In a moment of honesty, it is getting hard to find new ways to say that Joel Embiid is incredibly dominant at the game of basketball. The Sixers knocked off the Cleveland Cavaliers 118-109 for their sixth win in a row behind a monster two-way performance from the big man.
Embiid dropped 36 points, shooting 12 of 19 from the field, along with 18 rebounds, and was a deterrent at the rim all night with four blocks.
James Harden gave the Sixers 28 points and 12 assists, and Tyrese Maxey had a hot night from three, going 5 of 7 from beyond the arc on his way to 23 points.
With this being the third and final matchup between these two teams, the Sixers will hold the tiebreaker over the Cavaliers. They are currently four games up for the three seed.
Here are some thoughts at the buzzer.
- The Sixers had the Cleveland crowd annoyed early, as the combo of Joel Embiid and James Harden took seven trips to the free throw line in the first three minutes of the game. The big fella’s jumper was falling, as he was 4 of 5 to start the game, but wasn’t quite at his sharpest, with three ugly turnovers.
- Turnovers were the only thing that prevented Philly from getting out to a big lead, as they shot nearly 20 percent better than the Cavaliers from the field. Embiid was locked in from the start of the game on the defensive end as well.
- Still, seven Sixers turnovers meant that they only held a five-point lead after the opening quarter.
- Philly would continue their sloppy play with the second unit filing in, as Cleveland went on an 11-4 run to take the lead. Doc Rivers went to his small-ball lineup with P.J. Tucker after a Paul Reed offensive foul.
- These games feel fewer and far between these days, but the second was pretty much Joel Embiid willing a Sixers team into a game they didn’t deserve to be in. The whole quarter was filled with these rabbit-out-of-the-hat like sequences. Embiid was 7 of 10 in the first half with 24 points, nine boards, three assists, and two blocks.
What a sequence by Joel Embiid ️— NBA (@NBA) March 16, 2023
He's got 19 PTS, 8 REB, and 3 AST
: Live on ESPN pic.twitter.com/JQUFaYqAeg
- So many of the Sixers wounds in the first half were self-inflicted. A frustrated, struggling, Tobias Harris picked up a technical foul smack dab in the middle of Cleveland’s first run. Georges Niang ping-ponged a rebound off the backboard to Cedi Osman, who made the offensive rebound count with a three. James Harden ended the half by giving Caris LaVert a four-point play, as the Sixers trailed by five at the break.
- The Cavs came out of the break with all the momentum, using the Sixers’ biggest weakness in offensive rebounding to go on a 10-2 run, pushing their lead all the way up to 13, forcing Doc Rivers to call a quick timeout.
- That timeout sparked some resiliency, as the Sixers responded with a 14-0 run of their own to put themselves right back in the game.
- Philly struggled to take care of the basketball in every aspect. When they weren’t throwing passes into the stands, they were committing an offensive foul. They turned the ball over eight more times, bringing their total to 17 as a team through three quarters.
- It was an odd night for Tyrese Maxey, who was a big part of the turnover issues, but his three-point shooting was massive, he was 4 of 6 from downtown through three quarters. The Sixers would take a one-point lead into the fourth after a buzzer beater from Georges Niang.
- Tonight was another big game in which the bulk of the backup five minutes went to Tucker. It definitely made sense within the context of this matchup, as Cleveland’s second unit was small as well with Mamadi Diakite.
- Philly still couldn’t get stops, as the Cavs shot 6 of 7 before Embiid returned, but they did enough offensively to stay in front by the time Embiid checked back in. Tucker was also great on the glass, grabbing three offensive rebounds.
- For a moment, it appeared as if the only thing capable of stopping Embiid was himself, as he was called for his sixth foul with just over four minutes to play. Rivers challenged and it was overturned. To make matters more confusing, the two points Embiid scored on the play in question weren’t even counted until a full minute of game time later.
- Weird officiating or not, Embiid still had two or three plays in the fourth quarter that just make you laugh out loud.
- The Sixers will remain on the road, as they’ll head to Charlotte to take on the Hornets Friday night at 7 p.m. ET.