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For the second time in less than a week, the Wine & Gold face off against the Sixers – this time, on their home floor at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse on Sunday afternoon.
In their final game of a recent three-game trip, the Cavaliers took the Sixers to the final seconds in Philly – with the Brett Brown’s squad going on a late 6-0 lead, capping their comeback on a Joel Embiid dunk with 13.2 to play. Cleveland returned home for a Thursday night meeting against Miami and were doomed by a slow start – falling behind by as many as 27 points before rallying to get within ten in the fourth quarter.
The Sixers have dropped two straight since topping Cleveland on Tuesday night – losing by 15 points in Orlando on Wednesday night before falling to the Thunder in overtime on Friday. Danilo Gallinari scored 28 points, including the game-deciding triple in the extra-session, sending the Sixers to the fifth loss in their last seven outings.
The Cavaliers have been very good against Philly on their home floor – winning eight of the last 10 home meetings dating back to 2013.
Facing the Sixers means facing two-time All-Star Joel Embiid, who’s off to another excellent start for the Sixers.
After leading both squads with 27 points and 16 boards in Philly’s Tuesday night win over the Cavaliers, he got the next game off against Orlando. He returned on Friday night against the Thunder and posted another monster effort – going for 31 points and 12 boards in a loss to Oklahoma City.
In eight career meetings against Cleveland, Embiid has tallied at least 20 points in six of them, averaging 13.0 board and almost two blocks per contest.
The Cavaliers will answer with their top two bigs – Tristan Thompson and Kevin Love – each of whom are having All-Star-caliber seasons.
After notching his eighth double-double of the season last week in Philly – tallying 17 points and a team-high 12 boards – Thompson had his worst outing of the season on Thursday against Miami, finishing with two points and three boards in just under 22 minutes of work. Even with Thursday’s clunker, the ninth-year pro is still averaging career-highs in scoring, rebounding, assists, steals and blocks.
Love has tallied at least 20 points five times this season, including each of his last two outings – tallying his seventh double-double of the season on Thursday night against Miami, finishing with a team-high 21 points and 10 rebounds. Despite averaging 19.3 ppg over his last three games, the five-time All-Star has struggled from the floor – shooting just 35 percent from the field over that stretch.
Kristaps Porzingis might be the original unicorn, but Ben Simmons is definitely an NBA anomaly – a 6-10 point guard who shoots about the same percentage from the floor as from the free throw line and has 17 three-point attempts in his career, two more than Tristan Thompson.
But Simmons is also a dynamic playmaker, a versatile scorer around the rim and a stellar defender – trailing only Jimmy Butler for the league lead in steals.
He returned from a shoulder injury against Cleveland last Tuesday night – finishing with 16 points, five boards, six assists, two steals and a pair of blocks. In Friday’s overtime loss in Oklahoma City, he finished two assists shy of a triple-double.
Simmons, who’ll obviously be cross-guarded all afternoon, has tallied double-figures in every game but two this year. The last time Collin Sexton didn’t score in double-figures was February 21 of last year, a stretch of 35 straight games.
The Young Bull followed up his career-high 31-point performance last week in New York with an 18-point game in last week’s loss to Philly followed by a 15-point effort against Miami.
Darius Garland, Simmons’ opposite at the point, is having the typical ups and downs of a rookie at that position. In Thursday’s loss to Miami, Garland posted his fourth double-digit scoring game, finishing with 11 points on 4-of-10 shooting. Garland has shot better than 40 percent from the floor in just three games this season as he continues to search for his shooting stroke.