Cleveland Cavaliers

Sixers survive for statement win over Cavaliers to take No. 3 seed

Sixers survive for statement win over Cavaliers to take No. 3 seed


A tale of two halves.

Scene 1: The Sixers absolutely dominate the Cavaliers and lead by 23 points at the half.

Scene 2: The Cavs score 43 points in the third quarter and threaten a dramatic second-half comeback. 

The Sixers held on for a down-to-the-wire, 132-130 victory over the Cavaliers Friday that culminated with LeBron James missing a key free throw with 1.9 seconds to play. 

The Sixers (49-30) won their 13th straight game for the first time since Dec. 22, 1984 through Jan. 16, 1985. More significantly, they moved ahead of the Cavs (49-31) for third place in the Eastern Conference.

“I think it was big,” Ben Simmons said after the game. “Beating a team like that without a star, [Joel Embiid]. I think everyone is coming together as a team.”

• Simmons recorded his 12th triple-double of the season (27 points, 15 rebounds, 13 assists, four steals, one block). He nearly had it in the first half, and reached the mark with 3:30 to play in the third. Simmons has done this before. What he hasn’t done is put up numbers like this with what looked like ease against James and the Cavaliers. 

• LeBron James pulled a LeBron James and flipped the switch when needed. After scoring nine points in the first half, he finished with a game-high 44 points (along with 11 assists and 11 rebounds). At certain points — late in the game, in the postseason — it doesn’t matter who’s actually on the Cavs’ roster. He has the pure talent and will to put his team on his back. In this case, he had the opportunity to tie the game up himself with a trio of free throws but missed the critical second attempt and the Cavs couldn’t score on the third miss. 

“He goes from a facilitator to LeBron James, 35 points,” Brett Brown said. “I thought to withstand that is a really timely game to have been played as we enter the playoffs.”

• It was intriguing to watch the machup between James and Simmons for the differences in their demeanors. James wears his intensity and emotions on his face. Simmons generally keeps a calm look. Both badly want to win regardless of how they show it on the court. 

• Joel Embiid joined the Sixers on the bench for the first time since being diagnosed with a concussion and left orbital fracture. Here’s the latest on Embiid’s status and a look at him pregame casually shooting threes.

• Dario Saric returned to the lineup after missing the last three games because of cellulitis in his right elbow. He didn’t look like himself out there. Saric shot 1 for 9 from the field and 1 for 6 from three (three points) in 25 minutes. 

• Marco Belinelli knocked down what felt like 30 treys. Turns out he drained six, one short of tying his career high. Belinelli gave another solid contribution off the bench with 23 points. JJ Redick led the Sixers with 28 points. 

• Markelle Fultz showed composure against the Cavs, a tough opponent for anyone, especially a 19-year-old rookie who’s barely played in the NBA. He posted 10 points, four assists and three boards in 12 minutes.  

Sixers will get early taste of postseason in showdown with Cavs

Sixers will get early taste of postseason in showdown with Cavs

The playoffs aren’t here yet, but it will feel like it Friday night when the Sixers host LeBron James and the Cavaliers in a matchup for critical playoff positioning. 

The Sixers (48-30) currently are half-a-game behind the Cavaliers (49-30) for the third spot in the Eastern Conference with four games to go. This will be a battle of a balanced roster rooted in top-tier young talent against a squad led by a 33-year-old on a mission. James is averaging 27.5 points, 8.7 rebounds, 9.2 assists and 1.4 steals in 37.2 minutes. 

Expect the Wells Fargo Center to be loud. Not loud like it was for games against the playoff-hungry Timberwolves or Nuggets … loud like the postseason already is here. The players and fans are well aware of the implications of this game. 

Home-court advantage remains up for grabs. The Sixers have a one-and-a-half game lead over the fifth-place Pacers. They have been nearly unstoppable at home, losing just once in all of 2018. The Sixers have made it crystal clear they have a goal that has not wavered amid key injuries to Joel Embiid and Dario Saric: they are chasing home court … and will not stop. 

The race for the third seed in the East also intensified after All-Star guard Kyrie Irving was shut down for the remainder of the season (knee), making the Celtics all a sudden a much less formidable opponent. If the top-four teams advance to the second round (which of course is an “if” in all series), the third seed would be matched up with the shorthanded Celtics while the fourth seed would have to tackle the Raptors and their healthy roster of star power. 

The Sixers will be tested by an Eastern Conference contender for the first time since March 13 against the Pacers — and that’s good for them this close to the playoffs. They have been taking care of business against plenty of sub-.500 teams with authority. This stretch has been a positive lesson in dominating their opponents, not playing down to them like they had struggled with earlier in the season. 

Now the Sixers can take everything they have developed during this 12-game winning streak and apply it to a level of competition they have not faced in a while. This is the same level of competition they will be challenged by when the postseason begins in just over a week. 

LeBron continues triple-double tour

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LeBron continues triple-double tour

CLEVELAND -- LeBron James scored 40 points as part of his third triple-double in four games and the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Milwaukee Bucks 124-117 on Monday night as coach Tyronn Lue began his leave of absence to address health issues.

Lue said Monday in a statement he been dealing with chest pains and loss of sleep, and that tests have offered no conclusion about what the issue is. Associate head coach Larry Drew will run the team in Lue's absence.

James scored 17 points in the third quarter and finished with 12 rebounds and 10 assists for his 16th triple-double this season and 71st of his career.

The four-time MVP took over in the third beginning with back-to-back 3-pointers. After not getting a foul called on a third attempt, he finished Cleveland's next possession with a massive dunk. He was fouled attempting another dunk and made both free throws the following time down.

Milwaukee cut a 17-point lead to 117-109, but James drove the length of the floor for a dunk with just over a minute left.

Cavaliers All-Star forward Kevin Love returned after missing six weeks because of a broken left hand and scored 18 points in 25 minutes. He sparked a 10-0 run in the second quarter with two 3-pointers

Giannis Antetokounmpo had 37 points and went 11 for 11 at the foul line for Milwaukee, which is seventh in the Eastern Conference. Khris Middleton had 30 points, making 11 of 16 from the field (see full recap).

Heat set franchise scoring mark in 2OT win
MIAMI -- James Johnson scored a career-high 31 points, Kelly Olynyk added 30 off the bench and the Miami Heat set a franchise single-game scoring record by beating the Denver Nuggets 149-141 in double overtime Monday night.

Miami's total was also an NBA season-high and helped the Heat get back to the No. 7 spot in the Eastern Conference standings. Houston and Oklahoma City each scored 148 in games earlier this season.

Wayne Ellington scored 29 points for the Heat. Nikola Jokic had 34 for Denver, while Wilson Chandler added 26 for the Nuggets.

"That was as playoffs as it comes right there," Olynyk said.

The NBA's stat system crashed late in the first overtime, and crews were scrambling to determine the final numbers long after the buzzer. All that ultimately mattered was the score -- one that moved the Heat closer to a playoff berth and left the Nuggets two games back in the Western Conference race.

Neither team was at full strength. For Miami, Dwyane Wade (left hamstring strain) missed his fourth consecutive game, and Hassan Whiteside (left hip pain) sat out his fifth straight contest. Denver was without leading scorer Gary Harris, sidelined again by a strained right knee that could keep him out several more days (see full recap).

Oladipo, Pacers rally past Lakers
INDIANAPOLIS -- Victor Oladipo sparked a decisive run and finished with 20 points, Myles Turner had 21 points and the Indiana Pacers recovered from a poor start for a 110-100 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday night.

The victory snapped Indiana's two-game losing streak.

Los Angeles was led by Kyle Kuzma with 27 points and Brook Lopez with 23, but the Lakers still lost their third straight.

Oladipo and Darren Collison got Indiana going with back-to-back 3-pointers midway through the third quarter for a 77-70 lead. After a layup from Julius Randle, Collison made a 20-footer and Lance Stephenson hit a 10-footer. When the 14-4 flurry ended, Indiana led 85-74 with 3:04 left in the third.

The Lakers never seriously challenged after that.

It was a stark contrast to the Lakers' fast start. Efficient shooting helped them take a 28-19 lead in the first quarter, but when the shooters cooled off, the Pacers charged back and used a 15-6 second-quarter run to make it 51-50 late in the period.

The Pacers still trailed 59-57 at the half -- before Oladipo helped flip things in the second half (see full recap).