Boxer David Benavidez throws first pitch at Diamondbacks game

Unbeaten two-time champion and Phoenix-native David “El Bandera Roja” Benavídez threw out the first pitch at the Arizona Diamondbacks game on Sunday as he prepares to fight in his home state for the second straight time this upcoming Saturday night. Also prior to the game, Benavídez took part in a boxing glove and jersey exchange with Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo.

“I’m very thankful to the Diamondbacks organization for inviting me to throw out the first pitch at Sunday’s game,” said Benavídez. “Receiving a jersey from them is truly a dream come true. I love representing Arizona and I can’t wait to do it in the ring once again on Saturday night. Don’t miss this one, because I’m planning on bringing the heat.”

Photo: Chas Wright/Team Benavídez

Benavídez will take on former world champion David Lemieux for the vacant Interim WBC Super Middleweight Title live on SHOWTIME on Saturday, May 21 from Gila River Arena in Glendale, Arizona headlining a Premier Boxing Champions event.

Commanders begin season at home versus Jaguars

The Washington Commanders will open the 2022 NFL season at home against the Jacksonville Jaguars, the league announced Thursday.

Below is the complete the schedule for Commanders in 2022:

Week

Date

Opponent

Time

TV

Preseason

1

TBD

Carolina Panthers

TBD

TBD

2

TBD

at Kansas City Chiefs

TBD

TBD

3

TBD

at Baltimore Ravens

TBD

TBD

Regular Season

1

September 11, 2022

Jacksonville Jaguars

1:00 p.m. ET

FOX

2

September 18, 2022

at Detroit Lions

1:00 p.m. ET

FOX

3

September 25, 2022

Philadelphia Eagles

1:00 p.m. ET

FOX

4

October 2, 2022

at Dallas Cowboys

1:00 p.m. ET

FOX

5

October 9, 2022

Tennessee Titans

1:00 p.m. ET

CBS

6

October 13, 2022 (Thursday)

at Chicago Bears

8:15 p.m. ET

Prime Video

7

October 23, 2022

Green Bay Packers

1:00 p.m. ET

FOX

8

October 30, 2022

at Indianapolis Colts

4:25 p.m. ET

FOX

9

November 6, 2022

Minnesota Vikings

1:00 p.m. ET

FOX

10

November 14, 2022 (Monday)

at Philadelphia Eagles

8:15 p.m. ET

ESPN

11

November 20, 2022

at Houston Texans

1:00 p.m. ET

FOX

12

November 27, 2022

Atlanta Falcons

1:00 p.m. ET

FOX

13

December 4, 2022

at New York Giants

1:00 p.m. ET

FOX

14

Bye Week

15

December 17/18, 2022

New York Giants

TBD

TBD

16

December 24, 2022 (Saturday)

at San Francisco 49ers

4:05 p.m. ET

CBS

17

January 1, 2023

Cleveland Browns

1:00 p.m. ET

FOX

18

January 7/8, 2023

Dallas Cowboys

TBD

TBD

General Schedule Notes

  • The Commanders will take on the AFC South and NFC North divisions this season along with facing their NFC East foes. They will also face the third place finishers in the NFC South, NFC West and AFC North.

  • Washington will play in two Primetime games this season in Week’s 6 at Chicago and 10 at Philadelphia.

  • All nine of Washington’s home games will kickoff at 1:00 p.m. ET for the first time in franchise history.

  • The Commanders will finish the season against a divisional opponent for the 13th straight season dating back to 2010.

  • It is the first time in franchise history Washington will play nine home games.

Eagles unveil 2022 schedule; Wentz comes to Philly in Week 10

The Philadelphia Eagles will begin the season in Detroit against the Lions, the league announced on Thursday night. Two of Philadelphia’s first three games will be on the road as they travel to Washington to battle Carson Wentz and the Commanders in Week 3.

In Week 4, Philadelphia will host Doug Pederson and the Jacksonville Jaguars. Back to Wentz, he and the Commanders will come to Philadelphia for the first time since the trade on Monday Night Football in Week 10. 

2022 Philadelphia Eagles Schedule

Preseason
Friday, August 12 New York Jets 7:30 p.m. NBC10
Sunday, August 21 at Cleveland Browns 1:00 p.m. NBC10
Saturday, August 27 at Miami Dolphins 7:00 p.m. NBC10

Regular Season

Sunday, September 11 at Detroit Lions 1:00 p.m. FO

Monday, September 19 Minnesota Vikings 8:30 p.m. ABC^

Sunday, September 25 at Washington Commanders 1:00 p.m. FOX

Sunday, October 2 Jacksonville Jaguars 1:00 p.m. CBS

Sunday, October 9 at Arizona Cardinals 4:25 p.m.+ FOX

Sunday, October 16 Dallas Cowboys 8:20 p.m.+ NBC^

Sunday, October 23 BYE

Sunday, October 30 Pittsburgh Steelers 1:00 p.m.+ CBS

Thursday, November 3 at Houston Texans 8:15 p.m. Prime Video^

Monday, November 14 Washington Commanders 8:15 p.m. ESPN^

Sunday, November 20 at Indianapolis Colts 1:00 p.m.+ CBS

Sunday, November 27 Green Bay Packers 8:20 p.m.+ NBC^

Sunday, December 4 Tennessee Titans 1:00 p.m.+ FOX

Sunday, December 11 at New York Giants 1:00 p.m.+ FOX

Sunday, December 18 at Chicago Bears 1:00 p.m.+ FOX

Saturday, December 24 at Dallas Cowboys 4:25 p.m. FOX

Sunday, January 1 New Orleans Saints 1:00 p.m.+ FOX

Sat., Jan. 7 / Sun., Jan. 8* New York Giants TBD TBD

 Below are other scheduling notes for the Eagles:

 Philadelphia will open the 2022 campaign against Detroit on the road at Ford Field, marking the club’s first ever game against the Lions on kickoff weekend. Additionally, the Eagles will begin the season with an away game for a third consecutive year, which is the team’s longest such streak since 2011-13.

Philadelphia’s five scheduled primetime contests are its most in a season since 2018. Dating back to 2000, the Eagles have appeared in the second-most primetime games (94) in the NFL, behind Dallas (100).

A national audience will once again be treated to an Eagles-Cowboys matchup in Week 6 on Sunday Night Football. With the exception of a nationally televised 2014 Thanksgiving afternoon contest, the division rivals have squared off in primetime every season dating back to the 2007 campaign.

Philadelphia will not play consecutive road games through the first 13 weeks of the season. Furthermore, the Eagles will close the year with back-to-back home outings for the first time since 2017.

Philadelphia’s Week 7 bye marks the Eagles’ earliest break since 2016 (Week 4).

Fulton on fight with Roman; ‘The winner of this fight needs to go for undisputed’

Unified WBC and WBO Super Bantamweight World Champion Stephen Fulton Jr. promised victory and former unified champion Danny Roman predicted a Fight of the Year during a virtual press conference on Tuesday to preview their much-anticipated title showdown before headlining action live on SHOWTIME on Saturday, June 4 in a Premier Boxing Champions event from The Armory in Minneapolis.

The virtual press conference also featured WBA Super Middleweight Champion and Minneapolis fan-favorite David Morrell Jr. and Kalvin Henderson discussing their duel which serves as the co-main event of the SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING telecast beginning at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT.

After unifying titles in a 2021 Fight of the Year against Brandon Figueroa on SHOWTIME last November, Philadelphia’s Fulton returns to action against the exciting Los Angeles-native Roman, who seeks to become a unified champion at 122-pounds for the second time in a matchup built to deliver fireworks.

Here is what Fulton had to say Tuesday:

STEPHEN FULTON JR.

Photo: Esther Lin/SHOWTIME

“Everything has been great. Camp has been amazing and challenging for me training through Ramadan. Training with little energy during Ramadan actually helped me as far as making weight. Right now, I’m just looking forward to June 4.

“I’ve fought during Ramadan four years in a row and got knockouts. I already know how to prepare for a fight this way. My mental is just different when I’m fasting and on my spiritual journey. Those are the things that push me to the next level mentally. The fight game is more mental than physical anyway.

“Roman was doing a lot of tweeting at me saying that I was ducking, and I just didn’t say anything back and made the fight happen. I just want them to keep that same energy. I was presented with other fighters to face, and I chose Danny Roman. He deserved the opportunity, so I gave it to him.

“He’s a great fighter and you can’t take that away from him. I don’t understand how he didn’t get his rematch for his original belts, but I decided to give him the shot at mine.

“I expect Roman to be different against me than in any other fight. He’s looking to get back on top. I have to be smart and able to adapt. That’s what I do best.

“I don’t care what anyone on the outside thinks. I know what I am. I’m the unified champ. I only have to prove it to myself. I think since my last fight, I’ve changed my mentality. I’m not worried about anyone else, I’m taking these fights for me.

“The winner of this fight needs to go for undisputed. It’s the other side that wants to keep waiting. Those are the only fights that interest me. It’s all champions against other champions and top contenders for me. Once we take care of this fight, hopefully we go for undisputed next.

“Fans are going to see a victory. I guarantee a victory. I can’t say how it’s going to happen. Because my mood and mind changes every day. As of right now, just expect to see a smart boxer.

“I showed against Brandon Figueroa that I can do whatever it takes to get the job done. I boxed early in my career and I’ve fought toe-to-toe in recent bouts. I know what I’m capable of and I’m going to show you.

“Being in two dog fights back-to-back has only pushed me to an even higher level of confidence. I can do what I want in that ring at any time. Whenever I want to.”

Spence on battle with Ugas: ‘I’m going for the knockout’

Errol “The Truth” Spence Jr. said he was focused on scoring a knockout against Yordenis Ugas during a public media workout on Wednesday as Spence vs. Ugas fight week events officially kicked off with an outdoor session for fighters competing this Saturday, April 16 live on SHOWTIME PPV from AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

The event is headlined by WBC and IBF World Champion Spence Jr. taking on WBA World Champion Ugas squaring off in a welterweight title unification clash.

“Besides the Kell Brook fight, this is definitely the meanest I’ve been going into a fight,” Spence said on Wednesday. “I’m just ready to go.”

Ugas, who worked out before Spence, said that his reach, height and his “will and my heart” are going to be the keys to pulling off an upset.

Also entering the ring for the media workout were fighters competing on the SHOWTIME PPV undercard featuring exciting lightweight contender Isaac Cruz battling former champion Yuriorkis Gamboa in the co-main event, rising unbeaten José Valenzuela taking on former champion Francisco Vargas in a lightweight bout and all-action welterweights Cody Crowley and Josesito López dueling in the telecast opener at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT.

Fighters entering the ring for SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING® action prior to the pay-per-view also previewed their respective showdowns during an undercard press conference on Wednesday. Fights live on SHOWTIME and streaming on the SHOWTIME SPORTS® YouTube Channel begin at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT and feature WBA Welterweight Champion Radzhab Butaev facing unbeaten top contender Eimantas Stanionis in the main event, and unbeaten rising star Brandun Lee taking on Zachary Ochoa in a super lightweight bout.

 Here is what Spence and Ugas had to say Wednesday from Texas Live! in Arlington:

ERROL SPENCE JR.

Ryan Hafey/Premier Boxing Champions

“It means everything to get a response like this in Dallas. It’s getting me pumped up. I’m ready to go. I’m ready to fight. I’m ready to put on a great performance in front of my hometown crowd.

“It’s eat or get ate. That’s all it is on Saturday night. Eat or get ate.

“Of course I’m going to win. But I’m going for the knockout.

“There’s nothing to elaborate on when I said I’m going for the knockout. It’s what I said. So if I get it, I get it. If I don’t, I don’t. I know one hundred percent I’m getting the victory, but I definitely want to knock him out.

“It’s a blessing and a dream come true to get the support of your hometown. People are coming out here to support me with their hard-earned money during a difficult time. It’s a school night and people came out to support me and I really appreciate it.

“I’m one hundred percent ready. I’ve been training hard. I know the task at hand. Training camp has been going great. I know what I’m capable of. You can expect and you’re going to see fireworks. It’s going to be a great show and a great performance.

“This is going to be a great event. I’m excited to be fighting at home in front of family and longtime friends. I think people are going to come out and support and it’s going to be a great night of boxing.

“I’m going to fight Ugas like I’ve been fighting everybody else. He’s a very good fighter. He trains hard. He comes from a Cuban background and he’s very dedicated. But I feel like I’m one hundred percent dedicated and in prior fights, I haven’t been as focused as I am right now.”

YORDENIS UGAS

Ryan Hafey/Premier Boxing Champions

“I’m excited and ready to fight in front of a great fan base on Saturday night here in Dallas. Spence is a respectful fighter and we have nothing against each other outside of the ring, I’m just ready for action.

“I’m a competitor, I’m a warrior and I came to fight 12 rounds strong. That’s the most important thing of all. That alone should make Spence uneasy.

“I know I’m the underdog. I came here to win. I will fight whenever, wherever, in anybody’s backyard.

“Spence can say whatever he wants. I’ll fight the way I always do, exchanging blows and coming forward.

“I’ve always been an underdog – six years ago and now, I’m used to it. Spence is the rightful favorite as a unified champion in his home city, but I came here to pull off the upset.

“I want all of Cuba to know that I fight for them with all my heart and soul, and I will do just that on Saturday night.”

NBA announces schedule for Play-In Tournament

On Thursday, the NBA announced the schedule for the Play-In Tournament, which starts next Tuesday.

The NBA regular season ends on Sunday. 

In each conference, the teams with the seventh-highest and eighth-highest winning percentages will have two opportunities to win one game to earn a playoff spot. 

The teams with the ninth-highest and tenth-highest winning percentages in each conference will each have to win two consecutive games to make the playoffs.

Here is the schedule below:

April 12: East 8th-@East 7th/TNT

April 12: L.A. Clippers-@West 7th/TNT

April 13: East 10th-@East 9th/ESPN

April 13: PelIcans-Spurs/ESPN(home TBD)

April 15: Winner of Game 3-@Loser Game 1/ESPN

April 15: Winner Game 4-@Loser Game 2/TNT

 

Lubin on fight with Fundora: ‘On April 9, I will not be denied’

Top super welterweight contender Erickson “Hammer” Lubin will look to “rewrite history” and move one step closer to becoming a world champion when he faces undefeated Sebastian “The Towering Inferno” Fundora in their eagerly-anticipated showdown for the WBC Super Welterweight Interim Title on Saturday, April 9 live on SHOWTIME in a Premier Boxing Champions event from the Theater at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas, part of Curio Collection by Hilton.

Lubin shared insights into his training camp and previewed his upcoming matchup with Fundora, which represents another chance for the Floridian to move towards a second title opportunity after a 2017 defeat to Jermell Charlo.

Since that loss, Lubin (24-1, 17 KOs) has put together an impressive six-bout winning streak, most recently knocking out former unified 154-pound champion Jeison Rosario in June. Now, Lubin will face literally his tallest test in Fundora, a rising contender who stands at six-foot-six while possessing strong boxing skills and a willingness to mix it up on the inside.

Here is what Lubin had to say about training camp, Fundora and more:

On his camp in Las Vegas:

“This is the next step in my career to secure my shot at the title, so I took my training to the next level. I moved my whole camp to Las Vegas, to avoid all distractions. This is a career-defining moment for me, and a chance for me to rewrite history after my first world title fight. I want to be a world champion and to do that, I must sacrifice some of my comforts. My trainer Kevin Cunningham has also made some major additions to my training regimen and the hard work will be on display when I step in the ring.”

On his matchup with Fundora:   

“I think he’s a very tough challenge for anybody in the division. He comes to fight and is always in tremendous shape. Fundora is tall and rangy but likes to fight in close quarters, which should make for a fan friendly and exciting fight. I’m in the best shape of my life and I know he’s going to be at his best for this fight. On April 9, I will not be denied.”

On fighting for the WBC Super Welterweight Interim Title:

“I have worked hard, taken on tough opponents, and climbed back to where I once was, and the WBC noticed what I did. By doing that, I am now able to take the next step to fulfill my dream when I started – which is becoming a world champion. Nothing in boxing is given to any fighter, and to become a world champion I must face one of the best emerging fighters in boxing. I’m ready!”

On fighting In Las Vegas on SHOWTIME:

“Fighting on a premier network like SHOWTIME, in the fight capital of the world, is a dream come true. I grew up watching fights on SHOWTIME on Saturday night and now a new generation of young fighters will see me in that position. If ever I need motivation, thinking about this situation gives me all the motivation I need. I won’t say I made it, but it truly shows me that with hard work, anything is possible.”

Photos: Team Lubin/MJS Entertainment

Cavs’ Bickerstaff on loss to Pistons: ‘I didn’t think we had enough players who were locked into doing what we needed to do to win’

Fresh off the All-Star break, the Cleveland Cavaliers came into Detroit to battle the Pistons, missing some serious firepower. Darius Garland(back) and Caris LeVert(foot) were out. LeVert is expected to miss 1-2 weeks, and Garland will undergo treatment and rehabilitation over the next couple of days and his return to basketball activities will be updated as appropriate, according to the team.

Without Garland and LeVert, others had to step up, which unfortunately did not happen. After four Cade Cunningham free throws gave the Pistons a 106-103 lead, Cleveland had three chances to tie the game, but Lauri Markkanen, Brandon Goodwin, and Evan Mobley all missed threes on the final possession, and the Pistons would hold on to defeat the Cavs 106-103 at Little Caesars Arena Thursday night.

The Cavs(35-24) have lost three straight, while the Pistons(14-45) have won two in a row.

Here’s the Great, Not So Great, and the Bottom Line of the Cavs’ loss to the Pistons.

The Great for the Cavs:

Lauri Markkanen returned after missing 11 games with an ankle injury and was solid. While he did not shoot it well(6-16 FG), he scored 11 of his 22 points in the fourth and gave Cleveland the lead late with a free throw. He also had six rebounds.

-Brandon Goodwin gave the Cavs a lift off the bench. He had 15 points, four rebounds, and five assists. In the last five games, Goodwin had a combined 19 points. Without Garland, the Cavs needed Goodwin to shine, and he did just that.

-Fight in the fourth: The Cavs got down by as many as 11 points in the fourth but went on a 17-5 run to take a 103-102 lead. During that run, Markkanen scored eight of the 17 points. 

First Quarter: Cleveland got the start they wanted against the Pistons. The Cavs shot 53% from the floor, including 56% from three-point range. Cedi Osman led the way with nine points in the first, and Cleveland had a 33-27 lead after one. 

The Not So Great for the Cavs:

Free throw line:  The Cavs had issues at the line Thursday night. They missed 11 free throws(23/34), and when you’re down two quality players in Garland and LeVert, you need to make your free throws.

Kevin Love/Cedi Osman: Cleveland needed Love to be what he’s been all season long, and unfortunately, that was not the case Thursday night. Love was 1/5 from the floor and finished with four points and five rebounds off the bench. In addition, Osman was scoreless in the final three quarters after scoring nine points in the first. Combined, Osman and Love were 3/12 from the field.

Fourth Quarter:  The Cavs took an 82-80 lead into the fourth, but Cleveland went cold. They were 7/20(35%) from the floor, including 3/10 from deep. Detroit led by as many as 11 in the quarter, which was their largest lead of the game. Cleveland took a 103-102 lead with just over a minute to go. However, the Pistons closed out the game on a 4-0 run. 

Bottom Line:

Cleveland had struggled before the break, and they struggled Thursday night. The Cavs usually handle their business against bad teams, and coming into this game; they were 19-9 against sub .500 teams. 

However, this is Cleveland’s second straight loss to the Pistons. 

While the loss is understandable, it’s not acceptable, especially with the Cavs in the middle of a tight playoff race.

As for the Eastern Conference standings, the fifth-seeded Cavs are now tied with the fourth-seeded Bucks(35-24). They are one game ahead of the sixth-seeded Celtics(35-26) and two games ahead of the seventh-seed, the Toronto Raptors(32-25).

We all know this team is young, and we know they don’t have their best scorers, but the goals and objectives of this season have now changed, and at this point, every game matters.

We know LeVert could be out 1-2 weeks, but Garland seems as if he will be in and out of the lineup the rest of the way. According to Bickerstaff, the All-Star Game did not impact Garland’s availability, but in hindsight, maybe they could have reduced his minutes. Garland played 24 minutes in that contest. However, he did earn that opportunity, so it’s understandable.

“I didn’t think we had enough players who were locked into doing what we needed to do to win the game,” Cavs head coach J.B. Bickerstaff said postgame. “What’s disappointing is that I felt like that’s how we went into the break and now how we are coming out of it.”

What’s Next:

Cleveland will return home Saturday night to play the Wizards as they begin a three-game homestand at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.

Best of the Rest:

-Detroit had six players in double figures led by Hamidou Diallo 21 points; Cade Cunningham added 17 points, six rebounds, and six assists. Jerami Grant and Marvin Bagley III chipped in with 16 points apiece.

-Cleveland also had six players in double figures, including all five starters. Evan Mobley and Rajon Rondo had 12 points apiece. Rondo added nine assists and Mobley chipped in with eight rebounds and three blocks. 

Listen below as Markkanen reacts to the loss to the Pistons:

Joe Johnson, Galloway headline USA World Cup Qualifying Team

Returning three players with previous USA World Cup Qualifying or AmeriCup Qualifying experience, and featuring 11 athletes possessing NBA regular season experience, USA Basketball today announced its 12-man roster for the February 2021 USA World Cup Qualifying Team.

Selected for the February 2021 USA World Cup Qualifying Team were Jordan Bell (Fort Wayne Mad Ants/Oregon), Tarik Black (Grand Rapids Gold/Kansas), Brian Bowen II (Iowa Wolves),  Langston Galloway (College Park Skyhawks/Saint Joseph’s), Jared Harper (Birmingham Squadron/Auburn), Joe Johnson (Free Agent/Arkansas), Juwan Morgan (Maine Celtics/Indiana), Matt Ryan (Grand Rapids Gold/Chattanooga), David Stockton (Memphis Hustle/Gonzaga), Rayjon Tucker (Wisconsin Herd/Little Rock), Paul Watson (Free Agent/Fresno State) and Justin Wright-Foreman (Birmingham Squadro/Hofstra).

Former NBA head coach Jim Boylen , who directed the USA team during the November 2021 World Cup Qualifying games in Chihuahua, Mexico, will again serve as head coach of the USA Basketball Men’s World Cup Qualifying Team. Also returning to the sidelines as assistant coaches are USA Basketball experienced coaches Ty Ellis and Othella Harrington.

The USA squad will open training camp February 18 in Washington, D.C., and will participate in the second competition window of 2021-23 FIBA World Cup Qualifying games that will see the Americans face Puerto Rico (1-1) on Feb. 24 and Mexico (2-0) on February 27. Both games will be played at the Entertainment and Sports Arena in Washington, D.C.

Bowen, Johnson and Stockton return after playing with previous USA National Teams in FIBA World Cup or AmeriCup qualifying games. Bowen represented the USA in the 2021 November FIBA World Cup Qualifying games and averaged  10.0 points and 6.5 rebounds in two games.

Johnson suited up for the USA with the February 2021 USA Basketball Men’s AmeriCup Qualifying Team. He started in both games and helped the USA to wins over Bahamas (93-77) and Mexico (95-76) while averaging 11.0 points, a team-high 9.0 rebounds, a team-high 7.5 assists. Johnson was also a member of the  bronze medalist 2006 USA World Cup Team.

Stockton  was part of two USA World Cup Qualifying teams, the February 2018 and June/July 2018 U.S. squads, averaging 10.0 points and 3.0 assists.

While 11 of the USA athletes own prior G League experience, 11 also have NBA regular season experience, including Bell (161 games with  Chicago, Golden State, Minnesota, Memphis and Washington), Black (220 games with  Houston and Los Angeles Lakers), Bowen (12 games with Indiana), Galloway ( 452 games with Brooklyn, Detroit, Milwaukee, New Orleans, New York, Phoenix and Sacramento), Harper (13 games with  New Orleans, New York and Phoenix), Johnson (1,277 games with  Atlanta, Boston, Brooklyn, Houston, Miami, Phoenix and Utah), Morgan (51 games with  Toronto and Utah), Stockton (6 games with  Sacramento and Utah), Tucker (37 games with   Denver, Philadelphia and Utah), Watson (46 games with Atlanta, Oklahoma City and Toronto) and Wright-Foreman (4 games with Utah).

Additionally, Bell, as a member of Golden State Warriors, was part of the 2018 NBA Championship Team.

Five players also boast of professional playing experience overseas, including Black (Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv, Israel and Zenit Saint Petersburg, Russia), Bowen (Sydney Kings-Australia), Stockton ( New Zealand Breakers, Australia; Cedevita, Croatia; Medi Bayreuth, Germany; and Mets de Guaynabo, Puerto Rico), Watson (BG Goettingen, Germany), Wright-Foreman ( Socar Petkimspor, Turkey; Chorale Roanne Basket, France).

Cavs’ Bickerstaff believes Philadelphia sent Cleveland a message Saturday night

The Cleveland Cavaliers had a big test Saturday night in Philadelphia against the 76ers in the first of four matchups between the two teams.

Cleveland was on a four-game winning streak after defeating the Pacers on the road Friday night, while the 76ers defeated the Thunder Friday night at home.

The Cavs, just like the rest of the NBA, could not stop Joel Embiid. The All-Star had his fourth career triple-double with 40 points (11-22 FG, 4-5 3FG, 14-15 FT), 14 rebounds, and 10 assists while adding three steals.

Philadelphia led most of the way and had their largest lead of 18 points in the fourth.

Ultimately, the 76ers would defeat Cleveland 103-93 at Wells Fargo Center.

With the loss, the Cavs(35-22) four-game winning streak is over; Philadelphia(34-22) has won two straight and three out of their last four. 

Cleveland, the third seed in the East, is now two games behind the Heat for the top spot in the conference.

Here’s the Great, Not So Great, and the Bottom Line of the Cavs’ win over the 76ers.

The Great for the Cavs:

-First Half Darius Garland:  Garland returned after missing Friday’s win over the Pacers due to lower back soreness. He was very good, especially in the first half when he scored 20 points(9/14 FG), including 2/4 from deep and three rebounds. The All-Star kept the Cavs in this one after the team’s slow start. 

-Second Quarter:  The Cavs got blitzed in the first quarter. They trailed by as many as 15 points and were down by 13 after one. In the second, they came alive. They went on a 21-11 run to close the gap to two and put themselves back in the game. Cleveland shot 63% from the floor in that second quarter, and they trailed 58-51 at the break.

The first four minutes of the Third Quarter: Cleveland started the third quarter on an 11-2 run to take their first lead of the game. Garland had five of the 11 points during the run. However, Philadelphia went on a 20-9 run to close the quarter and led 80-71 after three, and Cleveland never got closer than seven the rest of the way.

The Not So Great for the Cavs:

First Quarter: In the last seven games, Cleveland is 5-2. However, the Cavs have trailed after the first quarter in those seven games, including last night. Philadelphia shot 74% from the field, including 3/3 from deep. Embiid had 14 points, five rebounds, six assists in the quarter. Philly led 36-23 after one. However, after the first quarter, the Cavs outscored the 76ers 70-67.

Turnovers:  Cleveland had 17 turnovers Saturday night, leading to 19 points for the 76ers. Garland had six of the 17 turnovers. Philadelphia had 13 steals. Most nights, the Cavs have overcome the turnovers, but against a team like Philly, that did not happen. 

Second Half Garland: After a 20-point first half, Garland struggled in the final two quarters. He shot 2/9 from the field, was 1/3 from downtown, and finished with seven points in the second half, five which came in the first few minutes of the third. He also had four of his six turnovers in the second half.

However, he did finish with a team-high 27 points(11/23 FG, 3/6 3PT FG), four rebounds, and one assist. 

Bottom Line:

There was a playoff atmosphere in Philadelphia Saturday night, and Cleveland was not ready for that atmosphere, which is okay because many of their players have not played in the playoffs.

Plus, Embiid is next level, and the Cavs had no answers for the MVP favorite.

Philly, who will be even better once James Harden steps on the court, sent a message to the Cavs. Cleveland has three more matchups with the 76ers, so we’ll see how they respond in those games.

Hopefully, a game like this will prepare the Cavs for the playoffs.

“It was a clear message from the beginning of the game the intensity they were coming with,” Cavs head coach J.B. Bickerstaff said postgame. “These are the tests we talk about, and these are the lessons we have to learn. It’s a matter of playing with force and playing with speed.”

What’s Next:

The Cavs play their final game before the All-Star break in Atlanta against the Hawks Tuesday night.

Best fo the Rest:

The Cavs had six players in double figures. Jarrett Allen had 13 points and five rebounds, Cedi Osman had 12 points off the bench, rookie Evan Mobley had 11 points and eight rebounds, and Caris LeVert had 11 points, three rebounds, six assists, and a block. 

-Philadelphia’s Tyrese Maxey had 16 points; Matisse Thybulle had six points, three assists, six steals, and a block.

-Back to Embiid, according to Stathead, he extended his streak of 25-point outings to 23 straight, which leaves him four more performances away from tying Allen Iverson for the longest such streak in team history.

Watch this big dunk by Embiid over Allen:

Watch below as Garland reacts to the loss to the 76ers: