Sixers Need Big Games from Harris and Maxey
This may be a pretty obvious point with James Harden not playing, but if the 76ers want to have any shot at winning this game Harris AND Maxey have to come up big. The Cavaliers are a far better team than the Sixers hosted last night, and have a multitude of guys that can score anywhere around the hoop. There’s a reason Cleveland is the second seed in the East right now.
Tobias and Maxey have certainly stepped up over the last month on the offensive end, somewhat relieving Embiid of his duties as the only 20+ point scorer night in and night out. What these two need to do tonight is come out and score early. Harris still is prone to slow starts that lead to inefficient shooting in the game and Maxey has a tendency to limit his shots when on the court with Embiid. If the 76ers want to compete tonight with a roster missing one of its biggest pieces, Harris and Maxey need to play up to their star potential.
Both Teams on Back-to-Backs
Throughout the NBA season, there were come a few times where the Sixers are on a back-to-back or are facing a team on a back-to-back. Rarely do you ever see two teams match up with both being on the second leg of a back-to-back. Tonight is one of those rare examples.
The 76ers are in a much more comfortable situation though, as their back-to-back is a mini homestand of sorts. Philly hosted OKC last night, and simply went home for rest only to come back to Wells Fargo Center for another opponent. The Cavaliers on the other hand are in the midst of a road back-to-back, playing last night in Indiana before hopping straight on a plane to Philadelphia.
With fatigue playing a huge factor for both sides in this contest, the winner might just be the much more rested team.
The Cavaliers Depth
One of the things that makes this Cleveland team so scary is how many guys they can get quality minutes from. The Cavs have seven players averaging 10+ points in their rotation, with four starters averaging 15+ points a game. With that many guys having an impact within both rotations, the Cavs don’t suffer from a second unit that can cost them leads.
The only way for the 76ers to compete with that kind of production is to simply match it. Certainly a tall ask for a team with a much thinner depth than their counterpart, but against a top-class Eastern Conference opponent, you have to have guys step up on every level. Korkmaz can’t come out shooting poorly, and Shake needs to have a classic Shake Milton takeover game. He’s due with all the time he spent out with the back injury.
Tonight’s odds brought to you by Parx Sportsbook, the official gambling partner of The Liberty Line.
|Cleveland Cavaliers||+120||+3 (-109)||O 207.5 (-112)|
|Philadelphia 76ers||-152||-3 (-112)||U 207.5 (-109)|
As much as I appreciate Parx giving Joel Embiid so much respect, I am once again surprised to see the 76ers favored. The Sixers are far from at full strength without Harden but are the healthiest they’ve been all season.
Despite that this Cavaliers team has so many young guys that aren’t going to be tired on a back-to-back. Add in the fact that All-Star Darius Garland sat out the Indiana game to play in this contest and things look tougher.
I once again will happily give my money to Parx to be wrong about this one, but I am going to take the Cavs spread. Giving the second seed in the East three points against a team without their #2 option is interesting, to say the least. If Philly does end up winning, I’d expect it to be closer than a three-ball.
Mandatory Credit: Jason Miller