With the Kyrie Irving injury news, the whole Eastern Conference feels like it has life again. We gave our thoughts on the shifting sands there Thursday afternoon, but now let’s dive into two important matchups among Eastern playoff teams tonight.
CLEVELAND CAVALIERS AT PHILADELPHIA 76ERS (-3.5) | O/U: 223
7 p.m. ET
It’s a big game in Philly tonight, and while real estate may be on the minds of some unnamed players, most guys have their eyes on the standings, as third place is a possibility for either team. With both clubs hot as hell right now, here are important metrics and trends you need to know for tonight’s game. — Mark Gallant
The Battle Isn’t Just On the Court
Are the Cavs flipping the switch? Both the Cavaliers (now after their trades) and the Sixers have long, athletic rosters that can switch off-ball when teams try and create open looks. The problem, of course, is that Cleveland often screws up these mechanisms, particularly off-ball.
Philadelphia uses a lot of off-ball movement, and if Cleveland continues to mess up those kinds of mechanics it’ll make for a long night.
Meanwhile, how much do these teams show each other? The odds of their meeting in the playoffs are slim at this point, but do you want to show Philly how you would scheme Ben Simmons to force his jumper? Do you test out trying to layer your defense and funnel LeBron James to a specific spot? Whoever wins this game very likely secures the 3-seed and a shot at that Celtics vs. Whoever winner — both much easier matchups than Toronto in Round 2.
If you wind up facing each other, you don’t want to tip your hand, but there are stakes here. A lot of mental math to figure out. — Matt Moore