If the NBA season ended today, the first round of the playoffs would feature a matchup between the No. 3 seed Cleveland Cavaliers and No. 6 seed Philadelphia 76ers–a juicy pairing with a handful of subplots, most notably LeBron going up against one of the teams most aggressively pursuing his services for next year.
Fortunately, fans won’t have to wait for that matchup, as the Cavs and Sixers meet Thursday night at Quicken Loans Arena.
The game starts at 8 p.m. ET and will be broadcast nationally on TNT. If you don’t have cable or can’t get to a TV, you can watch the game live on your computer, phone or streaming device by signing up for one of the following cable-free, live-TV streaming services:
DirecTV Now: TNT is included in each of the four main channel packages. You can sign up for a free 7-day trial no matter what package you choose, plus you can get a free Amazon Fire TV if you prepay two months. Once signed up, you can watch a live stream of TNT on your computer via the DirecTV Now website, or on your phone, tablet or streaming device via the DirecTV Now app.
Hulu With Live TV: If you want an extensive Netflix-like on-demand streaming library in addition to your live TV, Hulu now also offers a bundle of live channels, including TNT. You can sign up right here, and you can then watch a live stream of TNT on your computer via the Hulu website, or on your phone, tablet or streaming device via the Hulu app.
This matchup, of course, comes at interesting time, with #PhillyWantsLeBron billboards going up in Cleveland and rumors swirling about whether or not LeBron has been checking out Philly-area high schools.
James, though, isn’t letting all of the noise bother him.
“You can say it’s a distraction, it’s not,” he said. “It is actually very flattering that I’m sitting here at 33 and in my 15th year and teams or guys — I don’t want to say teams because that becomes tampering. But people in their respective city want me to play for them. That’s cool I think. That’s dope.”
LeBron averaged an absurd 27.0 points, 10.5 rebounds and 10.5 assists during 10 February games, so yeah, it’s safe to say he probably isn’t feeling too distracted.
Instead, he’s probably a bit more concerned with his Cavs holding onto home-court advantage in the first round of the postseason. Catching Toronto or Boston is likely out of the question at this point, but the third-seeded Cavs are just one game ahead of the Wizards and 2.5 ahead of the Pacers, so they still have plenty of work to do down the stretch.
As for the Sixers, they’ve lost two in a row following a seven-game winning streak, which has them tied with the Bucks for the 6 seed in the East and just a game ahead of the No. 8 seed Heat. As such, they’ve brought in reinforcements in the shape of veteran Ersan Ilyasova, who is available to make his Sixers debut Thursday night.
The Cavaliers won the first two head-to-head matchups this season (113-91 in Philly in November; 105-98 in Cleveland in December), though it’s hard to read too much into those, as the Cavs are a completely new team now, and the Sixers were without Joel Embiid in the second matchup.