Following a frustrating one-game road trip down to the nation’s capital, the Sixers return tonight to the comfy confines of the Wells Fargo Center, where they are currently a pristine 10-0 on the season. They’ll be facing a 5-16 Cavaliers squad, who will be on the second night of a back-to-back after losing 93-87 to the Magic last night in Cleveland.
Of course, after what happened down in D.C., we can’t take anything for granted when it comes to a Sixers victory, especially when the team will be down two starters. As reported yesterday, Josh Richardson remains out with hamstring tightness, while Joel Embiid is sitting this game out with a left hip contusion. He reportedly told the team about the discomfort following the loss in Washington. How much tonight’s absence is due to the hip, and how much is due to this game being the first of a weekend back-to-back ahead of a more critical matchup with the Raptors Sunday, is between Joel, the training staff, and your belief in a higher power.
Fortunately, the Sixers have prepared for just this sort of situation — Al Horford moving to center is possibly the best Plan B any NBA team has available to them. Additionally, the Cavaliers might also by missing a key member of their frontcourt. Kevin Love is dealing with a cold and did not play against Orlando last night. Head coach John Beilein said yesterday he was hoping Love would be making to trip to Philadelphia.
For a rebuilding team near the bottom of the standings, the Cavaliers have been in the news a large amount this week. Yesterday, we had a minor Woj bomb drop, with ESPN’s very own Master of Whisperers reporting that Cleveland is open to the idea of moving Love ahead of the February 6 trade deadline. Just how much interest there would be in a 31-year-old with a long injury history in the first year of a four-year, $120 million deal remains to be seen, but Cleveland might not get quite the robust “young assets and/or future draft picks” return package they’re seeking.
Meanwhile, The Athletic reported yesterday that Cavaliers players have become unhappy with John Beilein’s college coaching style. A handful of players came out and essentially said it was a story about nothing, including Tristan Thompson responding to a comment that the report quoted three unnamed players by saying, “Ya’ll better find them names, ‘cause I’ll pull up on them right now.” Things seem like they are going great in Cleveland! Of note, Thompson is averaging career-highs in points (13.7), rebounds (10.4), assists (2.4), steals (0.9), and blocks (1.3) this season under Beilein.
Tonight is already the third meeting between these two teams this season (are the Cavaliers the new Hornets, who the Sixers played once a week for years?). The Sixers won 98-97 in Philadelphia on November 12, and then blew out the Cavaliers, 114-95, in Cleveland less than a week later. Brett Brown’s club has home-court advantage, is better rested, and has the more talented roster, even with two starters sidelined. Still, we saw Thursday night how any team in the NBA can take Philadelphia down if they don’t take things seriously. We’ll see what version of these Sixers shows up tonight.
Who: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Cleveland Cavaliers
When: 7:30 pm ET
Where: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, PA
Watch: NBC Sports Philadelphia; NBA TV
Listen: 97.5 The Fanatic
Philadelphia: Joel Embiid (out - hip); Josh Richardson (out - hamstring)
Cleveland: Kevin Love (questionable - illness); Dylan Windler (out - leg)