Rematch: 76ers vs. Cavaliers, Part 2
One of the fascinating aspects of a playoff series is the battle of adjustments that happens between coaches as they look to take away what worked in previous games and exploit newly found advantages.
The 76ers fell to the Cavaliers on Monday 107-100, as the Cavs used a late second quarter run (that extended into the third and fourth quarters) to overcome a spirited first half performance from the young, out-manned Philadelphia 76ers.
While the Sixers could not hold off the defending Eastern Conference Champions, one positive that did come out of the game was Jahlil Okafor‘s dominance. The rookie finished with 24 points on 11-21 shooting from the field. More impressive than his numbers was his ability to adapt his game based on who was defending him: he routinely beat Timofey Mozgov off the dribble, then worked over Tristan Thompson and Kevin Love in the post.
With a rematch less than a week later, that performance is likely still fresh on the minds of many, including Cavaliers head coach David Blatt. How will he adjust? Will Cleveland, who played Okafor man-to-man most of the night, throw more double teams Okafor’s way? Did either Mozgov or Thompson learn some of Okafor’s tendencies and will try to take that away from him tonight? How will Okafor and Brett Brown react to these adjustments?
The Sixers will once again be up against overwhelming odds, as the Cavaliers just have a staggering advantage in terms of talent, depth, and experience. But even if the Sixers will struggle to get their first win of the season tonight, the game within the game will be a fun one to watch.
What: 76ers (0-4) @ Cavs (4-1)
Where: Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, Ohio
When: 7:30 PM
Watch: Comcast SportsNet
Projected Starting Lineups:
Sixers: T.J. McConnell, Nik Stauskas, Jerami Grant, Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor
Cavs: Mo Williams, Richard Jefferson, LeBron James, Kevin Love, Timofey Mozgov
(Note: Official starting lineups are released about an hour prior to tipoff).
Joel Embiid (out, right foot), Kendall Marshall (out, right ACL), Tony Wroten (out, right ACL), Carl Landry (out, wrist), Robert Covington (out, sprained knee).
About The Opponent:
Much of what we wrote about the Cavaliers last time still holds true, as each team has only played one game since they last met.
One change is JR Smith, who suffered a right knee bruise the last time the two teams played. Veteran Richard Jefferson started when the Cavaliers defeated the New York Knicks on Wednesday, and is likely to start for the Cavs over the next few days while Smith works his way back from the injury.
The Cavs enter the game giving up only 94.3 points per 100 possessions, the lowest amount in the league. The Sixers’ output of 103.2 points per 100 possessions when the teams played in Philadelphia was actually the most effective anybody has been against Cleveland so far in the short season.
The Cavaliers have been great on the defensive glass, where they collect 82% of the defensive rebounding opportunities available to them. The Sixers are the 13th best offensive rebounding team in the NBA through five games.
What To Look For:
As mentioned at the start of this article, the adjustments both teams make in regards to Jahlil Okafor is the most interesting non-LeBron James aspect of this game.
Like the last time the Sixers and Cavs met, Kevin Love’s ability to shoot, and make plays, on the perimeter is exactly the kind of stretch power forward that could give Nerlens Noel and the Sixers’ defense problems.
Finally, there’s the continued adjustments to the Sixers point guard rotation. When the Sixers and Cavs last played, Isaiah Canaan was the starter at point and Phil Pressey wasn’t on the roster. Now, thanks in large part to T.J. McConnell‘s 12 assist, no turnover performance against Cleveland, McConnell will be the Sixers starting point guard with Pressey backing him up. Canaan will be used in an off-the-ball roll off the bench.
Derek Bodner covers the 76ers for Philadelphia magazine’s new Sixers Post. Follow @DerekBodnerNBA on Twitter.