After a brief home stay that included wins over Portland and Washington, the 76ers (45-22) hit the road again for seven of their next eight games, beginning with a visit to the Cleveland Cavaliers (44-27) on Wednesday night. The Sixers are currently 19-12 away from home, holding the fewest road losses in the NBA.
In the midst of a league-best five-game winning streak, the Sixers are even in the loss column with the Boston Celtics and only one game back of them for second place in the Eastern Conference. The Cavaliers slot in as the No. 4 seed.
The Cavs will be playing the second end of a back-to-back after winning Tuesday in Charlotte, 120-104. In the absence of Donovan Mitchell (left hand injury management) and Jarrett Allen (right eye contusion), Cleveland had three 20-point scorers in the victory, led by Evan Mobley with 26 points (10-15 fg, 6-6 ft). Cedi Osman poured in 24 points – including six 3-pointers – off the bench. Caris LeVert entered the starting lineup to post 22 points (8-13 fg, 4-5 3fg, 2-3 ft), seven assists, and a game-high four steals.
The Sixers’ Jalen McDaniels (right hip contusion) is questionable on the injury report.
Wednesday is the third and final game of the season series between the two teams, thus representing the tiebreaker. The home team won each of the previous meetings: Nov. 30 in Cleveland (113-85) and Feb. 15 in South Philadelphia (118-112).
The last game in the series sent both teams to the All-Star break exactly one month ago to the day. The Sixers got out to a scorching hot start and led 63-38 at halftime, before Cleveland battled back. Joel Embiid surpassed Allen Iverson that night as the fastest player in 76ers history to reach 10,000 career points, with his fifth point of 29. James Harden notched a double-double with 19 points and 12 assists (eight points, eight assists in first quarter), while P.J. Tucker shot 4-for-5 (2-2 3fg) on a 10-point night.
The Sixers defeated the Washington Wizards, 112-93, in their most recent outing on Sunday evening. It was the 13th time this season that they held an opponent under 100 points (12-1). With 34 points, Embiid extended his streak of scoring 30-plus on 50-percent shooting to six consecutive games, the longest active streak in the league. He received NBA Player of the Week honors for the third time this season on Monday.
James Harden notched his 31st point-assist double-double of the campaign against Washington, tying Hall of Famers Wilt Chamberlain and Maurice Cheeks for a 76ers record.
Cleveland surrenders the fewest points per game to opponents this season.
“They’re a long basketball team,” 76ers Head Coach Doc Rivers said. “Great size. They also have some great individual defenders as well. That's what makes them really good.”
“Just get back, try to take away the paint early,” added Rivers about the other end of the court. “That's what we did in our game [in Philadelphia]. Late-clock denies. But really, they've got to play in a crowd."
With strong play of late, especially away from home in a month of March filled with road games, these Sixers are as focused as ever.
“I think we've really come together because we truly believe in each other and realize that we have an opportunity to be something great,” said Georges Niang. “Doc sat us down after that Miami game and was like 'You may have another chance at this, but for most of you, you may not. You don't want to sit back when your career is over and be like damn, I wish I took that more seriously.' I think that definitely hit guys in the head, or in the heart, or maybe in both. Let's really pour into each other and make the most of this so that we can win a championship.”
“We just feel like we're getting better and playing,” Rivers said. “If winning is part of that, we're all for it... we're just working. That's how we feel. Everybody is in a great place. And we're just working on being a better team and being ready for when it starts. We also are attacking this month. We knew this was going to be a hard month, and instead of whining about it, we're attacking it.”
Wednesday’s game in Cleveland is a 7:30 p.m. ET start.
Sunday’s Top Performances:
Quotes to Note:
Georges Niang on James Harden…
“I just think the way he thinks the game is so unique. James doesn't get enough credit for evolving his game... He's bought in to being completely unselfish and getting everybody else shots and in their spots. Then you see in the Milwaukee game, he's capable of putting us on his back and scoring a ton of points to help us win. It's been remarkable to see that someone of that caliber can be humble... I just think it's a credit to him and how bad he wants to win. To know what the team needs is more important than personal goals, and you rarely find that in this day and age in the sport.”
Shake Milton on team chemistry…
"I feel like everybody has the same goal in mind. I've just seen a lot of guys really get outside of themselves and really sacrifice. And do whatever the team needs to win, because ultimately that's what everybody wants... You can tell by the way everybody comes into work, the chemistry that we have, the camaraderie. We're going to continue to focus in and hone in on each of these last 15 games and get ready for what really counts."
Follow Along Wednesday (7:30 p.m. ET):
Watch: NBC Sports Philadelphia, ESPN
Listen: 97.5 The Fanatic