Key: Starting Strong
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Saturday night’s thriller in Detroit will be a tough act to follow, but the Wine & Gold will have to reload for Sunday’s showdown with the Sixers after an emotionally exhausting comeback win over the Pistons.
The Cavaliers improved to 2-0 with Saturday’s dramatic win – scoring the final eight points of regulation and the final nine points of the first overtime period before blowing past a deflated Detroit squad in the second extra session. Cleveland got huge production from its starting backcourt, a big second half from Andre Drummond in his return to Motown and another solid showing from Cedi Osman off the bench.
The Sixers, also playing the second night of a back-to-back are coming off a lopsided win over the Knicks in New York, giving new coach Doc Rivers his 945th coaching victory, passing the great Bill Fitch to move into the NBA’s all-time top 10.
The Cavaliers had dropped five straight to Philly before running off a two-touchdown win late last February at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.
Key: Centers of Attention
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All eyes will be on both squad’s big men on Saturday night, heavyweight Eastern Conference showdown between two of the game’s best.
After another disappointing postseason exit in the Orlando bubble, Philly’s Joel Embiid looks like a man on a mission so far this year. After doubling-up with 29 points and 14 boards in the Sixers’ season opening win over Washington, the three-time All-Star went right back to work on the Knicks last night – netting 20 of his 27 points in the first half, adding 10 boards in 31 efficient minutes of work.
In his first return to Little Caesars Arena as a visitor, Andre Drummond shook off some early jitters – going 1-of-8 from the floor before half – to post a monster game over his former teammates, finishing with 23 points, a game-high 16 boards, five assists, four steals and three blocked shots. The only other Cavalier in team history to post a stat line that impressive was LeBron James, who did so against Charlotte in 2008.
Saturday night will mark the first time Drummond will take on Embiid as a Cavalier. The ninth-year big man was out for last February’s win and Embiid logged just seven minutes and a single field goal attempt in the game.
Key: Backcourt Battle
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Before taking Isaac Okoro with the 5th overall pick this past November, the Cavaliers used back-to-back lottery picks in 2018 and ’19 to assemble what looks to be one of the most dynamic backcourts in the Conference.
After missing most of the preseason, Collin Sexton has picked up right where he left off last season. On Saturday night, the Young Bull was almost unstoppable, leading both squads with 32 points, going 15-for-23 from the floor, including 2-of-3 from deep, adding three steals and three assists. Over his last seven games, dating back to last year, Sexton is averaging 29.9 points on 59 percent shooting from the floor.
Darius Garland has been just as effective this season. In the opener, he missed his career-high scoring mark by a single point – finishing with 22 points on 7-of-13 shooting, including 4-of-8 from deep, adding six assists. On Saturday night in Motown, the 20-year-old posted a career-high 12 assists to go with 21 points on 9-of-14 shooting, drilling all three triples he attempted.
Two-time All-Star Ben Simmons is off to another solid start this season. One of the best two-way players in the game, Simmons was solid against New York, finishing with 15 points, nine boards and six assists. But this year, he and the Sixers got some shooting help when they inked Seth Curry to a deal this past offseason.
Curry’s tallied double-figures in each of his first two outings with Philly, including a 17-point effort last night in New York – going 6-of-8 from the floor, including 3-of-4 from beyond the arc in the win.