Fresh off a bounce-back victory over LaMelo Ball and the Charlotte Hornets, Joel Embiid and the squad head to (extreme LeBron James voice:) CLEVELAND!!! to take on All-Star Darius Garland and the Cavaliers.
Sitting in 4th place in the East, just a half game behind the third-place Boston Celtics, and a full game behind the 2nd place Milwaukee Bucks, Doc Rivers’ unit will look to snag their second win in a row, and further leave an unsightly three-game losing streak in the rearview. It seems unlikely they can still win the one seed, but it’s not impossible.
The Brooklyn Nets have fallen all the way down to the tenth seed, and it that held, Kevin Durant’s squad couldn’t snag a 7th seed, the best they could do would be to make the 8th and final playoff seed after the Play-In. That makes the 2nd seed a little more alluring right now for Philly, doesn’t it? A two seed could potentially dodge Durant, who just tallied a career high 55 points, and host at least two, maybe three rounds before the finals. Darn those officials for overturning that Giannis goaltending call into a block.
Anywho, the Sixers and Cavs players may all be a bit tired since both teams will be on the second leg of a back-to-back. But the Sixers are healthier.
Cavaliers’ All-Star big Jarrett Allen missed his 14th consecutive game Saturday with a fractured middle finger. The Cavs are just 8-14 over their last 22, and continue to slide down the standings, missing The Fro. They’re clinging to 7th place now which would slot them to host the first Play-In game where the winner of the 7 vs. 8 (that’s where Brooklyn sits now) would face the two seed during round one of the playoffs.
Rookie phenom Evan Mobley is not expected to suit up either. If he’s ruled out, it will mark the fourth game the versatile big has missed with a sprained ankle.
Joel Embiid appeared to favor his left knee at one point during the Hornets game. [Update: Embiid is listed as questionable with left ankle soreness].
Lineups, per Rotowire:
Harden still looks a step slow, managing a balky hamstring. But the Sixers’ injury report is otherwise clean and we’ll wait for word on MVBiid.
Doc Rivers on if Joel Embiid and James Harden will play tomorrow: “I hope so.”— Paul Hudrick (@PaulHudrick) April 2, 2022
Perhaps team VP of Athletic Care Simon Rice or the training and medical staff will weigh in on Harden’s availability. But after only logging 31 minutes, we won’t be surprised if he’s a go.
Our Sean Kennedy and I talked about if Harden has supplanted Embiid as the Sixer we most worry about getting hurt on a nightly basis now on the latest “Talking About Podcast.” We also ranked where the Sixers stack up in the East and speculate on Doc Rivers future.
Post-game after whipping Charlotte, Embiid mentioned he’s dealing with a gash on his finger, but that doesn’t appear to be slowing him down all that much:
Joel Embiid said that he's had a cut on his finger for two months now, which won't close since he's dunking and catching passes with the right hand.— Rich Hofmann (@rich_hofmann) April 2, 2022
Musing on the injury, he said: "Pretty painful but I'm African, we don't feel pain."
He’s been on a tear lately. A scoring title and milestone for a big are certainly within his sights along with an MVP:
Joel Embiid is on pace to become the first Center since Moses Malone in 1982 to average 30 PPG on the season. There are 6 games left.— MuseStat (@215muse) April 1, 2022
Moses won the MVP that year pic.twitter.com/CTR0xbV6yt
In case you’re keeping an eye on a possible first-round matchup with the Cavs, their head coach J.B. Bickerstaff has said he’s hopeful that both his stud bigs, Allen and Mobley, can return ahead of the regular season finale. The Sixers are quite fortunate they won’t have to contend with this versatile menace Sunday.
Watch Mobley do some Jaren Jackson Jr., guard-everyone-future-of-the-big-man-position- type things:
On this possession, Evan Mobley:— Jackson Frank (@jackfrank_jjf) March 28, 2022
-Deters a pass to Scottie Barnes
-Prevents a catch-and-shoot 3
-Contains a drive to force a tough shot and miss
-Recovers to block a putback attempt pic.twitter.com/Sdjl4A5Uf5
The Cavs have only two victories in their last seven games after defeating the New York Knicks on Saturday.
The Sixers have the 12th-best offensive rating dating back to Feb. 25, which was James Harden’s Sixers debut. Surprisingly, they have the eighth-ranked defense in the same 19-game window.
Using the same time frame for the Cavs (who lost Allen back on Mar. 7), the maroon group has fielded the 21st-offense and 23rd-ranked defense. They’re really struggling so it makes sense the Sixers are favored (-4) in this one- assuming everyone plays.
The key for Philadelphia will be slowing down Garland. The first time-All-Star dropped 24 points and 13 dimes on the Knicks on Saturday. He helped seven other teammates into double figures with devastating dexterity, as Knicks announcer Walt “Clyde” Frazier probably said:
Matisse Thybulle may be called upon to slow Garland down.
Matisse has been hitting wide open triples lately. He has a few games left to continue to knock down corner bombs, since the Sixers are auditioning their fifth playoff closer role to complement Embiid, Harden, Tobias Harris and Tyrese Maxey.
This won’t hurt, as Thybulle even drew a comparison to former championship caliber three-and-D stud Bruce Bowen by The Athletic’s Rich Hofmann:
That left corner is the outlier in Thybulle’s perimeter shooting, oddly enough pic.twitter.com/Gin0QiF5T1— Harrison Grimm (@Harrison_Grimm) April 2, 2022
Matisse is the modern day Bruce Bowen. Can he make 37% or so from the corner with his feet cemented into the ground? That's all he needs to stay on the floor.— Rich Hofmann (@rich_hofmann) April 2, 2022
That’s a potentially awesome development if Thybulle can keep that up and swoop in to offer late-season cohesion to Doc’s closing group. Thybulle, Georges Niang, and Danny Green all deserve consideration. But if Thybulle can win the job with improved shooting it’s the best-case scenario for Philly.
Onto Rocket Mortgage to say hello to old friend Serena Winters and spoil Cleveland’s evening.
When: 6:00pm ET, April 3, 2022
Where: Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, Cleveland Ohio
Watch: NBC Sports Philadelphia
Radio: 97.5 The Fanatic