Ben Simmons recorded his 12th triple-double of the season with 27 points, 15 rebounds and 13 assists to lead the Philadelphia 76ers past the Cleveland Cavaliers 132-130 Friday night at the Wells Fargo Center.
And the Cavs, ultimately, weren't able to complete the comeback, as the Sixers won their 13th game in a row to take a half-game lead on Cleveland for the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
"I believe in the guys in our locker room", Celtics coach Brad Stevens told reporters when asked about his team's chances in the playoffs without Irving. He struggled in Detroit, making just two of 12 shots, but has totaled 17.0 points and 5.3 assists per game in his last ten on the road. As a result, the 21-year-old Australian became just the second rookie in National Basketball Association history to reach 1,200 points, 600 rebounds, and 600 assists in their first season.
The Sixers 78-point effort was the most they had scored in half since 1992, but it was a tale of two halves as James and the Cavs went about erasing the 23-point halftime margin, dropping 43 points in a devastating third quarter that gave them a sniff.
Philadelphia 76ers, Cleveland Cavaliers set for game with playoff implications
Joel Embiid , who went for 17 points and 14 rebounds last time against the Love-less Cavs, is out following facial surgery. Philadelphia 76ers power forward Dario Saric (elbow) is expected to return on Friday against the Cleveland Cavaliers .
"You get down 30 in the postseason, that can lose you a series", James said. "We are playing well". James, who went on to make the first free throw and miss the second, leading to the intentional miss on the third, told ESPN after the game he believed Covington actually fouled him on the floor before he was in his shooting motion. "They played very well, and we might see them down the road". With a glut of young talent and spacious room under the salary cap, Philadelphia has been frequently mentioned as a landing spot for James.
James was booed each time he touched the ball and signs were spotted in the stands that read "Keep Cryin' in Cleveland" and "We Don't Want You". Three billboards, paid for by a Pennsylvania company, popped up recently in OH urging James to sign with the 76ers this summer.
The Sixers had them standing and roaring on nearly every possession. The Cavaliers still have a chance to win it back, but with the Sixers' easy schedule finish, it may be hard for Cleveland to clinch the third seed. "For us to come all the way back it shows what we are capable of doing".
"LeBron's the best of all time so I have to root for him obviously", said Mike Zazzera.
The Cavaliers face the New York Knicks at 7:30 p.m. Monday at Madison Square Garden in New York City.