MINNEAPOLIS, MN - FEBRUARY 25: Joel Embiid #21 and James Harden #1 of the Philadelphia 76ers celebrate after Harden drew a foul against Karl-Anthony Towns #32 of the Minnesota Timberwolves (not pictured) in the fourth quarter of the game at Target Center on February 25, 2022 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The 76ers defeated the Timberwolves 133-102.

By Dylan MacKinnon

It may have been Embiid’s birthday, but it was the rest of us who got treated to a great performance by him. His 35 pts and 17 rebounds carried the Sixers to a 118-114 win in Cleveland. Embiid’s big game helped the Sixers improve 42-26, and hold on to the 3 seed.

The birthday boy got off to a great start. By the end of the first quarter, he already had 13pts and 6 rebounds. He was 6 of 7 from the field. Tyrese Maxey was the next leading scorer for the Sixers with 9 pts on 4 of 6 shooting. As a team, they led 30-23.  The main group of Embiid, Maxey, Harris and Maxey shot 12-16. Thybulle meanwhile had a rough start, going 1-5, with all 4 misses being right under the rim.

Embiid wasted no time picking up where he left off in the second quarter. He scored 7 more pts, snagged 5 more rebounds, and hit this desperation 3pter while triple-teamed.

Add that to 16pts by Harris, 13 by Maxey, and 10 from Harden, and Sixers took a 72-59 lead into half time. The Sixers core group alone matched the Cavaliers whole team with 59 combined pts. They were a combined 23 for 31 (.742). And Harris added that to at the buzzer with a  last second 3pter to give the Sixers the 13pt half time lead.

The third quarter however did not go well. They were outscored 31-13, and ended the half down 90-85. Shots were clanging off the front rim they were throwing the ball away, and the defense got sloppy again. By the end of the third the bench had just 8 pts, and were shooting 2-10.

The 4th quarter was the first close one of the night. It was just a 4pt lead in the final two minutes. At one point things got a little close when Caris LaVert scored, and drew the foul for a chance to make it just a one point game. That play also lead to Harris fouling out. But Lavert bricked the FT, and Maxey went 2-2 from the line on the other end to clinch the win. In fact the Sixers went 6-6 from the line to close out the game. Embiid’s Big game, and some clutch FT shooting from the team, helped the Sixers get the win.

Sixers get a day off, and then return home to play the Mavericks on Friday. They have 14 games left before the playoffs, and are currently the 3 seed. That puts them a half game back from the 2 seed Bucks, and 3 games back from the Heat. They are also one game ahead of the Bulls, 1.5 ahead of the Celtics, and now 3.5 ahead of the Cavs.