The Philadelphia 76ers will take the floor tonight at home in what will be their fourth and final game of In-Season Tournament Eastern Conference Group A play. At 2-1, the Sixers would likely have to hope 2-0 Indiana loses tonight in Atlanta if they’re to have a shot at automatically advancing out of the group; the Pacers’ final group play game is at home against the Pistons, who have lost 12 straight.
Alternatively, the Sixers could snag the one wild card spot out of the East by virtue of having the best point differential of all 3-1 teams. Philadelphia currently has a plus-12 differential from the first three games. Other potentially relevant teams in the mix are Miami (2-0, plus-13), Brooklyn (2-1, plus-8), and New York (1-1, plus-16). First things first, though, beat the Cavs.
Cleveland is 7-6 on the season, a perhaps disappointingly slow start for a young group that won 51 games last season. The Cavaliers have won their last three contests, however, including a win over the defending champion Nuggets on Sunday. Cleveland was even missing some key pieces in that game, as Donovan Mitchell (hamstring), Caris LeVert (knee), and Isaac Okoro (knee) were all out.
Mitchell, leading the team in scoring at 29.2 points per game, tweaked the hamstring during the game against Portland last Wednesday, then missed the next two games. Mitchell will be out again tonight, while LeVert (third on the team at 18.0 points per game) is currently questionable.
Donovan Mitchell (hamstring), Isaac Okoro (knee) and Ty Jerome (ankle) all remain out vs. 76ers tomorrow. Caris LeVert (knee) is questionable. #Cavs— Spencer Davies (@SpinDavies) November 20, 2023
The remaining primary ball handler, Darius Garland, is off his numbers a bit from the past two seasons at 19.6 points and 5.8 assists per game, shooting just 32.4 percent from three in the early going. Garland is a career 38.6 percent three-point shooter, so let’s hope the positive regression doesn’t get started tonight.
Cleveland’s goal in the offseason was to add shooting to a roster that ranked as the best defensive team in the league a season ago (109.9 defensive rating). The Cavs signed Max Strus and old friend Georges Niang to multi-year free agent contracts (technically a sign-and-trade with Miami in the case of Strus). Strus is enjoying a big bump in minutes from his Heat days at over 35 minutes per night, and is hoisting a career-high 7.7 three-point attempts at a 36.0 percent clip. The Minivan has been in a slump to start the year at just 32.1 percent from downtown.
The matchup between young guards Tyrese Maxey and Darius Garland is always fun. So, too, is Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley trying to slow down Joel Embiid. This will always be one of my favorite Embiid plays:
EMBIID THROWS DOWN THE HAMMER ON JARRETT ALLEN pic.twitter.com/6idJiQvsUt— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) February 13, 2022
Be ready to see red on the Sixers’ home court as the Sixers look to win their third straight game and keep their Vegas hopes alive.