CLEVELAND — The game had the makings of a bounce-back win for the Sixers.
Then, the Cavs snapped back into Cavs-mode and took over the game late in the fourth quarter Saturday night to defeat the Sixers, 105-98, at Quicken Loans Arena.
The Sixers could have beat both the Suns and the Lakers at home had they played with the same level of energy and intensity they demonstrated against the Cavaliers on the road … and without Joel Embiid, who is sidelined because of his back-to-back restriction.
Ben Simmons put the Sixers up 96-91 with a dunk, but he fouled LeBron James on the drive the next possession. James connected for the and-one, sparking an 8-0 Cavs run that reclaimed the game.
James led all scorers with a 30-point, 13-rebound, 13-assist triple-double. (More on James below.) The Sixers lost their third straight game, dropping to 13-12. The Cavaliers improved to 18-8.
• A scary moment late in the game when Robert Covington hustled to save a possession and tumbled out of bounds. There is an approximate four-to-five inch drop from the court to the area where he fell. Covington was down on the ground for a while, as players and staff surrounded him. He got up and walked off the court with the help of his teammates. More information as it becomes available.
• The matchup between James and Ben Simmons was just a small glimpse into what their duels will be like for years to come. The rookie held his own against his big-brother type (and future Hall of Famer). James pulled up for threes over Simmons. Simmons used his own size to drive the basket. Imagine being a fly on the wall if they played one-on-one in their offseason workouts together. Simmons recorded a double-double with 14 points, 10 assists and six boards.
"I thought his distance was good," Brett Brown said of Simmons after the game. "I thought him sitting in a stance was good. I’m always on him and all of our guys on their hand activity. I think by in large, Ben did a good job on him."
• The trade for Trevor Booker came at the right time. Amir Johnson and Richaun Holmes got into foul trouble in the first half and the Sixers needed Booker to help fill those minutes. Booker stepped in like he had spent weeks, not hours with his new team. He scored 12 points and eight rebounds in 20 minutes off the bench while being aggressive at the basket.
• #GogglesDario may be a new thing. Dario Saric sported goggles to play with an eye injury and posted 17 points, nine rebounds and six assists over 34 minutes.
• Kevin Love was scratched for left hip soreness. Ante Zizic got the start in his place. The rookie ended up playing just five minutes, as the Cavaliers turned to their deep bench in Love’s absence. Jeff Green, Dwyane Wade, Kyle Korver and Channing Frye all played more than 19 minutes.
• The Cavaliers were hungry for a win and probably hungry for sleep. They lost to the Pacers Friday night in Indiana and their flight back was delayed so long they didn't get home until 4:30 a.m.
"This was a big win for us, " James said. "After everything we went through last night … your whole day is just kind of screwed up. Your whole routine and your whole regimen is just kind of screwed up. But you've still got to be professionals. No one is going to feel sorry for you."