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Embiid, Harden overcome slow start, lead Sixers to win over Cavs

With the win, Philadelphia clinches a playoff spot.

Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

The Philadelphia 76ers have rebounded from an ugly loss to the Detroit Pistons with a pair of wins. Joel Embiid was sensational with 44 points, 17 rebounds and five blocks as he led the Sixers to a 112-108 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers. With the win, Philadelphia clinches a playoff spot.

Despite an awful start, Philly was able to rebound and beat a young Cavs squad. Embiid was held to just four points in the first quarter, but he came alive in the second and carried the team to their fourth-straight win over Cleveland, completing the season sweep.

Even though he struggled with his shot, James Harden had a nice outing for the Sixers. He recorded his second triple-double since joining the team with 21 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists.

First quarter

  • Both teams were on the second night of a back-to-back, and it showed early on. The Sixers and Cavs started the game shooting a combined 2-of-13.
  • Cleveland took advantage of a cold-shooting start for Philly. The Sixers missed seven consecutive field-goal attempts and went scoreless for 4:15, allowing the Cavs to go on a 10-0 run.
  • Embiid couldn’t get his shot to fall early on. He went 1-for-6 over the first eight minutes of the game. But Embiid was a force on the defensive end with a couple of big blocks.
  • Philly didn’t get much from James Harden in the first as well. He didn’t score his first points of the game until there was 2:50 left in the quarter.
  • DeAndre Jordan came into the game, and this happened:
  • Philly is lucky to only be down two after the first quarter. The Sixers shot just 27.8 percent and trailed 23-21 going to the second.

Second quarter

  • The non-Embiid minutes continue to remain an issue for the Sixers. Cleveland went on a 14-2 run with the big man on the bench to go up by eight less than three minutes into the second.
  • The Sixers keep shooting themselves in the foot. They had eight turnovers in the first 16 minutes of the game, which led to some easy buckets in transition for the Cavs.
  • Embiid returns, and good things immediately begin to happen. The opposite of what it was like when DJ is on the floor. For some reason, Doc Rivers still believes Jordan is a better option than B-Ball Paul or Charles Bassey, who has been killing it in the G League as of late.
  • Tyrese Maxey didn’t play at all in the second. Doc elected to keep the second-year guard on the bench because he had three fouls.
  • Embiid and Harden are getting rolling to close out the quarter, which brought the Sixers back to within single digits. Harden made a nice hustle play and hit his first bucket of the game.
  • A good end to an otherwise bad first half for Philly. Embiid and Harden combined for 27 points and 13 rebounds. Despite shooting just 31.6 percent, the Sixers are down 55-49 at the break.

Third quarter

  • Embiid is cooking after his slow start. He’s up to 23 points with 10 minutes to go in the third.
  • Embiid’s improvement in setting up his teammates has been apparent all season. After finding Matisse Thybulle for an easy lay-in, he connected with Harden for a three-pointer with this tasty dish.
  • Maxey is back in the game and having an immediate impact. He has five points and three assists in the first six minutes of the third and gives the Sixers their first lead since the opening quarter.
  • Embiid is so clutch with the shot-clock winding down. He has hit a pair of threes right at the buzzer in this quarter. As is the case on many nights, without Embiid, Philly would be getting blown out in this one.
  • The Cavs’ backcourt is creating a ton of good looks. Darius Garland and regular Sixers-killer Caris LeVert are rolling for Cleveland.
  • The two teams are going back and forth in this one. There have been five lead changes in the last five minutes of the third, and the Sixers are up 81-80 going into the fourth.

Fourth quarter

  • Embiid is on the bench to begin the quarter and the Sixers are holding up surprisingly well. Something we haven’t often said when Jordan is in the game. Philly didn’t give up a big run to Cleveland, and it’s tied at 87-87, with Joel getting set to check back in.
  • The Sixers have been slow on their close-outs, but they’re lucky that the Cavs have missed a ton of open looks from the three-point line.
  • Embiid just scored his 40th point of the night off a textbook pick-and-roll with Harden. Philly is up 98-97 with just over four minutes to go.
  • Harden came up with a big bucket to put the Sixers up by three with just over a minute left on the clock.
  • After Tobias Harris missed, the Cavs had an opportunity to take the lead with 34 seconds left. But Embiid and Thybulle forced Garland into a difficult shot, giving the Sixers possession up by one with 12.5 seconds to go.
  • Harden gets fouled and calmly hits both free throws to put Philly back up by three.
  • Thybulle comes up with a clutch steal on Cleveland’s inbound play and set up Harris for the game-sealing dunk.

What this means in the standings: The Sixers improved to 48-30 and are tied with the Milwaukee Bucks for third in the Eastern Conference. Both teams are one back in the win column of the Boston Celtics for second.

Up next: Philly is on the road to take on a bad Indiana Pacers team on Tuesday.

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