Pros and Cons: Sixers vs. Cavaliers
Instant observations after Sixers-Cavaliers.
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.
With the playoffs near, the Sixers departed for what will be the final road trip of their regular season, beginning with a contest in Cleveland against the young but short-handed Cavaliers. Here’s what’s on my mind tonight:
Pro: Joel Embiid turns in a dominant two-way performance
Embiid is so consistently excellent that I find myself not writing about it that much these days. But tonight, even by his standards, this was an incredible showing.
Embiid wasn’t even his best on offense from the field, missing a few close-range shots that are usually automatic for him. But what he did do was draw foul after foul against Cleveland’s thin front line and cash in at the line. He also knocked down a few threes, including two triples as the shot clock expired, one of them being a James Harden-esque step-back three.
On defense, Embiid showed that he can still control the game at the rim when he wants to. Embiid scales back his defensive intensity for most regular season games as he tries to pace himself through the year.
There are lots of reasons to worry about the Sixers in the playoffs. But when it matters most, expect Embiid to be a world-beater not just as a scorer, but as a defender.
Con: The DeAndre Jordan minutes remain disastrous
As terrific as Embiid was tonight, Jordan was just about as bad. His rim protection was nonexistent, he made mistake after mistake and he failed to do anything of value.
I was an immediate skeptic of the Jordan acquisition back when it happened. Here’s what I wrote back on March 2:
“Jordan, who just asked his way off of the Los Angeles Lakers’ roster, is reportedly going to soon reunite with his former coach Doc Rivers in Philadelphia.
I won’t be too harsh here, because this is a minimum-salary player on the 15th and final roster spot. And Jordan must outshine plenty of competitors for playing time, with Paul Millsap, Willie Cauley-Stein, Paul Reed and Charles Bassey all currently on the roster.
I even feel it could be a bit much to immediately list this development as a negative thing. But for now, that’s where I stand -- over the last few years, Jordan’s impact on winning has deteriorated significantly, leaving him as someone I believe is a net negative when it comes to current on-court value.
In theory, this is an extremely low-risk signing without much downside. But we’ve all seen how coaches can attach themselves to experienced players instead of younger, often more logical options. With that being said, it’s completely reasonable to worry that Rivers may become enamored with Jordan and give him too long of a leash.”
Unfortunately for the Sixers, my instincts seem to have been correct. Jordan has been nothing short of brutal in a Sixers uniform, and it doesn’t appear that there’s any momentum whatsoever for anyone else to get a chance to log those backup center minutes.
Pro: Sixers turn late-game struggles around in win
Since last week’s debacle in Detroit, much has been made about the Sixers’ recent ineptitude at the ends of games.
Tonight, Embiid and the Sixers were able to show signs of progress, ultimately outdueling the Cavaliers down the stretch.
It started with Embiid, who kept the Sixers afloat with basket after basket, tearing Cleveland’s bigs to shreds. Harden came up big down the stretch as well with some key baskets.
These aren’t the playoffs yet, and that’s where the Sixers will ultimately be judged. But facing some adversity and overcoming it, especially after the way the Detroit game went, is a very healthy development for a team that still needs to find its identity.