CLEVELAND — Random dribbles following the Cavaliers’ 118-114 hard-fought loss to the 76ers on Wednesday.
1. Well, let’s just hope the Cavs don’t have to face the Sixers in the playoffs.
2. They played the 76ers much better this time, had their chances, and gave the home crowd a show. But they trail the season series by a 3-0 count. There’s a reason for that and it’s totally understandable — with Joel Embiid, James Harden, Tobias Harris and others, the Sixers are a mostly veteran team.
4. Plus it’s probably just a bad matchup. The 76ers’ are ultra-talented and their time is now. The Cavs are very talented as well, but their time is probably 2024 and beyond.
5. Anyway, credit to the Cavs for battling back after trailing by a 72-59 count at halftime. They turned up the defense, and started playing to win (as opposed to simply playing not to lose).
6. It worked, because they outscored Philadelphia by a 31-13 count in the third and led 90-85 going into the fourth.
7. But then Embiid and the 76ers played their best at winning time. That’s really all it comes down to — the Sixers just have more know-how in these situations.
8. Garland led the way with 22 points and seven assists. Not bad, given that the Sixers are always determined to turn him into a little more than a passer. It was no different on this night. But Garland did a nice job of making the most of what the opponent gave him.
9. Meanwhile, Okoro had a strong night defensively and actually was able to keep Harden working hard, all while scoring (17 points) himself. Caris LeVert came off the bench to score 15, while Markkanen and Mobley each tallied 13. Mobley was too quiet in the first half, though, and took just seven shots overall.
10. Basically, if the Cavs (39-30) had played just about any other opponent, you have to believe they would’ve won. But still being without Jarrett Allen, at least for the time being, makes Embiid too tough a matchup. Shoot, he’s a tough matchup no matter who’s on the floor., Cavs or otherwise.
11. Coach J.B. Bickerstaff on the loss: “If we play the way we played tonight, we’re gonna give ourselves a shot. … (Embiid) had to earn it all. James (Harden) had to earn it all. I thought the guys made them earn it tonight.”
12. More Bickerstaff: “We don’t expect anything less than our guys to fight and scrap. We set that standard, beginning of the year, we set that in wins and losses. This is who we are, and this is who we’ve been for a majority of the year. I thought our guys lived up to that tonight.”
14. Interestingly, Cedi Osman didn’t even play, one game after receiving just eight minutes. At this point, it’s a mystery as to why he has fallen out of the rotation, and now appears to be behind Lamar Stevens and even Dylan Windler on the depth chart.
15. So, 14 games to go. Hopefully, the Cavs will have a fully healthy roster soon, with Allen and Rajon Rondo. Would be real interesting to see what they can do, what the lineup looks like. The goal is to hang on to a top-six seed and avoid the play-in tournament. And whoever thought we’d be saying that at the start of the year?