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.  

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