Cavs rally from 30 down, but fall
LeBron James pulled Ben Simmons in for a hug, and smiled and laughed in a brief chat with Joel Embiid.
Allen Iverson watched the scene with a big grin and high-fived a few fans.
The 76ers of the past and present sure loved LeBron — but is that appreciation enough to make him a Sixer in the future?
Simmons topped James in a triple-double battle to lead the 76ers to their 13th straight win in their biggest game in six years, 132-130 over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday night.
With a buzz in the city over the Sixers that hasn’t been felt since the pre-Process days, they romped to a 30-point lead in the first half and scored 78 points at the break.
“You get down 30 in the postseason, that can lose you a series,” James said.
It cost the Cavs in Philly.
Simmons had 27 points, 15 rebounds and 13 assists and James, one of his mentors, had 44 points (17-of-29 shooting), 11 assists and 11 rebounds, bringing the Cavaliers to the brink of an epic comeback.
“He’s a student of the game. He wants to be great,” James said.
The Sixers (49-30) moved into third place in the Eastern Conference over the Cavaliers (49-31).
Perhaps the Cavs were fatigued from rallying from 17-points down to win Thursday against Washington. Whatever the reason, they were in a funk from the start — James even missed a dunk.
James suddenly remembered in the second half he needed to audition his stuff for his potential summer suitor. He had a chance to tie the game when he was fouled on a 3-point attempt with 1.9 seconds left. He made the first, missed the second and his intentional miss on the third failed to go in on a Cavs tip at the horn.
He scored 21 points in the third and hit successive 3-pointers in the fourth that helped pull Cleveland to 111-109. James had a monster slam that kept it a three-point game only for JJ Redick to come down and bury a 3.
James started yapping at the refs, the crowd howled as he complained, and the arena felt like a Game 7.
Then it got earsplitting.
Simmons kicked out to Redick for a 3 from the corner that brought Iverson out of his seat and pumping his fist in celebration.
The seeding takes on added importance with both teams chances at making a long postseason run increasing once Boston lost Kyrie Irving for the season.
James can opt out of his contract this summer — he has a $35.6 option — with Cleveland and become a free agent. With a glut of young talent and spacious room under the salary cap, Philadelphia has been frequently mentioned as a landing spot for James. Three billboards, paid for by a Pennsylvania company, popped up recently in Ohio urging James to sign with the 76ers this summer.
Sixers’ Twitter even seemed divided on how to handle James — boo him or woo him with kindness?
It’s Philly. Take a guess which reaction won.
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.”
He brought the sellout crowd to their feet on his missed dunk..