Instant Observations: 76ers’ Comeback Bid Falls Short in Overtime Loss to Shorthanded Cavaliers

Instant Observations: 76ers’ Comeback Bid Falls Short in Overtime Loss to Shorthanded Cavaliers Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia 76ers (10-4) battled back and forced overtime after being down by as much as 18 points. However, they ultimately fell to the shorthanded Cleveland Cavaliers (8-6) 122-119 on Tuesday night at the Wells Fargo Center.

Joel Embiid finished the loss with 32 points, 13 rebounds, five assists, two steals and five blocks. Tyrese Maxey finished with 30 points, four rebounds and six assists. Tobias Harris added in 23 points on 7-of-13 shooting. The Sixers continued to be without Kelly Oubre Jr. (fractured rib), although he reportedly participated in individual on-court workouts and will be re-evaluated in a week.

The Cavaliers were without Donovan Mitchell (right hamstring strain), Caris LeVert (left knee soreness), Isaac Okoro (left knee injury management), Ty Jerome (right ankle sprain) and Ricky Rubio (not with team).

Darius Garland led Cleveland with 32 points, five rebounds, eight assists and three steals. Jarrett Allen scored 26 points and grabbed 13 rebounds. Max Strus finished with 20 points, five rebounds, six assists, two steals and a block.

The Sixers with the loss finished at 2-2 in East Group A. They most likely will not make it to the next stage of the NBA’s inaugural In-Season Tournament. Next up for the Sixers is a road matchup with the Minnesota Timberwolves (10-3) on Wednesday night. Here are some instant observations from the loss to the Cavaliers:

– It was a tale of two halves for Embiid. His effort, especially on the defensive end, was abysmal in the first half. The Cavaliers got whatever they wanted inside the paint, scoring 44 points in the paint in the first half alone. Embiid particularly struggled defending in the pick-and-roll, looking uncertain in his decision making on whether to step up and defend the driver or stay back to defend the lob. He made the wrong decision nearly every time, allowing Allen to get multiple easy alley-oops.

Embiid, and the Sixers as a whole, flipped a switch midway through the third quarter. He picked up his intensity level, making things much more difficult for the Cavs to score around the rim. His improved interior defense sparked the rest of the team and was crucial to their second-half comeback.

The big fella’s performance on the other end of the floor also had some ups and downs. When he chose to assert himself in the paint, the results were either made baskets or trips to the free-throw line. Allen and Evan Mobley both struggled defending Embiid, although he bailed them out at times by setting up shop too far away from the basket. Embiid also appeared to run out of gas towards the end of the game, relying too much in mid-range jumpers despite that shot not falling for him for much of the night.

– Continuing the topic of poor defense, the Sixers’ perimeter defense did Embiid no favors. Both Maxey and De’Anthony Melton struggled to contain dribble penetration, letting Cleveland’s guards get to the paint against little or no resistance. Maxey, in particular, had a rough night defensively. The Cavs attacked him relentlessly, finding a ton of success hunting him on the perimeter. Maxey has made some strides defensively early on this season, but nights like this serve as a reminder of his limitations on that end of the floor.

Maxey also went through his struggles offensively. He did not have an efficient shooting night, although he continued to look for his own shots. He gradually found more success as the game went on, aggressively attacking the basket and pushing the pace in transition. The biggest positive to take away from his offensive performance was that he remained aggressive despite the inefficiency. The importance of Maxey being aggressive cannot be overstated. He is by far the team’s best perimeter scoring option, and this team needs his play to reflect that on a nightly basis.

– Harris came up big in multiple key moments for the Sixers. He drilled a 3-pointer to tie the game at 101 with 2:49 remaining in the fourth quarter.

Then with the game in overtime, he knocked down another massive 3-pointer, this time to give the Sixers a one-point lead with under a minute remaining. Harris was one of the Sixers’ most efficient scorers in this game, and it would have been good to see him assert himself more, especially in the later stages of the game. On a night where Embiid ran out of gas and Maxey was not shooting well, Harris should have had a more prominent role in the offense.

Nic Batum had some good moments early in the game that showcased his fit with the rest of the starting lineup. There was a stretch of plays in the first quarter that exemplified Batum’s impact on the Sixers. First, Embiid found him off a good cut to the basket, resulting in a layup. On the following possession Batum relocated to the corner, pump faked to let the defender fly by and knocked down a 3-pointer. A few plays later, he made a crisp pass resulting in an Embiid layup.

However, not much else went well for Batum in this game. Usually a solid defender, he committed some sloppy fouls on the perimeter. He spent much of the game on the bench due to being in foul trouble. The French native finished the game with five points, four rebounds and two assists.

Pat Beverley brought some much needed intensity to the Sixers in the second half. He played tough, physical defense against Cleveland’s perimeter players, especially in the fourth quarter. His biggest moment came in the guts of the game, starting a key sequence by forcing a turnover and grabbing an offensive rebound on the other end of the floor. Later that possession, he drilled a floater to give the Sixers a two-point lead with 16 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.

Beverley did go on to commit a foul on Garland, allowing the Cavs to tie the game. However, Beverley overall made a positive impact on the game.

– It is beating a dead horse at this point, but the Sixers desperately need to add another ball handler to the roster. The minutes with Maxey off the floor are brutal largely due to a lack of perimeter creation. Embiid shouldering most of the playmaking burden in these lineups is not a successful strategy. Adding another ball handler to the run the floor when Maxey checks out of the game is a must. That move will hopefully happen sooner rather than later.

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