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Sixers vs. Cavaliers: Start time, TV Schedule and game preview

The Sixers face the reigning NBA champions in Cleveland Saturday night.

NBA: Preseason-Washington Wizards at Philadelphia 76ers Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Joel Embiid will get his first opportunity tonight to face LeBron James, a man he tried to consistently recruit to Philadelphia in the 2014 offseason. More than two years after the inevitably unsuccessful attempt, Embiid has fuel to unleash havoc on the Cavaliers.

Although he’ll be playing within the same minutes restriction as the first two preseason games, 12 minutes of Embiid flashing his two-way ability against an Eastern Conference heavyweight is enticing.

Cleveland opened with 14-year veteran Chris “Birdman” Andersen at the 5 against the Orlando Magic in their preseason opener Wednesday. Embiid (6.0 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 33.0 percent shooting in two games) won’t be opposed by a legitimate offensive threat in Andersen, which could allow him, in turn, to exert more energy on the offensive side of the ball.

Embiid, who regularly caught the ball on the high point of the block against Boston, showcased his deft touch near the basket when he received deep entry passes in the post facing Washington Thursday. Possibly, he’ll blend his jump shooting attempts with post moves tonight against a statue-like defender in Andersen.

Operating next to Embiid in the frontcourt, Dario Saric (12.0 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 69.2 percent shooting) has been as versatile as advertised throughout the first two games. The Croatian is connecting from deep, showcasing his two-way ability, and running the floor in transition.

More than competent as a complement to Embiid, Saric hasn’t been overwhelmed by NBA defenses, up to this point, and is providing fluidity to Brett Brown’s offense. He’s making a serious case to start the year at the 4 for Philadelphia.

Another positive narrative brewing in the frontcourt is the development of backup PF/C Richaun Holmes. The second-year product of Bowling Green State University has been feasting on opposing teams’ backups, averaging 15 points and eight rebounds in 50 total minutes thus far.

The absence of Jahlil Okafor (meniscus) and Ben Simmons (foot) throughout the first two games has opened up consistent minutes for the 6’10”, 248-pound big. Nerlens Noel’s recent groin injury could allow Holmes to prove his value as a second unit option this season.

Along with Okafor, Simmons and Noel, guards Jerryd Bayless, Nik Stauskas and Brandon Paul will be held out for tonight’s contest.

A right oblique muscle contusion suffered in the third quarter of Thursday’s 125-119 loss overshadowed Paul’s breakthrough performance Tuesday against Boston (16 points, 5-of-10 shooting, four rebounds).

Fighting for a roster spot, Paul will relinquish more minutes to Hollis Thompson and possibly James Webb III in the second half. Similarly to Embiid, starting two-guard Gerald Henderson is on a 12-minute playing time restriction.

The Sixers’ shooting guards will have to combat a familiar face tonight. Cleveland relied heavily on former Sixer Jordan McRae in their win over Orlando, who had a game-high 20 points on 8-of-13 shooting (2-of-3 from deep) at the 2.

Head coach Tyronn Lue placed heavy emphasis on his bench in game 1, only featuring LeBron James and Kevin Love for collectively 26 total minutes. Kyrie Irving sat out the opener. The newly anointed “The Ankletakerwill make his preseason debut tonight, while Tristan Thompson will ride the pine due to a sore left foot.

Brett Brown could opt for the T.J. McConnell-Gerald Henderson-Robert Covington-Dario Saric-Joel Embiid starting lineup for the third straight game.

The Sixers (1-1 in preseason) and Cavaliers (1-0) will match up three times during the regular season (Nov. 5, Nov. 27, March 31), with two games at the Wells Fargo Center.

Game Info

Time: 7:30 p.m. EST