The Philadelphia 76ers (38-19) played the Cleveland Cavaliers (38-23) in their final game before the All-Star break. The Sixers built up a big lead, let the Cavs get back in it and held on to win by a score of 118-112.
Let’s break down the Sixers’ stressful win over the Cavs.
Sixers player notes:
Joel Embiid: 29 points, 14 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals, 9-21 FG shooting
Embiid became the fastest player in Sixers history to reach 10,000 points, reaching the mark early in the first quarter. His scoring didn’t pop as much as it usually does until late in the game when Philly needed his heroics — and he delivered despite a not-so-hot shooting night from the field. Additionally, he patrolled the paint and the boards very well.
James Harden: 19 points, 4 rebounds, 12 assists, 5-11 FG shooting
Harden led an outstandingly hot start by scoring aggressively and finding open teammates in all sorts of situations. He notched nine assists in the first half with just one turnover. He fell off hard in the second half, though, as he failed to score a field goal.
Tyrese Maxey: 16 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 6-12 FG shooting
Maxey’s night didn’t start out great but he was a part of one of the bench unit’s better outings. Ultimately, he got going as the game went on. He came through with a huge step-back triple at the end of a third quarter that didn’t go Philly’s way and a floater late in the fourth quarter.
Paul Reed: 5 points, 4 rebounds, 0 assists, 2 blocks, 2-2 FG shooting
His final stat line is unremarkable but Reed looked great in this one. He provided the kind of defense and presence on the glass that the Sixers simply lack with Montrezl Harrell. On offense, he looked composed and looked to score when he had openings but otherwise stuck with screening and rolling.
Cavs player notes:
Darius Garland: 27 points, 2 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals, 10-14 FG shooting
If not for Garland, this one could have been over practically from the get-go. He was in a fantastic groove early on as he darted free from defenders to get (and convert) open looks. He was also scorching hot from beyond the arc and impressively got a steal without looking by deflecting a pass as he went to contest a corner jumper.
Donovan Mitchell: 33 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals, 11-24 FG shooting
Mitchell had a tough time getting a shot to fall until the second half. Sensing the need to get his team going, he ruthlessly attacked the paint and got hot in a hurry. The Sixers had no answer for him down the stretch. He also did some of the little things like rebounding and making smart passes.
- The Sixers had Melton guard Darius Garand, Harris guard Mitchell and P.J. Tucker guard Mobley. Garland’s quickness gave Melton some early trouble, just as it did in the Sixers and Cavs’ previous matchup, but Cleveland overall got off to a stinky start.
- Harden was cooking early on with eight points and four assists in the opening six minutes. Among other plays, he made some snappy passes to Harris for triples while converting on two of his own attempts from deep to give Philly an 11-point lead. The Sixers kept hitting their shots to go up by 21 in an instant thanks in part to some Harden outlet passes off of Cleveland turnovers. Garland made each of his first four shots while the rest of his team went 6-16 from the field. The Sixers led by 14 after the opening frame.
- Even with new addition Dewayne Dedmon active, Paul Reed continued to be the first backup big man to play. A Maxey-to-McDaniels lob got the second quarter started and Reed later showed his value by blocking a Garland shot and securing the board. Neither team was hitting their shots to start the second quarter, though.
- Even with some sloppy passing that led directly to Sixers scores, the Cavs generated a lot of good looks on kick-outs to shooters. They just couldn’t hit them. Philly got by mostly on free throws to round out the first half, doing enough to nearly go up by 30 at the break.
- The Sixers led at halftime by a score of 63-38. The Cavs had five assists and seven turnovers heading into the break.
- Embiid backed Allen down, as he routinely does in their matchups, to kick off the second-half scoring for the Sixers. He also finished a layup through traffic off of a Harden pass. Garland continued to do his best to drag the Cavs back into it but everyone on Philly had it going. Each member of the starting lineup notched double-digit points by the third quarter and the last two to get it (Melton and Tucker) each made their shots on feeds from Embiid.
- The Sixers offense went cold and got a little sloppy, allowing the Cavs to make things interesting. Mitchell started looking more comfortable and helped get Cleveland’s deficit down to as low as 12, but it was 17 at the start of the fourth quarter.
- McDaniels was trusted to guard Mitchell — which is a positive sign that he has the coaching staff’s trust — but he routinely committed fouls as he tried to keep up. More Sixers turnovers negated progress made when Maxey and Shake Milton each hit a shot to start the fourth quarter.
- The Cavs kept scoring and drawing fouls with Mitchell feeling it. They got the deficit, which was as big as 28 points just before halftime, to just 10 points with over seven minutes left. Perhaps blowing the doors off of a Cavs team this good just wasn’t going to happen but still, the Sixers’ habit of letting huge leads slip is problematic, to say the least.
- Embiid went through Allen time after time to score but the Cavs eventually got it into single digits. Cleveland blitzed Embiid often, which gunked up the Philly offense, while Mitchell and Garland just went to town. They cut the deficit to four but that was as good as they could manage.
- Danny Green made his Cavs debut and received a friendly ovation from the Philly crowd. Doc Rivers compared Green’s lengthy rehab to that of Tiger Woods, as both athletes overcame injuries late in their careers to continue playing despite little belief that they would. It makes sense in that regard but it’s still funny to hear a comparison between one of the most iconic and most dominant athletes in their respective sports and a role player.
- The Cavs got called for defensive three-second violations twice in the second quarter. In response, Jarrett Allen pumped his fist and shouted to an elated bench. This is apparently a regular thing and it’s great.
The Sixers now have just over a week to rest before hosting the Memphis Grizzlies next Thursday. In the meantime, Mac McClung will participate in the dunk contest and the G League Next Up Game while Embiid (maybe) plays in the All-Star Game.