The Philadelphia 76ers hosted the Cleveland Cavaliers Tuesday night for their fourth game of the NBA’s In-Season Tournament. It was a wild loss for the Sixers despite it proving to be one of their most tenacious performances of this young season.
Ahead of the game though, the team would also welcome home an old friend in the Minivan himself, Georges Niang.
Welcome home Bang Bang Georges Niang
Aside from the tournament implications, tonight was special for another reason as former Sixers fan-favorite Georges Niang made his return to Philadelphia since his departure this past offseason.
Welcomed back with warm greetings from Sixers players and staff members before the game, Niang also received quite the ovation once he took the court just a couple minutes into the game.
For the Cavaliers this season, Niang is averaging 7.0 points and 3.8 rebounds and has been a key member of the locker room for Cleveland. Ahead of the game, Cavs coach J.B. Bickerstaff had high praise for the “spirit” that Niang has brought to the team.
Sixers/Cavaliers Game Recap
Early on it was Joel Embiid who set the tone for Philadelphia. With a quick eight points, five rebounds, and assist near the half-way mark of the first quarter, Embiid took advantage of everything Cleveland would give him.
However, turnovers would soon rear their ugly head, with Joel Embiid being the most frequent culpret.
The energetic Cavs, ignoring the comments of how undermanned they were without Donovan Mitchell, applying the pressure on the Sixers at every turn. In large part, that attack was led by Niang, the former Sixer, and Craig Porter Jr., one of the Cavs two-way players who has made quite the impact recently, including a 21-point performance in a win against the Denver Nuggets on Sunday.
Tyrese Maxey was notably held scoreless through the first quarter. It’s been a bit of an odd seasons for Maxey when looking at his flow quarter by quarter. Coming into the night, “the Franchise” averaged just three points per game in the first.
Much of that is due to the staggering between Maxey and Embiid that head coach Nick Nurse has implemented. While Maxey has been a bit slow to get started in games, he ranked second in the league in second quarter points ahead of this matchup.
It didn’t take long for Maxey to find his rhythm in the second quarter. While the Sixers as a team continued to struggle to ward off the Cavaliers’ balanced attack. Jarrett Allen in particular stood out in as he had one the his best games against Joel Embiid, scoring 14 first half points.
The Cavaliers, as a team, thrived in the paint in the entire first half, scoring 44 points inside compared to the Sixers’ 26. Joel Embiid’s three early fouls certainly aided in Cleveland’s mission to attack the paint.
The Sixers continued to battle well into the third quarter, but struggled to make any headway. Cleveland’s inside-out attack continued to plague the Sixers as they came dangerously close to losing their third consecutive quarter.
Thanks to a series of hardnosed basketball led by a pesky lineup of Joel Embiid, De’Anthony Melton, Robert Covington, Pat Bev, and Danuel House Jr., the Sixers would be able to trim the lead down to single-digits at least.
With the start of the fourth quarter the true game began for the Sixers. Slowly but sure, Philadelphia crawled their way back with bucket after bucket and a new-found defensive spirit. Closing the gap in the final few minutes of the game, the two teams began to trade buckets as Darius Garland and Jarrett Allen went head to head against Tyrese Maxey and Joel Embiid.
Foul calls a plenty quickly became the story in the fourth as both teams combined for 15 fouls in the quarter. Even down to the final seconds, it was a physical matchup between these two Group A rivals(?).
A clutch shot by non-other than Pat Bev gave the Sixers the lead with 16 seconds left on the clock but a quick foul on the other end allowed Garland to tie the game once again on a pair of free-throws. With a chance to take the lead in the closing seconds, Joel Embiid missed a jumper with Tristan Thompson on him and this game was headed to overtime.
Despite their homefield advantage, the Sixers faced a major challange in the overtime period as superstar Joel Embiid began the extra quarter with five fouls. A sloppy start to the quarter would not help them either but after a comple minutes, they would begin to round into shape.
Key plays down the stretch by De’Anthony Melton, Tyrese Maxey, and Joel Embiid gave the Sixers the lead once again with a minute and a half of action left.
With under 20 seconds left in the game, the Sixers had the ball in their hands, down one. With a great look on a Tyrese Maxey drive towards the rim, the ball spun the wrong way, dashing the Sixers hopes of victory as they fell 119-122.
The Sixers quickly turn around as they travel to Minnesota to face the Western Conference-leading Timberwolves in the second game of a back-to-back. The Wolves are currently undefeated at home (6-0), and are looking to keep it that way against Philadelphia.
Tip-off is at 8:00 PM EST tomrorw night and you can catch the game on NBC Sports Philadelphia, NBA League Pass, or Bally Sports North.