76ers

Joel Embiid's game-winning slam helps Sixers beat Cavaliers and overcome a woeful shooting night

Joel Embiid's game-winning slam helps Sixers beat Cavaliers and overcome a woeful shooting night

BOX SCORE 

The Sixers overcame a woeful shooting night Tuesday to beat the Cleveland Cavaliers in thrilling fashion, 98-97.

Joel Embiid's dunk with 13.2 seconds to go off Tobias Harris' feed gave them the lead, and Kevin Love missed an open three on Cleveland's final possession. Embiid had 27 points and 16 rebounds on the night.

The Sixers shot 8 for 38 from three-point range, including an 0 for 11 performance from Harris. 

Ben Simmons returned from a right shoulder sprain Tuesday and had 15 points on 7 for 9 shooting, six assists and five rebounds. Josh Richardson had 17 points and five assists. 

Shake Milton was also available for the Sixers after missing the last six games with a left knee injury, but he did not play Tuesday. Trey Burke was sidelined by left calf tightness. 

The 7-3 Sixers play the Orlando Magic and Markelle Fultz on Wednesday night (7 p.m./NBCSP).

Here are observations from the win: 

Simmons’ return 

Simmons’ first field goal attempt of the night was, in uncharacteristic fashion, a turnaround jumper.

His return wasn’t short on highlight dunks. 

While Raul Neto and Burke like to push the ball, Simmons is uniquely dangerous in transition, especially with his ability to grab a rebound and start a solo fast break. 

In the half court, the Sixers deployed Simmons a good amount off the ball, which we might see more of if his approach to taking jump shots does not change and opponents continue to play well off him. He didn’t do much offensively for the Sixers in the second half. 

“There was definitely some pushback” 

Al Horford had a planned rest day for the Sixers, which he said was a first for him in his NBA career. He admitted he wasn’t thrilled about it.

“There was definitely some pushback, but at the end of the day, I trust the people, our medical staff,” he said. “They’re really looking out for me and for all of us. … I’ll be cheerleading tonight, and then get ready for tomorrow.”

Brett Brown said the Sixers discussed a plan with Horford two months ago to optimize his health this season.

“He’s not 24,” Brown said of the 13-year veteran. 

Along with his age, the fact that Horford was bothered by a knee injury throughout last season is another reason why managing his load seems sensible. It’s just the normal way teams across the NBA operate these days. 

“Five, 10 years ago, I don’t think we’d be talking about these things,” Horford said. 

Furkan Korkmaz took Horford’s place in the starting lineup and scored 10 points on 4 for 9 shooting, including a stretch in the third quarter in which he scored eight straight Sixers points.

Harris’ shooting woes  

Before the game, Brown was adamant about his desire for Harris to be more aggressive.

“I want him to score,” he said, noting Harris is a “selfless, team-oriented guy,” but that the Sixers need him to attack offensively.

Harris had some open shots early, and he didn’t pass them up … they just didn’t go in. He shot 0 for 5 from the field in his first stint, with all of his misses from behind the three-point line. For his next field goal attempt, Harris decided to get much closer to the rim, throwing in a second-quarter dunk. In general, Harris seemed to become a bit reluctant to fire, passing up good looks or driving into traffic instead. He did attempt six more threes, though, and missed all of them, too. 

A career 36.4 percent three-point shooter entering this season, Harris is now 21.7 percent from long range on the year.

This is a player who shot over 40 percent from three in 2017-18 on 5.6 attempts per game, and who was again converting at over a 40 percent rate with the Clippers last season before being traded to the Sixers in February. It’s still early, but Harris is trending in the wrong direction. 

Embiid the lone bright spot from long range 

Sixers besides Embiid combined to shoot 5 for 33 from three-point range vs. Cleveland.

Embiid went 3 for 5. It’s not typically a good sign when your 7-foot center is your most effective three-point shooter. 

Thybulle is back in the mix 

Matisse Thybulle saw his first action of consequence since the Sixers' game in Utah, and he made an immediate impact defensively. The rookie picked up a “rearview” block and a steal within his first two minutes on the floor. 

He also hit a long range jumper from the left corner early in the second quarter, his first made three since Nov. 2 vs. the Trail Blazers.

Though he was beaten by Cleveland’s young guards a couple of times, it was a positive return to the rotation overall for Thybulle, who had three blocks and two steals in 13 minutes.

Message received? 

After Sunday’s win over the Hornets, Brown had called out the Sixers’ problems with turnovers in strong terms. His team was averaging an NBA-worst 18.8 turnovers through nine games. 

“Until we can fix this, this is a house built on sand,” he’d said.

His team was much firmer in its decision making Tuesday in the first half, when they only turned it over four times. They gave it away 10 times in the second half, though, including several costly ones in the fourth quarter. It’s not a problem that is going to go away overnight. 

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Sixers vs. Cavs: 3 storylines to watch and how to stream the game

Sixers vs. Cavs: 3 storylines to watch and how to stream the game

Before they have a chance to get one back on the defending champion Raptors Sunday night, the Sixers have a game to play Saturday at Wells Fargo Center.

Here are the essentials for the matchup between the 15-7 Sixers and 5-16 Cavs.

When: 7:30 p.m. ET with Sixers Pregame Live at 7 p.m.
Where: Wells Fargo Center 
Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia
Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports MyTeams app

And here are three storylines to watch:

It’s not rest this time

Joel Embiid has yet to have a “rest” game since saying load management is “BS.”

He’s out Saturday with a left hip contusion. A team source told NBC Sports Philadelphia that Embiid reported discomfort after the Sixers’ 119-113 loss Thursday to the Wizards and is being treated for the injury.

Embiid had played in 11 straight games since sitting the last game of a back-to-back on Nov. 13 in Orlando. 

After tonight, he’ll have played in 18 of the Sixers’ first 23 games, and 30.4 minutes per night. He played every one of the team’s first 23 games last year, averaging 34.6 minutes. 

Missing the ‘dot connector’ 

Before the season, Brett Brown called Josh Richardson the “mortar” for the Sixers. On Nov. 20, he labeled him a “dot connector.” 

The Sixers have managed a 5-1 mark in games Richardson has missed — he’s out again Saturday with right hamstring tightness — but they’ve been much worse with him off the floor. The team has a plus-10.6 net rating with Richardson on the court, minus-0.6 with him off it.

Much of that can be attributed to him being paired with Embiid, who has similar on-off numbers and tends to boost the net ratings of whoever he’s playing with, but that disparity does suggest Richardson’s value. 

At a minimum, splitting up the Richardson-Embiid pairing has hurt the Sixers. 

Drama with the Cavs 

Three anonymous players were quoted in a story in The Athletic by Shams Charania and Joe Vardon about new Cavs head coach John Beilein. The players voiced their frustration with, among other things, the former Michigan coach’s emphasis on fundamentals and extended film sessions. And, according to the report, “all the team’s screens, cuts, and pivots are named after wild animals. A curl is a 'polar bear' in John Beilein's system.” That reportedly hasn’t resonated with a few of the Cavs’ veteran players.

Several players then responded to the report and spoke out in support of Beilein, including Tristan Thompson. 

“Y’all better find them names ‘cause I’ll pull up on ‘em right now,” Thompson told reporters. “You can’t do that s---. At the end of the day if you’re going to build a culture and a family, you can’t have that Chatty Patty s--- going on. That s--- is whack to me.”

That wasn’t the only notable news involving the Cavs on Friday. The team is prepared to listen to offers for Kevin Love, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported. The five-time All-Star missed Cleveland's 93-87 loss Friday to the Magic because of an illness. 

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Sixers Injury Update: Joel Embiid, Josh Richardson out for Saturday's game vs. Cavs

Sixers Injury Update: Joel Embiid, Josh Richardson out for Saturday's game vs. Cavs

The Sixers will be down two starters Saturday night when they return to Wells Fargo Center to play the Cavs.

Josh Richardson will miss his fifth consecutive game with right hamstring tightness, while Joel Embiid is out with a left hip contusion.

A team source told NBC Sports Philadelphia that Embiid reported discomfort after the Sixers' 119-113 loss to the Wizards on Thursday night and is being treated for the injury.

Embiid had 26 points, 21 rebounds and eight turnovers Thursday.

Richardson and the Sixers have been cautious with his hamstring. He told reporters in Washington, D.C., that this is the first hamstring injury he's dealt with and admitted that it's been a frustrating process.

“A hamstring is one of those things where you can think that you’re fine and then you take a wrong step and it’s a week or two-week setback," he said. "I don’t really want to get into that whole cycle. ... It’s just one of those things where I just don’t really know where I’m at most of the time. It always feels like I’m tiptoeing, trying not to do too much.”

The Sixers' preferred starting five of Embiid, Richardson, Ben Simmons, Tobias Harris and Al Horford have played just 102 minutes together this season, posting a plus-21.3 net rating. 

Furkan Korkmaz has started the past four games in place of Richardson. Without Embiid, the Sixers will need to plug in another spot starter and perhaps search for further big man depth. Kyle O'Quinn hasn't played since Nov. 23, but he might be called upon vs. Cleveland.

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