Cleveland Cavaliers

Luckily for Sixers, style points don't affect playoff seeding after win over lowly Cavs

Luckily for Sixers, style points don't affect playoff seeding after win over lowly Cavs

This was a game you looked at on the schedule and chalked up as a Sixers’ win.

The lowly Cavaliers — whose front office is more interested in possibly getting Zion Williamson than winning basketball games — were in town. They were missing their best player in Kevin Love and were coming off a big win Monday night against Toronto.

The Sixers even recalled Zhaire Smith from Delaware before the game. The rookie would’ve served as a human victory cigar had he gotten into the game for his NBA debut.

Instead, the Sixers turned the ball over 21 times and barely escaped Tuesday with a 106-99 win at the Wells Fargo Center (see observations).

After Sunday’s huge win over the Pacers, Brett Brown acknowledged that his players are aware that “it’s getting to be go time.”

It certainly it didn’t look like “go time” Tuesday night.

“I think it felt like that, too,” Brown said when asked if he felt his team took the Cavs for granted. “I didn’t feel it in the first period. We held them to 12 points and we started well, and then they jumped into it. Cleveland jumped into it with 35 points and I thought that Cleveland’s middle two periods, our defense was a C-minus. I thought our sandwich, our first and our fourth, was OK. But in general, I thought … we could have been more urgent for longer and we weren’t.”

The biggest culprit Brown and his players pointed to was the turnovers — and rightfully so. The Sixers held Cleveland below 40 percent from the field while shooting nearly 50 percent themselves. They outrebounded the Cavs, 60-37. 

But the Sixers lost the turnover battle, 21-7. A few of those occurred during dribble handoffs between Joel Embiid and JJ Redick, a staple of the team’s offense.

While Redick attributed some of it to Embiid not having played for a few weeks, he conceded that the Sixers know they weren’t at their best.

“We’ve lost a couple of games this year like this game,” Redick said. “In that sense, it wasn’t frustrating because we got a win, but the mood in the locker room was definitely one where we feel like we could play better. The second and third period defensively wasn’t great and the other two quarters were phenomenal so the level of consistency there wasn’t great.”

Embiid also shrugged off the issues with him and Redick in the two-man game, but was pretty forthright in his assessment of his performance tonight.

“I was trash,” Embiid said.

While you have to appreciate the candidness, it’s not entirely true. Embiid’s presence on defense was felt by the Cavs, especially in the last minute of the game. With Cleveland trailing by three with under a minute to go, big man Ante Zizic had a chance to make it a one-point game. Instead, Embiid met him at the rim and helped seal the win.

It was going to be tough to replicate that 33-point performance against Indiana. On Tuesday, you saw that Embiid is still shaking off rust on the offensive end of the floor.

But in each of the last two games, you see the huge difference the All-Star center makes on the defensive end.

“I felt like tonight, I really had to focus defensively, and that’s my job every game,” Embiid said. “They just kept getting a lot of easy baskets and I had to do my job. 

“I’m glad we got the win.”

There are no style points for playoff seeding. There will be no asterisk next to win No. 43.

Just clean it up and look for No. 44 Friday.

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Sixers 106, Cavaliers 99: It wasn't pretty, but Sixers take care of business vs. Cavs

Sixers 106, Cavaliers 99: It wasn't pretty, but Sixers take care of business vs. Cavs

BOX SCORE

Well, a win is a win.

It sure wasn't pretty, but the Sixers took care of business in a 106-99 win over the lowly Cavaliers on Tuesday night at the Wells Fargo Center.

Cleveland, fresh off a big win over Toronto, was missing Kevin Love (rest) and Marquese Chriss (suspension). The Sixers were without Jimmy Butler (rest).

The victory moves the Sixers to 43-25 on the season and keeps them ahead of the Pacers and Celtics for the Eastern Conference's third seed.

Here are observations from the win.

• What a weird start to this game. The Sixers were sloppy early, turning the ball over nine times in the first quarter … but they held a 24-12 lead after one.

Unfortunately, the lackadaisical play caught up to the Sixers as the Cavs flipped with the script with a 35-29 second quarter.

The Sixers dominated in every category but the turnover battle, which they lost, 21-7. It's the only reason this was even a game.

• These are the types of teams Ben Simmons feasts on and he did just that. It was good to see Simmons get back to being aggressive and looking for his own shot. He cashed in on a few difficult opportunities around the rim. He was physical at the basket and the Cavs had trouble matching that physicality.

At times, it felt like Simmons was the only one giving the Sixers any life. He finished with 26 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists, and just two turnovers. He also continues to hit his free throws, going 7 for 10.

• That 33-point performance against the Pacers Sunday was incredible, but you can tell there’s still a little rust with Joel Embiid. He had four turnovers in the first quarter, six overall. Give some credit to Cleveland’s Ante Zizic, who was able to force a couple of those turnovers. It also looked like JJ Redick and Embiid were having trouble connecting in their normally lethal two-man game. Two dribble handoffs between the duo turned into turnovers.

You could tell Embiid was just trying to feel his way through this one offensively, recording 17 points on 6 of 16 shooting. But his defense sure is a big help as he came down with 19 rebounds and blocked four shots — including a huge one on Zizic with the Cavs trailing by just three with under a minute left.

 • The supposed “tournament” between James Ennis and Jonathon Simmons doesn’t appear like it’s very competitive at this point. Ennis got the start in place of Jimmy Butler and he shined.

He was matched up against rookie Collin Sexton, who is lightning quick and has given the Sixers trouble before. Ennis did pick up three fouls in the first quarter, but did a solid job on Sexton overall.

Offensively, his movement away from the basketball stuck out on Tuesday. When you’re surrounded by so much offensive talent, you’re going to get some easy looks. You just have to capitalize and Ennis did so, pouring in 12 points on 6 of 7 shooting.

He also continues to show off that "quiet athleticism" Brett Brown has referred to.

• Boban Marjanovic made his triumphant return to the court and looked like he hadn’t missed a beat. Marjanovic, who’s been out since Feb. 25, scored a bucket on his first touch. 

Best friends away from the court, Tobias Harris and Marjanovic have a real chemistry on it. Running a pick-and-roll is about timing and chemistry, and both players seem to have an idea of how to navigate it together.

Marjanovic was matched up against sharpshooting veteran Channing Frye. That’s not an ideal matchup for either player, but Marjanovic was able to get the better of it as Frye was cold from three and Cleveland felt the pain of not having a rim protector.

• Brown after practice Monday alluded to the fact that Redick may be getting a rest night soon. It looks like he may need it. Redick’s shooting woes continued, as he went 6 of 15, although he did go 4 of 7 from three. Coming into the game, Redick was shooting 31 percent from three and 30 percent overall since the All-Star break.

• The Cavs are terrible, but man, Collin Sexton can really play. The rookie point guard, coming off a 28-point performance against the Raptors Monday, scorched the Sixers for 26 points on 11 of 20 from the field. The Sixers have had trouble stopping quicker guards this year and Sexton gave them a hard time tonight.

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Sixers 128, Cavs 105: Jimmy Butler returns, Ben Simmons posts triple-double

Sixers 128, Cavs 105: Jimmy Butler returns, Ben Simmons posts triple-double

BOX SCORE 

The Sixers’ home loss to the Cavaliers on Nov. 23 was, at the time, likely their worst of the season. For a while Sunday, it appeared they might have a new, strong contender, as Cleveland took a 44-34 second-quarter lead.

But the Sixers avoided their first three-game losing streak of the season, pulling away in the fourth quarter to beat the Cavs, 128-105, behind Ben Simmons’ third triple-double of the season (22 points, 14 assists, 11 rebounds). Joel Embiid had 24 points and nine rebounds, while Jimmy Butler returned to the lineup after missing the past two games with a strained groin and had 19 points. 

The Sixers are now 20-11 on the season, 6-8 on the road.

• Simmons had another sharp, attacking start, scoring nine of the Sixers’ first 14 points.

In several other games this season, Simmons hasn’t sustained his early aggression. Against Cleveland, his drive never diminished.

When Embiid and Butler sat early in the second quarter, Simmons’ ability to establish deep post position, score and distribute effectively in a point forward role was crucial in Cleveland not running away with the game.

Perhaps the most impressive part of Simmons’ performance? He didn’t turn the ball over. 

• In a familiar, unsurprising turn of events, the Sixers’ first-quarter lead disappeared soon after the second unit entered. As we’ve noted before, the Sixers’ bench is thin, and their perimeter defense is subpar. The Cavs have a few players who can create shots off the dribble, but they’re not the type of opponent that should pose serious problems to a team with NBA Finals aspirations. 

• Mike Muscala had perhaps his worst game as a Sixer in Friday’s night loss vs. the Pacers, shooting 1 for 8 and looking out of sync with his teammates on both ends of the floor. Brett Brown attributed Muscala’s poor performance, in part, to his return from an upper respiratory infection. 

Muscala looked more like himself Sunday, with eight points, six rebounds and three blocks. 

• Butler didn’t attempt a shot and was scoreless in the first quarter. He’s averaged just 4.0 points in the first quarter with the Sixers. While the Sixers could get Butler more involved on offense early, you sense his slow starts are in part because of his efforts to blend into the Sixers’ offense and defer to Simmons and Embiid. 

• The Sixers allowed a total of 114 second-half points during their two-game losing streak. Their defense after halftime was improved in Cleveland, as the Cavs had much less success in transition than in the first half and there were far fewer issues with the Sixers’ communication and rotations.

• On Friday, the Sixers got just 21 points outside of Embiid, Simmons, and JJ Redick. Those three were, as usual, the Sixers’ go-to players offensively, but they received more help against the Cavs.

Landry Shamet caught fire in the fourth quarter, shooting 6 for 7 on the afternoon and tying his career high with 16 points.

Wilson Chandler, who was scoreless vs. the Pacers, chipped in 11 points, including an important three-pointer at the end of the third quarter to stop a 12-0 Cavs run.

• It was nice for the Sixers not to have to deal with Tristan Thompson on the offensive glass. Cleveland had six offensive rebounds Sunday. Thompson had eight by himself on Nov. 23. 

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