Well, it finally happened: On Thursday night the Sixers snapped an 11-game losing streak against LeBron James and the Cavaliers during a 108-97 victory in Cleveland. Despite recent struggles on the road against Miami and Washington, the Sixers got back to winning in what was just their second victory in their last eight road games.
Thursday night’s nationally televised match-up was a thriller that put “the process” on display in stylish fashion. The Sixers jumped out to an early lead in the first quarter and were in the driver’s seat for much of the contest.
Embiid’s jumper was on point, and the All-Star center was dominant in and around the paint as he tallied his 32nd double-double of the season with 17 points and 14 rebounds.
In a highly anticipated match-up between King James and Prince Simmons, Simmons looked composed and proved to everyone that he can compete against the league’s best.
Simmons almost recorded his seventh triple double of the season with 18 points, nine rebounds and eight assists, and also stole a crucial inbound pass from James at the beginning of the fourth quarter.
Simmons and Embiid didn’t have to work alone in this one either; four other members of the Sixers also had double figures. J.J Reddick had 22 points and was 4-7 from three-point range, Dario Saric had 16 points, newcomer Marco Belinelli had 11 and Robert Covington recorded his fourth double-double of the year with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Although Philadelphia did not give up the lead after taking it early in the first quarter, Cleveland did keep it close, especially late in the fourth. Cleveland had the score as close as 95-94 with about two minutes left, but then Simmons found Saric for a corner three and Embiid hit a clutch fade away jumper to give the Sixers a 100-94 lead, which would prove to be too much for The Land.
The Sixers’ unusual composure late in the fourth quarter against the mighty Cavaliers is a sure sign that this Philadelphia squad has both the talent and chemistry to prove everyone wrong in the playoffs.
At the beginning of the season, the pundits were predicting that the Sixers would probably make the playoffs against the eighth seed and then get swept by either Boston or Cleveland.
But after Thursday night’s victory, the Sixers are looking less like a team that would just be happy to make the playoffs and more like true contenders; right up there with the top five in the east. Depending on how the rest of the season plays out, Philadelphia may have a convincing case to bring King James to Philadelphia once he becomes a free agent this off-season.
The rumors have been circulating since last Monday when Power Home Remodeling, a Philadelphia-based company, purchased three billboards in Cleveland calling for James to come to Philadelphia next off-season. One billboard read, “#PHILLYWANTSLEBRON”; another read, “#COMPLETETHEPROCESS” and the third depicted a coach’s chalkboard with the numbers 25, 21, 33, nine and a red 23 with a crown above it. The news ignited all kinds of rumors and media speculation that hasn’t gone away since.
James has a player option for the 2018-2019 season that will allow him to test the free-agency waters or re-sign with the Cavaliers if he chooses to do so. Rich Paul, James’ agent, also represents Sixers’ star Ben Simmons, so that alone makes the move worthy of speculation. James was also wearing blue sneakers during Thursday night’s game that matched the Sixers’ away jersey rather nicely, so at least there’s that.
In the meantime, Philadelphia has a fairly easy stretch of games over the next week that includes easy match-ups against the Charlotte Hornets, Brooklyn Nets and the Miami Heat, who are close behind Philadelphia in the standings. With any luck, the away win over Cleveland will catapult the Sixers to continue their success away from Wells Fargo Center during this upcoming road trip.
Andrew Heller is a first-year graduate student majoring in English. ✉ AH804286@wcupa.edu.