Philadelphia 76ers vs. Cleveland Cavaliers Pick & Prediction FEBRUARY 23rd 2024

Two teams that lost Thursday while playing short-handed in their return from the All-Star break will square off Friday when the Cleveland Cavaliers visit the Philadelphia 76ers.

Cleveland, playing without ill All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell, stumbled 116-109 against the visiting Orlando Magic on Thursday.

The Sixers, without reigning Most Valuable Player Joel Embiid (knee surgery), De’Anthony Melton (back) and Robert Covington (knee), fell behind by 26 and lost 110-96 to the visiting New York Knicks on Thursday.

Tyrese Maxey led Philadelphia with 35 points, while Buddy Hield and Kelly Oubre Jr. added 14 apiece. Newly signed Kyle Lowry took seven stitches for a facial laceration but still put up 11 points in his Sixers debut.

“It was an amazing atmosphere and the ovation that I got was awesome,” said Lowry, a Philadelphia native and Villanova product. “I was happy. I was (upset) that we lost and we were in that situation, but it was a great moment. Now for me it’s about winning basketball games.”

Philadelphia coach Nick Nurse added of Lowry, “He was really good. He fought hard. He made plays. … He played really good for not playing for a month.”

The Sixers can take solace in the fact that they went on the road and defeated the Cavaliers 123-121 on Feb. 12.

Against the Knicks, however, Philadelphia appeared to come out flat. The 26-point deficit was ultimately too much to overcome.

“Lack of focus,” Nurse said of the main reason for coming up short. “We just weren’t getting anything done on the defensive scheme side of things.”

The Sixers also didn’t receive much offense from Tobias Harris, who scored only seven points on 3-of-9 shooting in 27 minutes.

“He didn’t quite get into the flow of things,” Nurse said of Harris. “He didn’t get a lot of shot opportunities and he’s a rhythm guy.”

The Cavaliers couldn’t overcome the absence of Mitchell, their leading scorer, against Orlando. In 44 games this season, Mitchell is averaging 28.4 points, 6.3 assists and 5.4 rebounds.

Cleveland’s Jarrett Allen had 18 points and 10 rebounds, Darius Garland added 18 points and 10 assists, and Max Strus also scored 18 points. Isaac Okoro contributed 17, and Evan Mobley chipped in with 14.

“We were just rushing our offense,” Okoro said. “They were more physical than us. Knowing this team, I feel like we’ll bounce back pretty quick.”

Still, the Cavaliers have won 18 of 21.

The frustration was evident from coach J.B. Bickerstaff, who received a technical foul in the third quarter. The Cavaliers also committed 19 turnovers that led to 28 points for the Magic.

“We’ve played really good basketball and we just have to do that. We’ll be fine,” Bickerstaff said.

Okoro added, “We’ve got to play with pace, play with our own pace and just move the ball.”

The Cavaliers looked out of sync and appeared to be a much different team than the one that was sizzling before the All-Star break. Minus Mitchell, they struggled to find their rhythm.

Asked about the layoff having an impact, Allen said, “I don’t think so. It was just a bad game. We just made mistakes we shouldn’t be making.”

–Field Level Media

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