Nuggets’ Jokic wins NBA MVP for second consecutive season

For the second straight season, Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokić has been named the 2021-22 NBA Most Valuable Player, the league announced Wednesday.

He becomes the 13th player to win the award in consecutive seasons. The last player to win back-to-back MVP awards was Giannis Antetokounmpo(2019-2020).

Jokić received 875 points (65 first-place votes); Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid finished in second place with 706 points (26 first-place votes), and Antetokounmpo finished in third place with 595 points (nine first-place votes).

According to StatMuse, Jokic’s 65 first-place votes are the fewest for an MVP since Steve Nash in 2005-06.

The 27-year-old Jokić averaged 27.1 points, 13.8 rebounds, 7.9 assists, 1.47 steals, and 0.85 blocks per game, setting career highs in each category except assists (second highest). The seven-year veteran, who played 74 games and averaged 33.5 minutes, ranked sixth in the NBA in points, second in rebounds, eighth in assists, 12th steals, and 33rd in blocks per game.  

He became the first player in NBA history to record at least 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds, and 500 assists in a season and the first player to average at least 25.0 points, 13.0 rebounds, and 6.0 assists in a season. He led the NBA in triple-doubles with 19 and double-doubles with 66(both single-season team records).

This is the first time that both the top three and four of the top five finishers in voting for the NBA Most Valuable Player Award are international players, with Jokić (Serbia), Embiid (Cameroon), and Antetokounmpo (Greece) comprising the top three and Dončić (Slovenia) joining them in the top five. Jokić is the second European player to win the award more than once, joining Antetokounmpo, the MVP in the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons.

You could make a case for Embiid, Antetokounmpo, or Jokić as the league MVP, but in the end, Jokić gets the nod. 

The voting results for the 2021-22 Kia NBA Most Valuable Player Award are below:

Harden: ‘Nothing really changed, man, just made some shots’

On Sunday night, James Harden had his most significant moment as a 76er, and it came at the right time.

Harden scored 16 of his team-high 31 points in the fourth quarter, with seven rebounds, and nine assists as the 76ers defeated the Heat 116-108 to tie their Eastern Conference second-round series at 2-2.

The pivotal Game 5 is Tuesday night in Miami.

Harden, who was acquired from Brooklyn before the trade deadline, was 5/9 from the field, including 4/6 from deep in the fourth quarter. 

“That’s why he’s here,” Joel Embiid said about Harden.

“Just took what the defense gave me,” Harden said. “Same shots just made some. Nothing really changed, man, just made some shots. Obviously, that’s a game-changer, but just being aggressive… and that group that started the fourth quarter did a really good job of pushing the lead up and doing what we’re supposed to do.”

Tyrese Maxey, who scored 18 points, was excited to see Harden go off.

“It was great,” Maxey said. “It was amazing. It was great to see. You know, they were switching everything and didn’t let me have a lot of movement or a lot of continuity, so he just hit some big, long one shots, and in the playoffs, sometimes everyone knows what you are trying to do. Everybody knows what each team is trying to do to you, and they take things away, and it’s nice to have a lot of three-level scorers on your team, and we have a few of those collectively, maybe four or five of them, and it’s just night-to-night to prepare and hook up.”

The 76ers have knotted the series at two after winning Games 3 & 4, but according to Embiid, who had 24 points and 11 rebounds Sunday night, Philly has not played their best game yet in this series.

“I mean, the way we played is the reason why we were able to tie the series, but I don’t think we have played our best basketball,” Embiid said. “Tonight , we had way too many turnovers, 16, and we missed a bunch of wide-open shots.”

It’s the best of three, and the 76ers have the momentum, but they still have to win in Miami, which won’t be easy. However, if Harden can play as he did in Game 4, and Embiid can continue to build on his performance on Sunday, Philly has a shot. 

Notes:

-Jimmy Butler led all scorers with 40 points to go along with six assists. This is the fourth 40-point playoff game of Butler’s career.

-Danny Green continued his strong shooting with a 4-6 performance including three makes from deep as he totaled 11 points to go along with two steals.

-Philadelphia had six players in double figures, including all five starters.

 

 

 

 

 

Rivers on Embiid: ‘I don’t think he gets enough credit how good of a defensive player he is’

The Philadelphia 76ers got a big boost Friday night when their All-Star and probably soon-to-be league MVP Joel Embiid returned after missing the for two games of their second round series against the Miami Heat with a broken orbital bone and concussion. 

Embiid did his job on the offensive end as he had 18 points and 11 rebounds, and he also anchored a defense that held Miami to 79 points as Philly defeated the Heat 99-79 at Wells Fargo Center. 

Screen Shot 2022-05-07 at 11.43.04 AM

Miami still leads the series 2-1. Game 4 is Sunday night in Philly.

According to StatHead, this marked the first time since the 2012 postseason where Philly has held an opponent to fewer than 80 points.

After the win, head coach Doc Rivers discussed the presence of Embiid.

I mean, just his presence, obviously, to start the game,” Rivers said. “His energy, his rebounding. His ability at the basket. I’ve said it all year; you could see his timing was off a little bit. But his presence defensively, I really don’t – I don’t think he gets enough credit how good of a defensive player he is and how much he helps us. And I thought tonight; it was a lot of that.”

According to Embiid, he did not have a lot of energy, but he was pleased with what he did defensively.

 “I didn’t think I had a lot of energy, honestly,” Embiid said. “I was really trying to really get through it. Kind of, you just use my presence out there as a decoy. I feel like I pride myself really defensively. And I feel like that’s where my presence is really felt. On the defensive end. So that’s one of the main reasons why playing I thought I could have a huge impact.”

Embiid, who stayed back in Philly for Games 1 & 2, had a hard time watching his team struggle in Miami. 

“It was very annoying just watching,” he said. “Obviously, we didn’t make shots, but we also made a lot of mistakes. Whether it was offensive rebounding or turnovers. Their big fella, Bam [Adebayo], was dominating. And I was really pissed off watching another big man play well against my team. It’s unfortunate. Can’t take it back. Now we’ve just got to focus on the next game.”

Role players play better at home, and Danny Green played his role and then some as he had a team-high tying 21 points, including a playoff career-high seven threes. 

In the first two games of this series, Green was 2-14 from deep, but that all changed Friday night. However, he’s not satisfied.

“It felt good to be able to help my team and do my job, that’s it,” Green said. “I’m not in any way, shape, or form satisfied; we are not taking any deep breaths or exhaling; we know we have to win another game, so we have to stay locked in and focused, taking it one game at a time, hopefully, we can keep that momentum and have another decent shooting night on Sunday.”

After going scoreless in the first half, Maxey went off in the second half as he had 21 points, including 14 points in the fourth.

“I just started being aggressive,’ Maxey said. “I kind of was, you know, let the game come to me a little bit. Got the Big Fella [Joel Embiid] back. James [Harden] was attacking and doing a really good job of that. And, I don’t really have to force anything. It’s kind of get it where I can fit in at, and when it’s time to make some big shots, I’m gonna try to make some big shots.”

The 76ers have a chance in this series as long as Embiid is on the court, and while he was not at his best, he was good enough. Can we expect Miami to shoot 35% from the floor and go 7/30 downtown in Game 4? Probably not. However, in his second game back, Embiid might be better, and the 76ers, who had 19 turnovers in Game 3, could be better on offense as well.

If Philly wants to make it a series, they have to win Game 4, and we’ll see if they can make that happen on Sunday.

Notes:

For the Heat, Jimmy Butler scored a game-best 33 points to go along with nine rebounds and two steals.

Back to Danny Green. he joins former 76er Seth Curry(who was in attendance Friday night) and Hall of Famer Allen Iverson as the only players in team history with at least seven made three-pointers in a playoff game (Stathead).

James Harden had 17 points, eight rebounds, and six assists. He also had seven turnovers. 

As a team, Philadelphia shot well from beyond the arc(16-33 (.485).

76ers’ Harris: ‘We gotta be better’

No team in NBA history has come back from an 0-3 deficit, but the Toronto Raptors are two games away from being the first to do it after winning Game 5 against the 76ers 103-88 at Wells Fargo Center.

The 76ers hold a 3-2 series lead, but the momentum is with the Raptors as the series shifts to Toronto for Game 6 Thursday night.

Toronto was without Fred VanVleet(hip), but Pascal Siakam had a game-high 23 points to go along with 10 rebounds and seven assists.

Joel Embiid led the 76ers with 20 points and 11 rebounds;

Tobias Harris, who had 16 points and seven rebounds, says the 76ers did not bring the right energy in Game 5. 

“To be honest with you, this is a tough loss for us, a game that we wanted,” Harris said. “We didn’t put enough effort into getting the W, but we gotta stick together. We gotta figure out how we can gather that type of energy and be able to be at our best; we really just gotta focus on what’s worked for us through the series in the games that we have won and what has been successful, and we have to just do more of that, we can’t get away from what has really worked during our three games that we have won, and that’s just the motto for the next game, we gotta be better.”

James Harden had 15 points and seven assists on 11 shots(4-11). That’s not bad, but Philly needed more, and Embiid, who is battling a torn ligament in his thumb, says the former MVP has to be more aggressive.

“I’ve been saying all season since he got here, he needs to be aggressive, and he needs to be himself,” Embiid said about Harden. “That’s not really my job. That’s probably on Coach to talk to him and tell him to take more shots, especially if they’re going to guard me the way they’ve been guarding.”

The 76ers shot 38% from the, including 27% from deep. Also, they had 15 turnovers, which led to 20 points for Toronto. But despite the struggles on offense, Embiid is not concerned.

“I don’t know if you can see, but they double me just like last game, really everywhere whether that’s the post, the elbow, the three-point line,” Embiid said. “You can tell they are really trying to get the ball out of my hands, so we didn’t make shots today, but we just gotta keep trusting, and we will be better.”

As they get ready for Game 6, Philadelphia must be better. Embiid looks noticeably uncomfortable with his injured thumb, but he has to fight through it. Harden is either hurt or lost a step, but like Embiid, he has to be better. 

The 76ers are still in control, but they don’t want this series to go back to Philadelphia for Game 7 because anything can happen at that point.

Expect the 76ers to bounce back Thursday night in Toronto.

Embiid on Maxey: ‘He’s been doing that all season’

The playoffs are where players make a name for themselves, and second-year guard Tyrese Maxey might be on his way to doing that.

In Game 1 of Philly’s first-round series against the Raptors, the 21-year-old Maxey scored 21 of his 38 points (14-21 FG, 5-8 3FG, 5-5 FT) in the third as the 76ers routed the Raptors 131-111 at Wells Fargo Center Saturday night. 

According to SportsRader, Maxey’s 38 points were the most by a 76er age 21-or-younger in a playoff game in franchise history. In addition, he joined LeBron James and Magic Johnson as the only players to score at least 38 points at 22 years and 163 days or younger.

He was great,” 76ers head coach Doc Rivers said about Maxey after the win. “I mean, we worked on that little action for four days, and his speed is a factor; we know that we have to keep using it, putting him in space, some nights maybe him driving and passing, tonight it was him driving and getting to the basket and making shots.”

The 21-point third quarter for Maxey was the most by a 76er since Allen Iverson’s memorable 2001 season, where he had 26 points in the fourth quarter in the Eastern Conference Finals.

According to Maxey, the team wanted him to be aggressive in this series.

“Honestly, I just went out there and tried my best for my team,’ he said. “I mean, that’s really all I do every single night and being aggressive, they told me I needed to be aggressive in this series, and I tried to start out fast for us.”

Tobias Harris, who had 26 points, six rebounds, and six assists, added on Maxey: “It was pretty spectacular, really. Honestly. That third quarter. The stretch that he [Tyrese Maxey] had. The shots that he was making. The confidence. It was just all coming together. Even from the beginning of the game, he had it going. That third-quarter stretch, we had a couple of possessions early on where we didn’t really get what he wanted. Once we got the ball in his hands, he just got to it. Made his looks and just had it rolling. Hats off to him because he played a heck of a game.”

James Harden saw growth from Maxey.

I saw growth,” Harden said. “I saw from being up and down not really having consistent minutes last year in the postseason to starting and playing a huge role in a championship contender team. He was calm out there; he took his shots when they were open, he took his attacks when they were available, and he just made the right play which he does. Since I’ve been here, I’ve saw that, so tonight was no different; he took his shots, and he was ultra-confident, and that’s what we are going to need going forward.”

Embiid wants to see Maxey and the 76ers play like this three more times.

“I mean, it’s great; like I’ve been saying, we all need everybody, so I am happy that he played so well tonight,” Embiid said. “He’s been doing that all season, so it’s only one game, so we need to do it three more times.”

If Maxey does this three more times in this series, we’ll be talking about him for a long time.

Game 2 is Monday night in Philly. 

Notes:

-According to Elias Sports Bureau, Embiid (19 points, 15 rebounds) and Harden (22 points, 14 assists) became the fourth pair of 76ers teammates to post reach a point-rebound and point-assist double-double in the same game.

-Maxey’s 38 points while shooting .667 from the floor is tied for the best field-goal percentage in league history by a player 21 years-or-younger while scoring at least 35 points (Stathead). 

 

 

 

Embiid, Doncic named NBA Players of the Week

Joel Embiid and Luka Doncic were named NBA Players of the Week in their respective conferences for games played between Monday, April 4 and Sunday, April 10, the league announced Monday.

Doncic led the Mavericks to a 3-0 week with averages of 30.3 points (.467 FG), 9.0 rebounds, 10.0 assists and 1.0 steals in 30.8 minutes, while Embiid led the 76ers to a 2-1 record in games which he appeared. This last stretch of games led to him capturing the league scoring title at 30.6 points per game.

The 23-year-old Doncic began the week by posting game highs of 26 points and 14 assists to go with a team-high 8 rebounds in the Mavericks’ 131-113 win in Detroit. The win put the Mavericks 20 games above .500 for the first time since the 2010-11 season ended and marked the 50th win of the season for Dallas, its 15th 50-win season in franchise history and their first since 2014-15.

The following game, Doncic registered 39 points (12-21 FG, 7-14 3FG, 8-11 FT), 11 rebounds, 7 assists, 1 block and a game-high +41 rating in 30 minutes during the Mavericks’ 128-78 victory over Portland, all without appearing in the fourth quarter. His +41 rating was the second-highest plus-minus of his career (+45 in 26 minutes vs. GSW 11/20/19, in what was a 35-point, 10-rebound, 11-assist, 4-steal effort). It marked Doncic’s 39th career 30-point, 10-rebound, 7-assist outing and he now needs just one such game to become the 11th player in NBA history to record 40-or-more 30-10-7 games. Michael Jordan currently ranks 10th ahead of Dončić with 44 career 30-10-7 games.

Doncic capped the week by helping the Mavericks defeat San Antonio with 26 points, 8 rebounds and 9 assists in the team’s 130-120 win in the season finale. With the team’s fourth consecutive win, the three-time All-Star helped Dallas improve to a season-high 22 games above .500 (52-30).

Embiid continued his streak of strong performances, extending his streak of 25-point, 10-rebound outings to 10 straight contests, which was the longest such streak of the season. No other player did so in more than seven straight games.

The week saw Embiid post averages of 38.7 points, 14.3 rebounds along with 1.0 steals and 1.0 blocks per game while also shooting .609 from the floor. Embiid was the only player in the league to post such numbers over the week.

Last Tuesday, against the Pacers, Embiid notched his second 45-point double-double of the season with 45 points and 13 rebounds, which made him one of three players with multiple such games. For his career, Embiid has six games of at least 45 points and 10 rebounds which are the second-most in franchise history.

In the second game of the week, Embiid posted his league-best 30th game of the year of at least 30 points and 10 boards against the Raptors.

In Embiid’s final game of the week, he finished with 41 points (14-17 FG) and 20 rebounds against the Pacers. This made him the fifth player in NBA history to score at least 40 points and collect 20-plus rebounds while shooting 80-percent-or-better from the floor. He joined John Drew and Hall of Famers Charles Barkley, Wilt Chamberlain and Bob Pettit as the only players to do so.

Bickerstaff fined $15,000 for criticizing officiating after loss to 76ers

Cavs head coach J.B. Bickerstaff was fined $15,000 for public criticism of the officiating, the league announced Monday night. 

After the Cavs fell to the 76ers 112-108 Sunday at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, Bickerstaff was unhappy about Joel Embiid and James Harden combining for 32 of the team’s 42 free throw attempts.

“That game was taken from us,” Bickerstaff said after the game. “We deserved to win it.”

With the 76ers holding a 107-106 lead, Darius Garland’s floater was blocked by Embiid with 15.2 seconds left in the game. Bickerstaff thought Garland was fouled on his drive to the basket. 

“Darius was fouled,” Bickerstaff said. “He did his job and got to a spot and got fouled. No whistle.”

According to the NBA’s Last Two-Minute Report, Bickerstaff was right.

The league said the following:

“While defending his drive to the basket and shot attempt, Embiid (PHI) reaches across Garland (CLE) and makes contact to his left arm.”

Cleveland(43-36) returns to action Tuesday night as they travel to Orlando to face the Magic(20-59).

Cavs’ Bickerstaff on loss to 76ers: ‘That game was taken from us’

This season, the Cavaliers have not been able to solve the riddle that is the Philadelphia 76ers. In the first three meetings between these two teams, Cleveland was 0-3.

The Cavs had one final chance to defeat the 76ers Sunday night at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. However, just like the previous three meetings, they could not get it done. Joel Embiid had 44 points, 17 rebounds, and five blocks, and James Harden recorded a triple-double with 21 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists as the 76ers defeated the Cavs 112-108 to sweep the season=series.

Cleveland(43-36) has now lost six of eight; the 76ers(48-30) have won two straight and clinched a playoff berth with the win.

Here’s the Great, Not So Great, and Bottom Line of the Cavs’ loss to the 76ers:

The Great for the Cavs:

-Darius Garland led the Cavs with a team-high 23 points, four rebounds, four assists, and four steals. Garland recorded his 40th 20-plus point game this season. Interestingly enough, the All-Star scored 20-plus points 26 times in the first two seasons of his career. Garland is truly having a special season.

-Lamar Stevens has found his groove, and he continues to be a key contributor on both ends of the court. Stevens had 18 points, three rebounds, two assists, and three blocks. Great effort from Stevens!

-Caris LeVert is looking more and more comfortable each game, and he had 18 points, three rebounds, and seven assists. Obviously, Cleveland will need LeVert’s ability to get to the basket and score in the playoffs, which he did Sunday night.

Second Quarter:  Cleveland led 23-21 after the first quarter. The Cavs started the second quarter on a 14-4 run to take their largest lead of the game at 37-25. They shot 55% from the field, including 67% from three-point range. Stevens led the way with seven points in the quarter. Ultimately, the Cavs led 55-49 at halftime.

The Not So Great for the Cavs:

Third Quarter: The Cavs had some momentum coming into the third, but Embiid(14 points) and Tyrese Maxey(eight points) started attacking and combined for 22 of Philly’s 32 points in the quarter. The 76ers also picked things up defensively as the Cavs shot 36% from the field, including 25%(2/8) from downtown. Philly, who shot 56% from the field, including 5/6 from deep, outscored Cleveland 32-25 in the quarter. The 76ers led 81-80 after three.

Rebounding: Cleveland was outrebounded 50-41 by the 76ers, and Philadelphia had 16 second-chance points. The 76ers shot only 41% from the floor, but they did a great job on the glass.

Playing defense without fouling: Embiid(17/20) and Harden(11/12) combined for 32 of the 76ers’ 42 free throw attempts. You can argue that it should go both ways, but in reality, these two just know how to create contact. Maybe you can blame the officials, who knows, but you have to find a way to defend these two without fouling. Cleveland did have 31 free throw attempts Sunday night, and while Philly did have 42 attempts, four of them came due to intentional fouls by the Cavs late in the game, so free throw disparity was not that drastic.

Late-game execution: With the 76ers holding a 107-106 lead, Darius Garland’s floater was blocked by Embiid with 15.2 seconds in the game. Cavs head coach J.B. Bickerstaff believes Garland was fouled on his drive, but there was no call. 

Cleveland trailed by three with 07.2 seconds to go, but Love’s inbound pass was stolen by Matisse Thybulle, which ended in a Tobias Harris dunk that sealed the game. 

Bottom Line:

Cleveland played their heart out against Philadelphia. All four matchups between these two teams have felt like the playoffs, and while Philly swept the season series, these games were very competitive and a lot of fun. 

The Cavs have played well in their last two games, which is the most important thing at this point of the season. Hopefully, they can get Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen back for the playoffs.

With the Cavs now 2.5 games behind the Bulls and Raptors for one of the top six spots in the East, and only three games to play, Cleveland might think about resting some guys before the start of the Play-in Tournament. However, J.B. Bickerstaff did say postgame that was not the plan, which is understandable. There’s still meaningful basketball left as the Cavs want to get at least the seventh seed.

The Cavs are 1.5 games up on the eighth-seeded Hawks(41-37) and 2.5 games up on the ninth-seeded Hornets(40-38) and the tenth seed, the Nets(40-38).

Quotes:

“That game was taken from us,” Bickerstaff said. “We deserved to win it.”

What’s Next:

Cleveland goes to Orlando to play the Magic Tuesday night.

Best of the Rest:

-Lauri Markkanen had 16 points, including four threes and seven rebounds. Kevin Love added 12 points off the bench.

-Rajon Rondo returned after missing 11 games with an ankle injury. He had six points in 14 minutes of action.

-Maxey and Harris had 11 points apiece for the 76ers.

-According to StatMuse, Embiid joins Shaquille O’Neal, Anthony Davis, Dwight Howard, and Patrick Ewing as the only players with multiple 40-point/15 rebound/5 block games since 1990.

Listen below as Bickerstaff talks loss to Cavs and more:

Doncic struggles with his shot, Mavs fall to 76ers

The Dallas Mavericks came to Philly on a three-game winning streak after defeating the Nets on a Spencer Dinwiddie buzzer-beater Wednesday night.

One of the reasons for their success is the play of Luka Doncic. In the last three games, Doncic is averaging 31 points, 10.3 rebounds, and 7.6 assists per contest on 51% shooting from the field, but Friday’s game against the 76ers was a different story.

Doncic struggled from the field as he shot 5/20, including 1/8 from deep. He finished with 17 points, seven rebounds, 10 assists, and six turnovers. Ultimately, behind Joel Embiid’s 32 points and eight rebounds and James Harden’s 24 points and 12 assists, Philly(43-26) defeated the Mavericks(43-26) 111-101 at Wells Fargo Center.

The All-Star shot 25% from field, but the rest of the team shot 53%. Jalen Brunson led Dallas with a team-best 24 points (10-14 FG, 2-3 3FG) in 33 minutes.

In the first game between these two teams in Dallas, which the Mavericks won 107-98,  Dallas stifled the 76ers with their zone defense, but this time around, Philly played zone, and the Mavericks’ offense could not make shots.

“We played them zone in the first game, and now they got us back with the zone,” Doncic said after the game. ‘So now, it’s one-one, but you know I think it’s both playing great defense, but we didn’t make shots either.”

Mavs head coach Jason Kidd added: “We didn’t make shots, we held on to the ball, and it broke our rhythm, so you’ve got to give them credit for sticking with the zone. We just had some good looks; we just didn’t make them, and then when you play zone, you’ve got to be able to make shots, and we just didn’t do that tonight.”

Doncic knows bad shooting nights happen, and according to him, the only thing you can do is learn from it.

“I mean, yeah, it’s always tough keeping yourself on this type of night,” he said. “Obviously, this is not the first one, and it’s for sure not the last one, but you’ve gotta learn from this. You know, just gotta watch film, see what you did wrong, maybe the energy wasn’t there, but whatever you did wrong, you’ve just got to learn from it and go to the next game.”

Dallas will have an opportunity to get back on the right track as they finish their five-game road trip in Charlotte Saturday night.

Cavs falls short again against Philadelphia

The Cleveland Cavaliers have had a difficult time with the Philadelphia 76ers this season. Coming into their matchup against Philly, the Cavs were 0-2 versus the 76ers after losing both games in Philadelphia.

The Cavs battled the 76ers for the third time this season Wednesday night, but this time, they played Philly at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.

However, the result was the same.

Behind Joel Embiid’s 35 points and 17 rebounds, Tyrese Maxey’s 25 points, and James Harden’s 21 points and 11 assists, the 76ers defeated the Cavs 118-114.

Cleveland(39-30) has now lost nine of their last 13 games; Philadelphia(42-26) moves to 7-2 with Harden in the lineup.

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

The Great for the Cavs:

-Isaac Okoro had his second consecutive strong game for the Cavaliers. Okoro had 17 points, including three threes and five rebounds. The second-year guard had 20 points, five rebounds, and five assists against the Clippers Monday night and kept the flow going against Philadelphia.

-Darius Garland led the Cavs with 22 points, five rebounds, and seven assists. The All-Star shot 5/15 from the field but made 11/12 free throws. 

-Moses Brown, who signed a 10-day contract with Cleveland last week, gave the Cavs some great minutes Wednesday night. In 11 energetic minutes, Brown had eight points, two rebounds, two steals, and a block. Brown, who was +5 Monday night, may have definitely earned a second 10-day contract with this performance.

Third Quarter: The Cavs trailed 72-59 at halftime. However, in the third, they finally woke up. After the 76ers took an 11-point lead(79-68) with just under eight minutes to go, Cleveland went on a 19-6 run to take their first lead. The Cavs shot 55% from the field, including 63% from three-point range in the quarter, and they held Philadelphia to 26% shooting from the floor, including 0/8 from downtown. Cleveland outscored the 76ers 31-13 in the quarter and took a 90-85 lead into the fourth. 

The Not So Great for the Cavs:

First Half: The Cavs got off to a slow start against the 76ers. They let Philadelphia shoot 58% from the field in the first half, and, like most of the NBA, had no answer for Embiid, who had 20 points and 11 rebounds at the break. Ultimately, Philly scored 72 points in the first half.

Fourth Quarter: Philly started the fourth quarter on a 6-0 run to take the lead back. From there, it was a back-and-forth affair. Lauri Markkanen hit a three to give Cleveland their final lead of the game at 104-103 with just under four minutes to go. However, the 76ers took the lead back for good on a James Harden floater with 3:20 left in the game. Philadelphia shot 64% from the field and 67% from deep in the quarter and outscored Cleveland 33-24 in the final stanza.

Bottom Line:

The Cavs just can’t get over the hump against Philadelphia. They played well at times, especially in the third, but could not close out the game. If the playoffs were to start today, they would play Philly in the first round, which might be a tall order for the Cavs.

Cleveland competed, but it was not good enough against the 76ers.

You thought Cleveland could be safe after they defeated the Raptors on March 6 to take a three-game lead in the standings. However, as you look at the standings now, you have to be a little concerned.

Cleveland and Toronto(39-30) are tied for the sixth spot in the East, but the Cavs hold the tiebreaker as they lead the season-series versus the Raptors 3-0. However, Toronto has won five straight after going 5-0 on their west coast road trip. 

The top six teams in the conference are guaranteed a playoff spot. Seeds 7-10 have to compete in a Play-In Tournament to make the playoffs.

What’s Next:

Cleveland continues their five-game homestand as they host the Nuggets Friday night.

Best of the Rest:

-Cleveland had six players in double figures Wednesday night. Caris LeVert had 15 points and seven assists off the bench.

-Cedi Osman was a healthy scratch, and according Cavs head coach J.B. Bickerstaff, he wanted to give Dylan Windler minutes.

Watch below as Garland talks loss to the 76ers, more: