Joel Embiid's game-winning slam helps Sixers beat Cavaliers and overcome a woeful shooting night



The Sixers overcame a woeful shooting night Tuesday to beat the Cleveland Cavaliers in thrilling fashion, 98-97.

Joel Embiid's dunk with 13.2 seconds to go off Tobias Harris' feed gave them the lead, and Kevin Love missed an open three on Cleveland's final possession. Embiid had 27 points and 16 rebounds on the night.

The Sixers shot 8 for 38 from three-point range, including an 0 for 11 performance from Harris. 

Ben Simmons returned from a right shoulder sprain Tuesday and had 15 points on 7 for 9 shooting, six assists and five rebounds. Josh Richardson had 17 points and five assists. 

Shake Milton was also available for the Sixers after missing the last six games with a left knee injury, but he did not play Tuesday. Trey Burke was sidelined by left calf tightness. 

The 7-3 Sixers play the Orlando Magic and Markelle Fultz on Wednesday night (7 p.m./NBCSP).

Here are observations from the win: 

Simmons’ return 

Simmons’ first field goal attempt of the night was, in uncharacteristic fashion, a turnaround jumper.

His return wasn’t short on highlight dunks. 

While Raul Neto and Burke like to push the ball, Simmons is uniquely dangerous in transition, especially with his ability to grab a rebound and start a solo fast break. 

In the half court, the Sixers deployed Simmons a good amount off the ball, which we might see more of if his approach to taking jump shots does not change and opponents continue to play well off him. He didn’t do much offensively for the Sixers in the second half. 

“There was definitely some pushback” 

Al Horford had a planned rest day for the Sixers, which he said was a first for him in his NBA career. He admitted he wasn’t thrilled about it.

“There was definitely some pushback, but at the end of the day, I trust the people, our medical staff,” he said. “They’re really looking out for me and for all of us. … I’ll be cheerleading tonight, and then get ready for tomorrow.”

Brett Brown said the Sixers discussed a plan with Horford two months ago to optimize his health this season.

“He’s not 24,” Brown said of the 13-year veteran. 

Along with his age, the fact that Horford was bothered by a knee injury throughout last season is another reason why managing his load seems sensible. It’s just the normal way teams across the NBA operate these days. 

“Five, 10 years ago, I don’t think we’d be talking about these things,” Horford said. 

Furkan Korkmaz took Horford’s place in the starting lineup and scored 10 points on 4 for 9 shooting, including a stretch in the third quarter in which he scored eight straight Sixers points.

Harris’ shooting woes  

Before the game, Brown was adamant about his desire for Harris to be more aggressive.

“I want him to score,” he said, noting Harris is a “selfless, team-oriented guy,” but that the Sixers need him to attack offensively.

Harris had some open shots early, and he didn’t pass them up … they just didn’t go in. He shot 0 for 5 from the field in his first stint, with all of his misses from behind the three-point line. For his next field goal attempt, Harris decided to get much closer to the rim, throwing in a second-quarter dunk. In general, Harris seemed to become a bit reluctant to fire, passing up good looks or driving into traffic instead. He did attempt six more threes, though, and missed all of them, too. 

A career 36.4 percent three-point shooter entering this season, Harris is now 21.7 percent from long range on the year.

This is a player who shot over 40 percent from three in 2017-18 on 5.6 attempts per game, and who was again converting at over a 40 percent rate with the Clippers last season before being traded to the Sixers in February. It’s still early, but Harris is trending in the wrong direction. 

Embiid the lone bright spot from long range 

Sixers besides Embiid combined to shoot 5 for 33 from three-point range vs. Cleveland.

Embiid went 3 for 5. It’s not typically a good sign when your 7-foot center is your most effective three-point shooter. 

Thybulle is back in the mix 

Matisse Thybulle saw his first action of consequence since the Sixers' game in Utah, and he made an immediate impact defensively. The rookie picked up a “rearview” block and a steal within his first two minutes on the floor. 

He also hit a long range jumper from the left corner early in the second quarter, his first made three since Nov. 2 vs. the Trail Blazers.

Though he was beaten by Cleveland’s young guards a couple of times, it was a positive return to the rotation overall for Thybulle, who had three blocks and two steals in 13 minutes.

Message received? 

After Sunday’s win over the Hornets, Brown had called out the Sixers’ problems with turnovers in strong terms. His team was averaging an NBA-worst 18.8 turnovers through nine games. 

“Until we can fix this, this is a house built on sand,” he’d said.

His team was much firmer in its decision making Tuesday in the first half, when they only turned it over four times. They gave it away 10 times in the second half, though, including several costly ones in the fourth quarter. It’s not a problem that is going to go away overnight. 

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