Sixers vs Cavaliers: Betting preview, picks & predictions

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Philadelphia 76ers guard James Harden (1) takes a shot against Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo (13) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, March 1, 2023, in Miami. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

The Sixers head into Cleveland looking to extend their win streak to six games and increase their 3rd place lead in the Eastern Conference to 4 games over the Cavaliers. The Sixers have been playing some of their most determined if not best basketball of the season the past few games.

Sixers vs Cavaliers Game Info:

Who: Philadelphia 76ers (45-22) at Cleveland Cavaliers (44-27)

When: 7:30 pm EST

Where: Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, Cleveland, OH

Watch: ESPN, NBC Sports Philadelphia

Sixers vs Cavaliers betting info

Spread: Sixers -2.5 | Cavaliers +2.5

Moneyline: Sixers -140 | Cavaliers +120

Total: Over/Under 222 points

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Eye on the Sixers

The team has mixed in three close wins over the Pacers, Bucks, and Trailblazers with blowouts of the Timberwolves and, on Sunday, the Wizards.

Sixers All-Star center Joel Embiid has been playing like a man possessed over the past ten games. The Sixers are 7-3 since the All-Star break and Embiid has averaged 35 points, 9.3 rebounds, and 4.3 assists while adding 2.3 blocks per game.

The team was looking at the hardest remaining schedule of any team in the league following the All-Star break. It would be a telling end of the season to see if the Sixers would collapse as much was made of the “easy” schedule they had to start the season. Philly has responded like a championship contender should.

James Harden has been almost as good as Embiid. Over the last ten games, Harden is averaging 23.4 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 10.8 assists. He’s been everything that the Sixers had hoped for when they acquired him last season. Finally healthy after a couple of years with nagging injuries, he has shown that he’s still a truly special player.

The former Rocket leads the league in assists per game and more importantly, he’s shooting a career-high 39.8% on his three-point attempts, including 43.7% over the last ten games. As the season is winding down, Harden seems to be just getting started.

The good news for the Sixers is that their bench has been playing well with players like Georges Niang, Shake Milton, Daniel House Jr., and Jalen McDaniels all contributing of late. Even bigger than the bench looking like everyone had hoped it would is the return of guard Tyrese Maxey.

After spending most of the past few months coming off the bench, Maxey has recently returned to the starting lineup and the difference is obvious to anyone that has looked. Over his last ten games, Maxey is averaging 20.1 points, 2.3 rebounds, and 2.7 assists but the big part is that he’s shooting 52.1% from the floor and an incredible 46.4% on his three-point attempts. If there was any question as to whether Maxey should start or not, even head coach Doc Rivers has to see that he’s a completely different player when he’s starting.

Eye on the Cavaliers

The Cavaliers will be at home and are 4-1 over their last five games, including wins over Boston, Miami, and Charlotte. Their only loss was to the Heat on the back end of a home-and-home series last Friday. They’ve defeated the Hornets the last two games, including a 120-104 victory last on Tuesday night.

The Cavs are led this season by guard Donovan Mitchell who’s leading the team with 27.6 points per game to go along with 4.1 rebounds and 4.7 assists. Mitchell missed last night’s game for some rest as he’s battled a hand injury the past few games and the Sixers game is much more important than playing against the Hornets.

Center Jarrett Allen may not be playing as Cleveland hasn’t submitted an injury report as of this writing. Allen has an eye injury that he received against the Heat this past Friday night. He left the Heat game and hasn’t played in the past two games for the Cavs. The team will need Allen as his size and athleticism to help them try to contain Joel Embiid. If he’s not able to play, Even Mobley looks to be the center charged with containing Embiid.

In addition to Mitchel the Cavaliers have players like Cedi Osman, Caris LeVert, and Darius Garland that can all provide problems for teams trying to keep up with the Cavs. Garland is second on the team, averaging 22 points per game but he’s leading the team with 7.9 assists per game and will be looking to get the ball into the hands of their shooters.

What to expect

Both teams are coming into the game playing very well but the Sixers have been just a bit better this season. If Jarrett Allen isn’t able to play, the Cavaliers will rely on Mobley and Robin Lopez to try to slow down Embiid. The other forwards for the Cavaliers, Isaac Okoro, and Lamar Stevens, simply don’t have the size to match up against Embiid and it will be hard for them to match up against the taller PJ Tucker and Tobias Harris.

The Sixers should be able to just feed Embiid and let him take over the game early on from the low post and allow Maxey, Harden, and the other shooters to take advantage of open looks. While the Sixers should be able to control the game, you can’t count the Cavaliers and Mitchell out. The movement and speed they have as team could present problems if Doc Rivers doesn’t use the right defensive strategy and players to slow things down.

Prediction: Sixers 123 – Cavaliers 115

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AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee