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Third-place Sixers look to hold their ground at home against Cleveland

Philadelphia catches the recently feisty Cavaliers at a good time

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Cleveland Cavaliers David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia 76ers are fresh off Sunday’s 17-point win over the Indiana Pacers, a game notable not only because the team moved into third place in the Eastern Conference, but also because we finally saw the preferred starting lineup back on the court together. Those five will have to start a new streak together later this week; although Joel Embiid is set to take the floor again against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Jimmy Butler is out with what the team is calling planned rest.

It’s worth mentioning that Butler was on the sidelines late in the game Sunday when the rest of the starting group was closing out the win, looking at his foot with his shoe off. Nothing has been indicated to be serious about it, but given this subsequent ‘planned rest’, it may be something to monitor. Presumed ‘quiet tournament’ winner James Ennis III will start in Butler’s place tonight. Ennis has averaged 8.3 points and 6.3 rebounds over the last three games.

We’ll also see the return of Boban Marjanovic to action tonight, after the extremely big man missed five games with a bone bruise and mild sprain of his right knee. With Joel and Boban both playing, expect fewer (if any) small-ball minutes from the Sixers.

As for Philadelphia’s opponent, Cleveland beat Toronto last night, 126-101, in a game featuring actual punches thrown between Serge Ibaka and Marquese Chriss.

Chriss is expected to receive a one- or two-game suspension for his role in the proceedings, although I’m not sure what the man is expected to do when he’s thrown against the basket by his neck.

Cleveland has actually been playing much better of late, going 6-5 across their last 11 games. Kevin Love has returned from his toe injury, averaging over 18 points per game and shooting better than 40 percent from 3. However, Love is expected to receive planned rest tonight in Philadelphia. Veteran guard Brandon Knight has entered the starting lineup; he has also shot above 40 percent from 3 since joining Cleveland in early February. Jordan Clarkson has also been on a hot streak from beyond the arc, shooting 48.4 percent across five games in March.

Nevertheless, despite Cleveland’s competent play recently, the Sixers have a clear talent advantage and get to face the Cavaliers on a SEGABABA. Also, there should be no thoughts about taking Cleveland lightly, after the Cavaliers absolutely wiped the floor with the Sixers in Philadelphia, 128-105, back in December. Between proving that outcome was a fluke, and maintaining their advantage over Indiana in the standings (the Pacers play the Knicks at home tonight), the Sixers have plenty to play for in tonight’s contest.

Game Info

Who: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Cleveland Cavaliers

When: 7:00 pm EST

Where: The Center, Philadelphia, PA

Watch: NBC Sports Philadelphia

Listen: 97.5 the Fanatic

Follow: @Liberty_Ballers

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