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


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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Brett Brown previews competitions for spots in Sixers' rotation

Brett Brown previews competitions for spots in Sixers' rotation

Al Horford has played in 13 NBA seasons. He’s now embarking on something close to a 14th.

“It felt like a new season, absolutely,” Horford said Sunday in a video conference call before the Sixers’ second practice at Disney World. “This feels completely new. … Coach is teaching everything, he’s putting us through things and we’re learning everything all over again.”

Horford and Furkan Korkmaz both felt positively about the Sixers’ practice Saturday in Orlando, which Brett Brown described as a competitive, fast-paced affair with 5-on-5 action. 

“As a team, I think we were flying,” Korkmaz said of the team's first practice since March 10. “I was not expecting that practice was going to look like that. … Everybody was trying to do everything, everything had the same desire. After four, five months, I didn’t think we were going to have a good practice, but it was a really, really good practice, so I was impressed.’

Brown sounded confident that the Sixers have returned at a satisfactory fitness base, something he’d prioritized during the NBA’s hiatus. He said Joel Embiid “especially stood out.”

On a strategic front, Brown previewed the jostling for rotation spots he anticipates over the next few weeks, and perhaps during some of the Sixers’ seeding games as well. Health permitting, Embiid, Ben Simmons, Josh Richardson and Tobias Harris will clearly be in the starting lineup. Otherwise, the composition of the rotation appears to largely be up in the air.

My mindset is I want to look at a set of 10,” he said. “I hope, as we lead up to this, to play 10 people. I think it’s going to shrink to nine at some point — for sure in the playoffs. My bandwidth, my net is wider right now because I really do want to see. I haven’t seen these guys for four months. You get into people like Glenn Robinson and Alec Burks and Mike Scott … and Matisse (Thybulle) and Furkan, and what are we going to do with Al? 

“There needs to be some decisions, and something’s gotta give. You’re not going to play everybody. But initially I hope to play 10 people. It could be you give X player the 10th spot today and you sit somebody — I don’t want to piecemeal minutes — and really give somebody a true opportunity.

Given Brown reiterated that he’s not “worrying too much” about seeding and potential playoff matchups, it wouldn’t be surprising to see playoff rotation minutes be at stake in some form for many of the team’s eight seeding contests. 

‘You’ve got a passport to what you remember’ 

For good reason, questions about whether the NBA’s endeavor to resume the season is wise and can be accomplished safely remain prominent. In the background of all the discussion about fitness and rotations and upcoming scrimmages is the awareness that the objective of playing sports indoors over several months during a pandemic may very well be rather tenuous, regardless of what precautions are taken. 

“We all worry about the virus, in some capacity, sneaking in,” Brown said.

And yet, one can imagine, the ability to enjoy the sport you love, away from all the worries and problems in the world, must provide relief. Brown captured that element well. 

“The freedom of a gymnasium is priceless,” he said. “You take off your mask and you’ve got a basketball in your hands, you’ve got a passport to what you remember and what you feel like brings you to a level of normality that none of us had.” 

The jersey discussion 

His framing of the issue was more diplomatic, but Horford thinks Mike Scott has a valid opinion on the NBA deciding to give players a pre-approved list of social justice messages they can include on the back of their jerseys. 

Horford said he went “back and forth” but will not be using one of the messages. LeBron James told reporters on Saturday he’s made the same choice.

“I kind of understand and share Mike Scott’s sentiment a little bit,” Horford said. “Even though this is a great platform for us to promote things, I think having the ability to kind of say what you want to say and leave it like that ... at the end of the day, everybody makes their own decision — whatever they feel is right, whatever they want to do.”

Scott had criticized the league for not allowing players to have input on the jersey idea.

“I’m all about just doing,” he said Monday, “instead of just saying or posting or putting something on the back of your jersey. I don’t think that’s going to stop anything."

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2020 NBA restart: What Sixers experienced in quarantine at Disney World

2020 NBA restart: What Sixers experienced in quarantine at Disney World

After the Sixers boarded the plane on Thursday afternoon to head to Orlando, Florida, to enter "the bubble" for the NBA’s restart, Tobias Harris got on the speaker before takeoff.

“Welcome back, y’all. Welcome back!”

The laughs echoed through the rows of empty seats (as mandated by the NBA’s health and safety handbook) on the Sixers' chartered plane.

Upon arrival to the Walt Disney World Campus, the entire traveling party was immediately tested for the coronavirus, both with a saliva test and two nose swabs. (These nose swabs are a much less invasive testing option, in comparison to the deep nasal swabbing that was originally used to test for the virus.) All players and staffers were then given a green wristband to indicate that they were officially in quarantine, which was in effect until Saturday morning, until both coronavirus tests came back negative. A green wristband indicates that a resident cannot leave their room, and security is in place to ensure all residents abide by the league's protocols. 

After testing on Thursday night, the traveling party made its way through socially distanced stations, like the "Health supplies station," to pick up items like Clorox wipes and hand sanitizer, before making it to their rooms, where they would reside for at least the next 36 hours.

Meals were provided three times per day and dropped off at each resident's door in compostable containers.

Multiple sources described the meals as "suspect."

An Instagram story from Joel Embiid showed beef ribs, chicken breast, mashed potatoes, pasta, two salads, pretzels, berries, a cheese and nuts plate, and a sandwich as one of the meal options.

Every member of the traveling party was provided with a daily health checklist, which includes taking a “symptom questionnaire” in the MyHealth app, and taking temperature and blood oxygen levels with the provided thermometer and fingertip pulse oximeter.

For the next 36 hours, players found different ways to occupy their time.

For Josh Richardson, quarantine meant watching Netflix, listening to music, and rearranging his room.

For others, like Ben Simmons and Mike Scott, it was spent playing video games (Richardson said on an Instagram Live that he could hear Scott on his gaming headset across the hall).

For rookie Matisse Thybulle, he started perfecting his videography skills in a video he put together documenting Day 1 in the "bubble."  

For Tobias Harris, Boban Marjanovic provided him entertainment from his balcony.

And for most, they just couldn’t wait to get the “OK” to get out of their room on Saturday morning.

“I've been looking out my window just trying to peep and see the other teams that are here,” Glenn Robinson III told NBC Sports Philadelphia. “I’m just happy to get out of the room!

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