PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Joel Embiid scored 29 points — including the 10,000th of his career — and the Philadelphia 76ers survived a rocky second half to beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 118-112 on Wednesday night.
After watching a 28-point lead in the second half melt to four with 90 seconds left, the Sixers were able to put it away by making 13 straight free throws.
“That’s a pretty good team over there that will give other teams trouble,” Embiid said. “Obviously, we knew they would make a run. But they got the stops when we needed to.”
James Harden added 19 points and 12 assists to help send the 76ers into the All-Star break with their fourth straight victory. De’Anthony Melton added 18 points, and Tyrese Maxey had 16.
“To win that game despite the adversity was good for us,” Maxey said.
Donovan Mitchell had 33 points — including 25 in the second half — for the Cavaliers. They had won seven straight. Darius Garland added 27 points for Cleveland, and Evan Mobley had 23.
“We allowed them to put a little bit of doubt in our minds early, but we figured it out,” Cavaliers head coach J.B. Bickerstaff said.
After the game, Embiid — scheduled to be a starter in the All-Star Game in Utah on Sunday night — indicated that he may sit the game out due to lingering left foot soreness that has been officially marked on the Sixers injury report since the club’s trip to the West Coast in late December. Embiid mentioned that doctors had told him that getting off of the foot was necessary in order to prevent the injury from getting worse.
“I was trying to get the All-Star Break without missing games” Embiid said. “But I think that I may have reached the point where I need to follow the doctors advice. We’ll see how the next few days go.”
Embiid passed the 10,000 point mark early in the first quarter. He accomplished the milestone in his 373rd game — the fastest in franchise history ahead of Allen Iverson’s 378.
“I can only think what if I didn’t miss all these games, but that’s not where the focus is,” Embiid said. “I’m just focused on what I can do to help the team. Whether it is scoring a lot, passing, defensively- then I’m going to do it.”
Philadelphia hit its first six 3-pointers and 11 of 14 shots from the floor to jump out to a 31-10 lead. The Sixers led by 28 early in the second half.
Cleveland rallied in the second half in part because of its ability to move the ball around and force turnovers. The Cavs forced nine turnovers in the second half, turning them into 20 points while just turning the ball over once.
“They did a great job of physically out of our stuff,” Bickerstaff said. “They were aggressive on both ends of the floor and it took us too long to recover from that first punch. We showed what we are capable of in the second half with 17 assists and just one turnover.”
Cavaliers: Danny Green made his return to the Cavaliers lineup on Wednesday night, scoring three points in about 12 minutes. Green — who played three games for Memphis this season before being traded to Houston and being eventually waived — was drafted by the Cavs in 2009. Bickerstaff indicated that Green’s role will be as much mentor for a young lineup as opposed to on the floor. “We know his game his ability to make shots and defend, but our group needs as much information as they have,” Bickerstaff said. ... Ricky Rubio was inactive for Cleveland with a non-COVID illness.