In both squads’ last game before the All-Star break, the Cleveland Cavaliers will head to Philadelphia on Wednesday to take on the 76ers.
Philadelphia is the three seed in the Eastern Conference right now, and the Cavs are the fourth seed. Separated by one game in the standings, the winner of this matchup will maintain/take over the third seed.
Here’s a preview of what will be a big matchup on both sides of the court.
These two teams will have played each other a total of three times by the end of the regular season. In other words, whoever wins two of the matchups will have the head-to-head tiebreaker, which could be essential for the standings at the end of the year.
In the only meeting between Cleveland and Philadelphia this season back in November, the Cavaliers ran away with the win, 113-85. Darius Garland had 21 points and 9 assists in the win.
Granted, the 76ers were without their superstar point guard, James Harden, and one of their best scorers, Tyrese Maxey. Combined, the two guards are averaging 41.4 points, 14.4 assists and 2.1 steals per game.
But at the same time, the Cavaliers didn’t have Jarrett Allen available, making this matchup harder to judge.
With Harden, Maxey and Allen back on the floor, things will be a lot different.
It’ll likely be closer this time around with both teams almost fully healthy.
Both Teams on Fire
Both squads have been playing great basketball lately. However, neither has been quite good enough to catch the Celtics or Bucks in the conference.
For Cleveland, they’re on a seven-game win streak, with three of those victories being on the road.
At the center of the Cavs success this season is the guard duo of Garland and Donovan Mitchell.
Garland, a fourth year point guard from Vanderbilt, has become a great shooter from all around the floor, and an excellent playmaker. This season, he’s averaging 21.6 points, 8.0 assists and 1.2 steals per game.
Mitchell was acquired by the Cavaliers from the Utah Jazz over the offseason. A true three-level scorer, Mitchell’s athleticism and shooting touch is among the league’s best, and he was recently named an All-Star starter.
Meanwhile, the 76ers have won three in a row, and are 7-3 in their last ten games.
Harden and Embiid continue to dominate with their pick and roll game. Embiid currently leads the league in points per game, and Harden leads the league in assists per game.
Both teams will come into Wednesday’s game in Philadelphia with momentum, making this matchup even more intriguing.
Player Matchup: Joel Embiid vs. Jarrett Allen/Evan Mobley
Embiid is almost always a mismatch one-on-one no matter who is guarding him. But through the years, he has seen double (and triple) teams more often, and there may not be a better interior-defending duo in the NBA than Allen and Mobley.
As mentioned before, Embiid leads the league in points per game. No matter where he’s at on the floor, he’s a dominant scorer. But one area that he still struggles with sometimes is creating for others when he is double teamed.
In Wednesday’s game, there’s no doubt Cleveland will bring some pressure to Embiid. Allen and Mobley both average over one block per game, and over eight rebounds per game.
The athleticism from the big-man duo in Cleveland makes opposing offenses drive to the rim less.
He may be able to handle one of the two, but Embiid will have his hands full in this game with both Mobley and Allen patrolling the paint not only defensively, but around the rim on offense as well.
Featured image courtesy of Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images
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