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Sixers-Cavaliers: Without Joel Embiid Sixers give Cavs a run for their money, and other quick thoughts from a 105-98 loss

Five quick observations from a hard-fought loss to the Cavs.

Dario Saric (eye injuries) was cleared to play just before the start of Saturday’s game in Cleveland. He put up 17 points, nine rebounds, and six assists in the Sixers’ 105-98 loss to the Cavaliers.
Dario Saric (eye injuries) was cleared to play just before the start of Saturday’s game in Cleveland. He put up 17 points, nine rebounds, and six assists in the Sixers’ 105-98 loss to the Cavaliers.Read moreTony Dejak / AP Photo

Sixers compete without Joel Embiid

Not yet cleared to play on back-to-back nights, the Sixers elected to save Embiid so that he can battle Sunday against DeMarcus Cousins and the Pelicans. Not only were the Sixers without Embiid, but they were without their backup point guard T.J. McConnell. Additionally, Justin Anderson and Markelle Fultz are still recovering from injury. Despite the depleted roster, the Sixers gave it all they had and put together a performance against the Cavaliers that is worth being proud of. Leading by as many as 11 early on before the Cavs stepped in front, the Sixers retook the lead in the fourth quarter and made the Cavs fight in the final minutes. Even though they didn't get the win, the Sixers stepped up and made it a game.

Trevor Booker’s debut

I was completely ready to say things like "we can wait to see how Booker will fit in with the Sixers" or "his first night with the team won't be an accurate representation of what he can do." But Booker had an exquisite debut with the team. With little-to-no knowledge of the defensive schemes or plays that the Sixers run, Booker managed to fit in just fine. He hustled, was physical, and tough on defense. He created multiple second chance opportunities by hitting loose rebounds out to the perimeter, chased loose balls, and was a clearly helpful addition. Booker finished his first night in a Sixers uniform with 12 points, eight rebounds, two assists, and one block.

Robert Covington and JJ Redick come alive

Robert Covington looked like he had a new kind of swing in his step. Redick had a rough start to the night, going 1-of-6 in the first half. But he went 5-of-7 in the final 24 minutes for 19 points on the night to compliment Covington's 19 points. They were a huge part of the fourth quarter run that gave the Sixers their first lead since the end of the first quarter. Covington and Redick combined for 9-of-16 from deep. On a hustle-play with just over a minute left, Covington fell out of bounds and after a few minutes on the floor, had to be helped off the court by his teammates. He also added six rebounds, two assists, and four steals before he left the game.

Dario Saric in goggles

After a practice injury caused a bruised, banged up, and stitched eye area, Saric missed Thursday's game against the Lakers, but returned against the Cavaliers donning some lovely NBA-approved eyewear. Despite the peripheral problems and uncomfortable nature the goggles can present, Saric didn't seem fazed. Three missed three-pointers in the fourth were a little disappointing, but even with the misfires he finished with 17 points, nine rebounds, and six assists.

Ball movement

Heading into Cleveland, the Sixers were third in the league in assists with 25.5 per game, behind only the Warriors and Pelicans. Sometimes when a team is without one or a couple of their main guys, or when a new player is inserted in the lineup, the way they normally move the ball can be stalled a little bit. None of the above affected the Sixers negatively on Saturday. The Sixers had 31 assists on 37 made field goals for the night. Ben Simmons dished out a team-high 10 assists to go with 14 points. The assists are perhaps the most promising stat line of the night considering the circumstances and the opponent. The Sixers are trying to pride themselves on pace and their ability to share the ball, and they proved that they are as unselfish as any team in the NBA against the Cavs.