The Philadelphia 76ers gave the defending champs everything they had, but Kyrie Irving, LeBron James and the rest of the Cleveland Cavaliers did just enough to pull out a 112-108 victory.
At the start of the game, the Cavaliers were like the big brother in the driveway basketball game giving not quite maximum effort against their younger brother. Less than 24 hours removed from their trip to the Ohio State/Michigan game, Cleveland started Sunday 0-for-14 from the floor as the Sixers sprinted out to an early 10-2 lead. The Cavs shot less than 26 percent from the field in the first quarter, despite getting tons of open looks.
The second quarter brought more of the same: Cleveland's cold shooting resulted in a 12-3 Sixers run shortly before halftime, and Brett Brown's team was up 14 at one point before heading into intermission with a 58-52 lead. After 24 minutes, the Sixers' bench had outscored the Cavs' bench 27-4.
The Sixers more or less held serve with the Cavs in the third quarter, but Irving and James took matters into their own hands in the final period. The former scored 19 of his season-high 39 points over the final 12 minutes, while the latter put the finishing touches on his 45th career triple-double (26 points, 10 rebounds, 13 assists).
When James was initiating the offense, the Cavs often made it a point to screen his defender, forcing the Sixers to switch and giving Cleveland a distinct mismatch on the offensive end. James, Irving and Kevin Love (25 points, 11 rebounds) combined for 90 of the Cavaliers' 112 points.
Statistically, Joel Embiid had a solid game (22 points, nine rebounds, three blocks), but he didn't shoot well from the floor until late, and was the focus of constant double-teams by the Cavs. To his credit, he was able to find the open man a few times when the defense collapsed on him: he finished Sunday with a career-high four assists. And when John Keats wrote that "a thing of beauty is a joy forever", he was talking about Embiid's defense.
Some impressive possessions on D that half for Embiid. PHI had him playing some free safety, moved around and made good reads.— Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_NBA) November 27, 2016
And for what it's worth, we may have seen Jahlil Okafor's best two-way performance of the season. In addition to his 14 points and season-high nine rebounds, he actually was decent (at times) defensively. His reaction time and awareness still aren't ideal, but even head coach Brett Brown admitted after the game that he was more engaged on the floor.
The Sixers get right back on the wagon tomorrow at 7:30 PM ET as they face off against the Toronto Raptors at the Air Canada Centre.
Other Numbers and Notes:
- Jerryd Bayless didn't dress for today's game due to his injured wrist - it's unknown whether or not he'll be available tomorrow against the Toronto Raptors. What is known is that Embiid will not make the trip up north.
- LeBron James is now 28-1 in his last 29 games against the Sixers. For the record, the one loss is the now-infamous Michael Carter-Williams' breakout/debut vs. the Miami Heat.
- Given that Robert Covington is the Sixers' best perimeter defender, it seemed a bit odd that he only logged 20 minutes against Cleveland. Covington finished the game at a +12, while Hollis Thompson and Nik Stauskas were -8 and -22, respectively.
- The ball movement by the Sixers today was better than usual: The team finished with 29 assists on 43 made field goals.
- The Sixers' bench outscored Cleveland's reserves 40-10. Okafor, Stauskas and Dario Saric all scored in double-figures.
- Free throws: Cleveland: 24/28; Philadelphia 7/10