Sixers-Cavaliers observations: No match for kings of the East

Sixers-Cavaliers observations: No match for kings of the East


LeBron James took the steam out of any anticipation of a matchup between him and Ben Simmons in a matter of minutes in the Cavaliers’ 113-91 win over the Sixers on Monday.

Simmons began the night defending James and ended it leaving the game late in the fourth with a right ankle sprain. Postgame X-rays came back negative and Simmons will be reevaluated Tuesday morning.

James scored 15 — yes, 15 — points in the first seven minutes of the game. He drove the basket early on and set the tone that he was going to attack often. 

James has a good relationship with Simmons, who considers James like an older brother through being represented by the same agency. However, there was no way he was going to go easy on the rookie. 

James made 30 points, 13 rebounds and six assists look easy in 31 minutes. 

Simmons, who attempted just 11 shots, had a quiet night with 10 points, eight rebounds and only two rebounds (see story). He entered the game averaging nearly eight dimes. Simmons did not get to the free throw line and went scoreless in the third. 

The loss snapped the Sixers’ win streak at three and dropped their record to 11-8. Meanwhile, the streaking Cavs (13-7) ran their win streak to eight straight.

• The Sixers didn’t do themselves any favors with their long-range woes: 3 for 28 (10.7 percent). They shot 0 for 11 from three in the first half and did not drain a trey until over four minutes into the third quarter. Robert Covington, who entered the game shooting 46.2 percent from long range, went 0 for 9 (more on why here).

• In a flashback to their days with the Heat, James (22) and Dwyane Wade (12) combined for 34 of the Cavs’ 53 points in the first half. No one else on the Cavs had more than six points through that point. 

• Joel Embiid said my turn in the third. He exploded for 16 points in 11 minutes after scoring 12 total in the first half. Embiid was an efficient 5 for 6 from the field and much more aggressive getting to the line (6 for 7) during the quarter. He matched James’ scoring total with 30 points and 11 rebounds in 33 minutes (see highlights).

• The game got out of the Sixers’ control in the fourth. They trailed by just three, 72-69, with 3:06 to play in the third. Fast-forward to the final quarter and they were down by as many as 29 points. 

• The Sixers had reached 100-plus points in their previous 14 games. The last time they scored in double digits was Oct. 23 against the Pistons, their fourth game of the season. 

• The Cavs’ bench outscored the Sixers’ bench, 57-30. Wade (15), Jeff Green (14) and Channing Frye (12) led Cleveland's reserves. 

• Injury update: Justin Anderson (left leg), Markelle Fultz (right shoulder) and Nik Stauskas (right ankle) did not play for the Sixers. Derrick Rose (left ankle), Isaiah Thomas (right hip) and Tristan Thompson (left calf) were sidelined for the Cavs. 

• Eagles LeGarrette Blount and Malcolm Jenkins rang the ceremonial bell pregame. Blount sat courtside across from the Cavs’ bench where Thomas, dressed in an Allen Iverson shirt, watched the game. Before they were on the Eagles and Cavs, Blount and Thomas were friends from their time with the Patriots and Celtics. 

Joel Embiid, Robert Covington, T.J. McConnell questionable

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Joel Embiid, Robert Covington, T.J. McConnell questionable

Updated: 2:10 p.m.

The Sixers might get some reinforcements back to help try to halt their losing streak.

Joel Embiid, Robert Covington and T.J. McConnell are listed as questionable tonight in Minnesota (9:30 p.m./NBCSP+).

Embiid (back tightness) sat out Saturday night’s loss because of load management and then was a last-minute scratch against the Pelicans Sunday. Covington (lower back contusion), who was injured diving into the stands for a loose ball against the Cavs Saturday, also missed Sunday night’s loss. McConnell suffered a sprained AC joint in the Sixers’ win over the Wizards back on Nov. 29. He came back and played 18 minutes in the team’s loss to the Lakers, but then missed the first two games of the road trip in Cleveland and New Orleans.

Embiid’s injury is not believed to be serious. The big man himself didn’t seem too concerned.

“If it was the Finals, I'm sure I could have gone,” Embiid said Sunday. “But we've got 82 games and they don't want me to push if I'm not a hundred percent, so that's what I did.”

The Sixers will look to snap a four-game losing streak — their longest of the season — against the reloaded Timberwolves (16-11). 

Best of NBA: Rockets rally past Pelicans in high-scoring affair

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Best of NBA: Rockets rally past Pelicans in high-scoring affair

HOUSTON -- Clint Capela had a career-high 28 points and James Harden scored 12 straight points for Houston in the fourth quarter as the Rockets rallied for a 130-123 victory to extend their winning streak to 10 games on Monday night.

The game was tied with about three minutes remaining after Harden made two free throws. Those were the first of seven straight points by Harden that put Houston's up 124-119 with 1:30 left.

Jrue Holiday made a basket after that, but Harden hit a 3-pointer seconds later to push the lead to 127-121. Harden stole the ball from E'Twaun Moore after a timeout by New Orleans. He was fouled and made both free throws to make it 129-121 with 34 seconds left.

After scoring 48 points in Houston's last game, Harden finished with 26 on Monday, but he tied a career-high with 17 assists, finding the 6-foot-10 Capela under the basket again and again.

Holiday had a season-high 37 points for the Pelicans. Moore had a career-high 36 points and made a career-most six 3-pointers on a night New Orleans set a franchise record with 18 3-pointers (see full recap).

Mirotic, Portis help Bulls blow out Celtics
CHICAGO -- Nikola Mirotic scored 24 points, Bobby Portis added a career-high 23 and the Chicago Bulls blew out Boston 108-85 on Monday night with Celtics star Kyrie Irving sidelined because of a bruised left quadriceps.

Owners of the NBA's worst record, the Bulls built an 18-point lead in the second quarter against the Eastern Conference leaders. And when Boston cut it to 12 in the fourth, the Bulls simply pulled away for their third straight win.

Mirotic made his first start of the season with leading scorer Lauri Markkanen sidelined because of back spasms. The 6-foot-10 forward hit 9 of 14 shots and grabbed eight rebounds in his third appearance.

Portis shot 10 of 15 and nailed all three 3-pointers.

Before Monday night, Mirotic and Portis had only made headlines together this season for the wrong reasons. Mirotic missed the first 23 games with facial fractures he suffered in a fight at practice with Portis.

Al Horford scored 15 for Boston. Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier added 13 points apiece in the Celtics' most lopsided loss of the season (see full recap).

Howard, struggling Hornets roll past Thunder
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Dwight Howard scored 23 points to help the Charlotte Hornets beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 116-103 on Monday night.

Kemba Walker had 19 points for the Hornets, who had lost seven of eight. Marvin Williams scored 18, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist finished with 17 points.

It was Charlotte's second road win of the season in 12 tries.

Russell Westbrook had 30 points and seven assists and Paul George scored 20 points for the Thunder after missing the previous two games with a right calf contusion.

Charlotte shot 53 percent from the field against one of the league's best defensive teams. The Bobcats made 13 of 25 3-point attempts (see full recap).