Pros and Cons: Sixers vs. Cavaliers
The good and bad from Sixers-Cavs.
Adam Aaronson, whose legal name is Sixers Adam (@SixersAdam on Twitter), covers the Sixers for The Rights To Ricky Sanchez. He believes cantaloupe is the best food in existence, and is brought to you by the Official Realtor of The Process, Adam Ksebe.
As Joel Embiid celebrated his 28th birthday, tonight the Sixers traveled to Cleveland for another matchup against the rising Cavaliers. Here’s what’s on my mind tonight:
Pro: Tobias Harris making the right adjustments
After Harris’ standout showing in Orlando on Sunday, I wrote this about the way he played:
“As I’ve written about plenty of times, playing alongside James Harden and Joel Embiid requires quick processing speed and rapid decision-making. Unfortunately for Harris, neither of those are strengths of his.
Harris is a meticulous thinker who enjoys surveying the floor before making a calculated decision. But as we’ve seen, that kind of player is not compatible with Harden and Embiid.
That’s why tonight’s performance from Harris was so encouraging — Harris had arguably his best game since the Harden trade, and he did so because he adjusted the way he plays, being much more decisive and assertive, giving the Sixers’ struggling offense a big boost to the tune of 26 efficiently-produced points — including a huge corner three in overtime.
Harris has a long way to go before becoming the player the new-look Sixers need him to be, but tonight was a step in the right direction.”
The good news? You can count tonight’s game as another foot forward. Harris had a great mindset again, marking the third or fourth straight game in which he has notched his processing speed up a few levels.
What encouraged me most is that this was not just him quickly shooting threes. As a spot-up shooter, as a driver and as a passer, he was able to get things going as soon as the ball touched his hands.
And while we’re here — I thought Harris had one of his better defensive performances of the season so far. He did a good job both guarding up against bigs and down against guards on switches.
Harris becoming an improved version of himself to fit around Embiid and Harden is paramount to the Sixers’ title hopes. Tonight, we saw more reason for optimism.
Pro: Birthday boy steals the show
Embiid was listed on today’s injury report with back soreness, which was not surprising considering the hard fall he took late in the Denver game on Monday night. He was a game-time decision, and ultimately had the green light.
Let me tell you, if you didn’t know Embiid was nursing an injury of some sort, you wouldn’t have been able to tell when watching him play.
Embiid was absolutely ridiculous tonight, posting 35 points on 13-19 shooting to go with 17 rebounds and five assists. From the Sixers’ very first possession and on, he was dominant, getting and doing whatever he wanted against a Cavaliers frontcourt missing All-Star Jarrett Allen.
As Embiid looks to capture the NBA MVP Award, games like these will help his cause -- Embiid continues to put in more than his fair share of work in hopes of taking this team to the next level. And regardless of their record, it feels like this team has a real chance, simply because they have someone of Embiid’s caliber.
Pro: Sixers execute down the stretch in close win
After putting in a first half showing that was flawless offensively, the Sixers were boat-raced in the third quarter, only scoring 13 points in the entire period. This put them in a hole entering the fourth, as their once-large lead was turned into a small deficit.
In what our old friend Marc Zumoff would call “the guts of the game,” pretty much every Sixer on the floor helped bring home the win -- Georges Niang hit a timely three and had a big steal, Tyrese Maxey hit a huge three with under two minutes remaining and hit the dagger free throws, Harden scored some big buckets, Harris kept the Sixers afloat early in the quarter, and Embiid… well, you know what Embiid did.
This was a very impressive win for the Sixers, and I say that mostly because it was genuinely a collaborative effort. Embiid led the way, to be sure, but Harden, Maxey and Harris all played a part in this close win — and a true team win is the most encouraging win you can get.