Preview: 76ers hit the road to take on the Cavaliers
After blowing a 19-point lead to the Denver Nuggets on national television a couple days ago, the Philadelphia 76ers are back in action tonight in Cleveland.
The Cavaliers have a 39-29 record as the season winds down, slotting them in to the sixth seed in the East. The Cavs have lost six of their last ten, which has pushed them down in the standings with only a handful of games left on the schedule. Cleveland is currently a game behind the Celtics and two games behind the Bulls for the fifth and fourth seeds.
The 76ers hold a 41-26 record currently, which puts them as the third seed in the Eastern Conference. Philly is now 3.5 games back from Miami for the top spot, with the Bucks just a game ahead of them for the second seed. Interestingly enough, if the playoffs were to begin today the 76ers would face the Cavs in the first round. For now though, these two teams still have a pair of games against each other to shake the standings up.
- Jarrett Allen (Out)
- Colin Sexton (Out)
- Rajon Rondo (Out)
- Dean Wade (Out)
- Joel Embiid (Questionable)
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Attack the Paint Relentlessly
Now this could be a classic 76ers strategy to rest Embiid with the “back soreness” injury listed on the report, but that doesn’t take away from the fact the Sixers have to attack the paint.
Jarrett Allen was an All-Star for a couple reasons, the main one being his presence inside the paint for the Cavaliers. Allen is averaging 10.8 rebounds and 1.3 blocks a game, two stats no other player on Cleveland’s roster comes close to. So far the Cavs have shifted their lineup to push rookie Evan Mobley to the center spot while Lauri Markkanen starts at power forward.
If Embiid plays, he’s got two young guys in the league to take to the cleaners in and around the paint. In case you were curious, Embiid has just under 70 pounds on Mobley, who would have to guard Joel in the low post a majority of the time. Embiid will be at the line a lot if he’s able to suit up tonight, and the Cavs will be in foul trouble early with Mobley and Markkanen having to share Embiid duty.
Outside of Embiid, the absence of Allen protecting the rim means the 76ers should score a ton of points in the paint. Maxey should look to slash constantly with his speed off the dribble, Harden doesn’t need to worry about Allen when going to the basket, not to mention the lobs with DeAndre Jordan as well.
As the season winds down each game becomes a little more grueling than the last, so the 76ers need to take advantage of the opportunities in front of them, and Jarrett Allen being sidelined is a huge one.
Second Unit Woes
In case you missed last Monday’s ugly loss to the Nuggets, the 76ers once again blew a sizable lead. This time, it really came down to the entire bench rotation deciding to not score, at all. The second unit guys shot an embarrassing 4-24 from the field in that loss, an issue that can’t continue against the deep bench of the Cavaliers.
Now the team was on the second night of a back-to-back that included an overtime game the night before. Specifically Georges Niang gets a pass for his performance, considering he played 36 minutes in that game and hit four clutch triples to save the 76ers from a very sad loss to the Magic.
Tonight, that excuse isn’t available, so guys like Shake and Niang have to bring production off the bench. The Cavs may be hurt, but this is still a team with a ton of young guys who can run out the gym. Cleveland is looking to climb the East standings again, and won’t take a matchup with the 76ers lightly.
|Philadelphia 76ers||-3.5 (-110)||-160||O 219.5 (-110)|
|Cleveland Cavaliers||+3.5 (-110)||+135||U 219.5 (-110)|
This seems like the type of game people assume Embiid will rest, only for him to suit up and drop 30. No Jarret Allen means a cake walk for the big fella down low, so I’ll take the 76ers for a much needed bounce back win against the Cavs missing an All-Star.
Pick: Philadelphia 76ers -3.5 (-110)
Mandatory Credit: Tim Nwachukwu.