76ers

Here they come! Sixers hold off Cavs to claim No. 3 seed in Eastern Conference

With each stylish between-the-legs dribble, electrifying assist and thunderous Ben Simmons dunk, the raucous crowd at Wells Fargo Center grew more boisterous. Before you knew it, the Philadelphia 76ers were up by as many as 30. By the end of it, that rowdiness turned into angst and once again a euphoric roar when LeBron James was unable to sink his game-tying free throws and Larry Nance missed his tip-in attempt at the horn.

It might’ve been a game the Philadelphia 76ers would’ve lost earlier in the season, but Allen Iverson’s little dudes are quickly growing up in front of our eyes.

And they did it without Joel Embiid too.

Watch out Eastern Conference, here they come!

Simmons recorded his 12th triple-double and sixth in his last 14 games in less than three quarters and the Sixers fended off a furious second half Cleveland rally to defeat the Cavs 132-130 on Friday night for their 13th straight win and move up to the No. 3 seed in the conference standings.

James was fouled by Robert Covington on a runner from beyond the arc along the right wing with 1.9 seconds left and Cleveland trailing by three.

The King, who had 35 of his 44 points in the second half to go with 11 assists and 11 rebounds, made the first foul shot, but rimmed out on the second. He missed the third one intentionally and Nance was unable to bat the ball home to send the game into overtime.

Phew!

Simmons netted 27 points, pulled down 15 boards and dished out 13 assists for the Sixers, who haven’t won 13 straight games since the 1984-85 season. Their franchise record for consecutive wins is 14 when they last won it all during the 1982-83 season. Philly (49-30) vaulted one-half game ahead of Cleveland (49-31) for the No. 3 seed and can clinch home-court advantage in the first round with one more victory or one more Indiana Pacers loss.

Only seven active players have more career triple-doubles than the rookie Simmons

Sixers head coach Brett Brown called Simmons’ triple-double an “authoritative triple-double.”

It was also an authoritative first half for Philadelphia, which saw it lead by as many as 30 and record its most points for a half all season as the Sixers took a healthy 78-55 cushion into the break. The Cavaliers charged back during the latter stages of the opening 24 minutes and used a 13-0 run that began at the end of the second quarter and bled into the third to trim the gap to 17.

Cleveland outscored Philly 43-27 in the third and trailed by just seven, 105-98, going into the final frame. Marco Belinelli scored 11 of his 23 points off the pine to help keep the Sixers in front when the contest began to unravel.

James, who took advantage of the Sixers’ switching defense to create matchup problems, drove in for a layup with 8:22 remaining to make it a 111-109 game, but Cleveland got no closer until the final 15 seconds. The Sixers put in six straight points from there, with Richaun Holmes’ push shot upping the advantage back up to 117-109. J.J. Redick, who poured in a team-high 28 points, nailed a critical 3-pointer from the right corner with 1:34 to play to give the Sixers a 128-120 margin.

J.R. Smith and Jeff Green sandwiched triples around a Cedi Osman free throw during a 7-0 Cleveland burst to claw within with 12.4 ticks to go. Redick and James both sunk a pair of foul shots before Ersan Ilyasova made two more freebies prior to James being fouled on his 3-point attempt with less than two seconds left.

Embiid missed his fourth straight game recovering from an orbital fracture and the Sixers improved to 8-8 in games without their star big man.

Dario Saric returned from a brief three-game absence from an elbow injury, but struggled in his 25 minutes. He was just 1-of-9 from the floor and scored three points.

Philadelphia next takes the floor on Sunday against the Dallas Mavericks at Wells Fargo Center.

 


You can follow Adrian Fedkiw on Twitter (@AdrianFedkiw) and e-mail him at amfedkiw@yahoo.com. Subscribe to The Bitter Birds on YouTube here. Follow Philly Influencer on Twitter (@PHL_Influencer), Facebook and Instagram.

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