How the 76ers set up Joel Embiid for a game-winning dunk to beat the Cavaliers

The Philadelphia 76ers haven't had the smoothest start to the season, and Tuesday night's 98-97 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers was yet another example. Although they got the win to improve to 7-3 on the season, they had to grind it out, and probably would have lost if they were playing anyone other than the Cavs. 

While the defense has been as advertised, the Sixers' offense is a mess after the departures of Jimmy Butler and JJ Redick in the offseason. Entering Tuesday, they were 16th in the league in offensive rating, in large part due to their lack of shooting, as well as excessive turnovers. Those problems were on full display on Tuesday, when they scored just 98 points against a very average defense, shot 8-of-38 from downtown and turned the ball over 14 times. 

But they do have one of the best players in the league in Joel Embiid, and that alone can clean up a lot of messes. So it went against the Cavs, when Embiid slammed home a game-winning dunk in the closing seconds to get the Sixers the win. With their one-point victory over Cleveland, Brett Brown's men have now won four games by six points or less -- a fact he said he "sadistically" loves. 

Considering how much trouble they had on the offensive end prior to Embiid's slam, and throughout the season, you might be wondering how they were able to free him up in such a crucial moment. Let's take a closer look.

With just over 20 seconds left, the Sixers take the ball out on the sideline, down by one. Josh Richardson pops out to halfcourt to get the ball and the Sixers set up their action. Ben Simmons and Furkan Korkmaz space to the corners, while Tobias Harris sets up shop on the left block and Joel Embiid prepares to set a high ball screen. 

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The Sixers setting up their game-winning play

Embiid absolutely rocks Collin Sexton, and Richardson drives inside. Tristan Thompson drops into the paint to cut off any driving lane, but that's fine by the Sixers because the play is just developing. Embiid rolls to the paint like a normal pick-and-roll, but he's not looking for the ball. At least not yet. 

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Embiid sets the screen on Sexton, then rolls into the paint

He crashes down on Larry Nance Jr., setting another big screen, as Harris pops up to the free throw line. Richardson hits Harris with the pass, and Thompson has to jump out to help Nance, or else Harris would have a wide open mid-range jumper. (Considering Harris went 4-of-17 from the field on Tuesday, maybe Thompson should have just let him shoot.) 

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Thompson has to help on Harris

Unfortunately for the Cavaliers, they're now cooked. Both of their bigs are out of position, as Thompson is too far away from Embiid, and Nance Jr. is stuck on the outside after trying to fight through the screen. Embiid easily seals Nance Jr., and Harris lobs him the ball on the high-low feed for the slam.

Here's the play in real-time.

This is just great work from Brown. He knows his team has struggled on offense this season, and instead of going for the typical isolation look at the end of a game, he ran an excellent set to get his best player open. 

NBA Writer

Jack Maloney lives and writes in Milwaukee, where, like the Bucks, he is trying to own the future. Full Bio

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