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Wrap-Up -- All good things come to an end and Cleveland’s 11-game domination of Philadelphia was fun while it lasted. But the “process” is starting to come together for the young Sixers, evidenced by their wire-to-wire 108-97 win over the Wine & Gold on Thursday night at The Q.
The Sixers didn’t dominate at any point, but they were never truly threatened until late by the Cavaliers – who fell behind by eight points in the first quarter and couldn’t get over the hump the rest of the way.
The loss snapped an 11-game win streak by the Wine & Gold over Philly – including the first two meetings this season. But the Playoff-bound Sixers are a different team these days, and on Thursday night they handed Cleveland its third home loss since the All-Star Break.
LeBron James – who earlier in the day was named the Eastern Conference’s Player of the Month for February for the seventh straight season – essentially picked up where he left off last month – notching his third straight 30-point game, including fifth in his last six.
On the night, the four-time MVP led all scorers with 30 points, going 12-of-24 from the field, adding nine boards, a team-best eight assists and a steal. But two troubling trends surfaced again on Thursday night.
The first was the lack of whistles he got, despite being his usual aggressive self – making just six trips to the stripe in the loss. In the fourth quarter, Ben Simmons swiped James across the face on a layup attempt – but neither a flagrant nor a common foul was called.
The second was his lack of support among the Cavaliers starting five.
Rodney Hood got the start at shooting guard against Philadelphia after it was announced pregame that JR Smith would be suspended for the night due to conduct detrimental to the team earlier in the day. Hood was solid in the spot start – finishing with 11 points.
George Hill tallied just seven points, with Cedi Osman and Tristan Thompson adding six points apiece. Thompson did lead the Cavaliers with 11 rebounds – his third straight game grabbing double-digit boards.
Larry Nance Jr. had another strong performance off the bench – chipping in with 13 points and seven boards, going 5-for-7 from the floor, adding a steal and leading both squads with three blocks on the night.
All five Philadelphia starters (plus Marco Belinelli) registered double-figures in Thursday’s win – with J.J. Redick pacing the Sixers with 22 points and Joel Embiid doubling-up with 17 points and a game-high 14 boards.
Korver, Clarkson and Nance Jr. combine for 32 points off the bench.
On the night, the Cavaliers shot 41 percent from the floor and just 28 percent – 9-of-32 – from long-range. Philly beat Cleveland up on the boards, 54-45, and held the Cavs to just 15 points on 7-for-22 shooting in the third quarter.
Turning Point -- There weren’t many turning points in Thursday’s loss. The Sixers led by as many as 13 points and the Cavaliers didn’t lead at any point. But the game was decided late in the fourth – just as it looked like the Wine & Gold might rally.
Philly led by seven, 94-87, with 4:04 to play when the Cavaliers put together a quick 7-1 run to get within a point on Kyle Korver’s triple with 2:25 to play. But that was truly as good as it would get for Cleveland on Thursday night.
Dario Saric canned a three of his own on Philly’s next possession and baskets by Joel Embiid and J.J. Redick propelled the Sixers’ 8-0 run to put the affair on ice.
By the Numbers – 927 … career games that LeBron James has scored at least 20 points – moving him past Michael Jordan for 4th-most on the NBA’s all-time list.
Quotable – LeBron James, on tonight’s loss and the Wine & Gold’s recent home woes …
”I think they came in and played well, but we had some missed opportunities. It looked like we had some heavy legs tonight and we fought back, but it’s been a tough stretch for us playing every other day the last four weeks. But we’ve got to figure it out.”
Up Next -- Following Thursday’s loss to the Sixers, the Wine & Gold wrap up their five-game homestand with two more at The Q – a Saturday night showdown with the up-and-coming Nuggets followed by a Monday night visit by Blake Griffin and the Pistons. The Cavs then embark on their longest trip of the season – a six-game, 12-day trip that tips off next Wednesday night in Denver. The Cavaliers face off against the Clippers at STAPLES Center next Friday and remain in Tinseltown for a battle with the Lakers two days later. They face the Suns in Phoenix the following Tuesday, the Blazers on Thursday and close out with a battle against the Bulls on St. Patrick’s Day in Chicago.