Good morning, 76ers fans. Thursday’s 111-97 win over the Dallas Mavericks was the Sixers’ second victory in a row and fourth in five games. The Sixers (22-11) are off from practice Friday and return to action Saturday at the Wells Fargo Center against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
There are so many ups and downs in an NBA season. Joel Embiid is going through a minor rough stretch, but it hasn’t stopped the Sixers from winning.
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Embiid’s shooting slump
In the last three games, Embiid is averaging 22 points, 12.7 rebounds and 1.3 blocked shots, and yet still, his game has been off.
Embiid is shooting 14-for-53 from the field (26.4%) over the past three games. It’s not like he is taking a bunch of forced three-pointers. Embiid is 4-for-9 from three-point range in this stretch. He also has been getting to the foul line, where he is 34-for-38 (89.4%).
Coach Doc Rivers isn’t worried about his four-time All-Star center.
“Just missing shots, but he still ended up with 23 [points], 7 [actually 9 rebounds] and 4 [assists]” Rivers said after the win over Dallas. “... But he missed some great shots. I would take most of those shots he took.”
Embiid was 5-for-20 from the field against the Mavs, including 2-for-5 from beyond the arc. To Rivers’ point, in looking at those 20 shots, only two could be considered forced: a fadeaway 20-footer with the shot clock running down and an off-balance drive to the basket that resulted in an air ball.
“He’s got to get away from trying to draw fouls and just go get fouls, but other than that, I am not that concerned,” Rivers said.
Maybe the most positive development from a Sixers standpoint is that the they have won two of the three games in which Embiid has been off the mark from the field.
He has played at such a high level this season, putting himself in the MVP race, that there was the thought that if Embiid wasn’t on, then the Sixers couldn’t win. This year, Embiid has shot less than 50% in 11 games. The Sixers are 9-2 in those games.
One reason Embiid is averaging 29.6 points is that he is hitting his jumpers. According to basketball-reference.com, he is shooting 54-for-114 (47.4%) on shots 10 to 15 feet; 45-for-75 (60%) from 16 feet to just below three-point range, and 32-for-80 on three-point attempts. Overall, he is shooting 51.6% from the field.
Keith Pompey has a fascinating column: Kyle Lowry would be the Sixers’ missing piece, but he’ll have options if it’s time to move on from the Raptors.
David Murphy writes that a trade for Lowry would be well worth the price.
A look at the Sixers’ second-half schedule, one that has nine back-to-backs and few days off.
The Sixers’ second-half schedule includes 36 games in 67 days. Pompey writes that Danny Green says the schedule “looks exhausting.”
Allen making the most of his increased opportunity
When the Cavaliers visit the Sixers on Saturday, they will be looking for their first three-game win streak since opening the season with three victories — the third a 118-94 win over the visiting Sixers.
While not much has gone right for Cleveland (12-21), a bright spot has been the addition of center Jarrett Allen. The 22-year-old was acquired Jan. 13 from the Brooklyn Nets in the James Harden deal, a four-team trade that also included Indiana and Houston.
Allen is receiving even more opportunity with the Cavs because center Andre Drummond has sat out the last six games while Cleveland looks to trade him. Overall, Allen is averaging 13.4 points and 9.7 rebounds. Those totals are 14.8 and 9.3 with the Cavaliers.
Allen is averaging 26 points per 100 possessions for Cleveland; he was averaging 19.9 per 100 possessions for Brooklyn. He has scored a career-high 26 points in two of his last three games.
During his career, he has averaged 10.0 points and 7.7 rebounds in 13 games against the Sixers, all with the Nets. He will be expected to have bigger numbers when the teams meet Saturday.
Saturday: Cleveland Cavaliers at Sixers, 7 p.m. Wells Fargo Center, NBC Sports Philadelphia
Monday: Indiana Pacers at Sixers, 7 p.m. Wells Fargo Center, NBC Sports Philadelphia
Wednesday: Utah Jazz at Sixers, 7 p.m. Wells Fargo Center, NBC Sports Philadelphia
March 7: All-Star Game, 8 p.m. State Farm Arena, Atlanta, TNT
March 11: Sixers at Chicago Bulls, 8 p.m. United Center, (TV TBA).
Passing the rock
Question: Any chance think the Sixers are the best team in the East, and can they make it all the way to the NBA Finals? — Zach Cross via email
Answer: Thanks for the question, Zach. In short, my answers are yes and yes. The Sixers definitely have a chance to be the best team in the East, and they can make it to the NBA Finals.
What we don’t know is what will be the makeup of the Sixers and other Eastern Conference contenders after the March 25 trade deadline and the ensuring buyout period. Even if the Sixers don’t make a move, I think they have enough to challenge for the Eastern Conference title. I also feel as if Daryl Morey will be active by the trade deadline and give the Sixers some needed additions.
The Nets might not be done adding players and will look for an interior defender. In addition, Boston, which is sinking fast but has a $28.5 million trade exception, should be active. Milwaukee and Miami should also be active. Right now, it appears the Nets and Sixers are clearly the best two teams in a conference that surprisingly has just three teams over .500. We’ll see if the others can make up ground.