Sixers again have on-paper advantage vs. team that's had their number

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The 32-15 Sixers no longer lead the Eastern Conference after the Nets’ win Wednesday night over the Rockets.

Here are the essentials for the final game of their road trip against the 17-30 Cavaliers: 

  • When: 7 p.m. ET with Sixers Pregame Live at 6:15 p.m.
  • Where: Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse
  • Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia  
  • Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the MyTeams app 

And here are three storylines to watch: 

Sixers again have on-paper advantage 

Joel Embiid (left knee bone bruise) and George Hill (recovery from right thumb surgery) are still out. Embiid is expected to return this weekend, and Hill will join the team in Philadelphia.

Despite those absences, the Sixers should have an edge over a Cavs team missing Jarrett Allen (concussion) and Larry Nance Jr. (illness). Dylan Windler (left knee soreness) is doubtful. 

Kevin Love and Matthew Dellavedova are both available after being listed as questionable. Cavs head coach J.B. Bickerstaff said the team will monitor both players' minutes. It will be the season debut for Dellavedova, who was sidelined by a concussion and appendectomy. 

The Cavs have lost three consecutive games, including a 39-point defeat Monday to the Jazz. 

Cavs’ offense not a juggernaut 

Since scoring 112 points on the Sixers in their Feb. 27 overtime win at Wells Fargo Center, the Cavs have averaged 98.8 per game.

They’re last in the NBA in offensive rating and points per 100 half-court plays (86.5), according to Cleaning the Glass. As is usually the case when we consider keys for the Sixers, the team should be in good shape as long it avoids excessive turnovers and plays passable transition defense. 

The Sixers will be focused on defending the Darius Garland-Collin Sexton backcourt. That duo combined for 53 points back in February on 51 field-goal attempts. 

Need one more win without Embiid 

As noted above, it appears this will be the final game before Joel Embiid’s return. The result likely will have a substantial impact on how the Sixers feel about their performance without their All-Star center.

That’s fair enough, given the state of the Cavs and that the Sixers should be motivated as they seek a first win this season over Cleveland. A victory would give the Sixers a 4-2 road trip and 7-3 record after Embiid’s knee injury. That sounds a lot better than 3-3 and 6-4, respectively, with three straight losses. 

“ … I’m not going to let our guys use (missing Embiid) as an excuse,” head coach Doc Rivers said Tuesday. “We have a chance to go plus-.500 on a road trip without Joel. That’s what we should be focused on, not that we’ve lost two without Joel. We’re focused on that we’ve won three on this road trip, and we have one more to win and we can have a positive road trip. I think that’s where our focus will be.

“The problem is Cleveland has beaten us twice and they’re going to have a ton of confidence going into the game. No matter what they’re doing, all they know is every time they’ve seen the Sixers, they’ve won. We’re going to have to come up with a better game plan against them and we’re going to have to play better against them.”

 

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