Cavaliers 95, 76ers 87
CLEVELAND (AP)—While LeBron James has rested his ankle, his team has gotten a whole lot better.
Carlos Boozer had 15 points and 15 rebounds as the Cavs improved to 2-1 without James, their rookie star and leading scorer who missed his third straight game with a sprained right ankle.
James is expected to return to the lineup Monday against Orlando, and when he comes back, Cavaliers coach Paul Silas expects his team to take off.
“Once we get ‘Bron back,” Silas said, “I can now see a bright future. All’s well right now.”
Cleveland (15-28), which went 17-65 a year ago, didn’t get its 15th win last season until April 5.
“We’re gaining a lot of confidence,” guard Kevin Ollie said. “Earlier this season, we had some tough defeats. But tonight we made some big shots and made some big plays when we had to.”
Allen Iverson scored 32 points—21 in the third quarter—for Philadelphia, which slashed a 19-point deficit to six late in the period. However, Iverson, the NBA’s leading scorer didn’t get his first points of the fourth until there was just 33.8 seconds left.
Before that basket, Iverson missed his three attempts of the quarter as he was hounded by both Wagner and Jeff McInnis, who played his first game for Cleveland.
Iverson played with a badly bruised left hand and a sore finger on his right hand.
“I’ve been struggling with my rhythm,” said Iverson, who went 12-for-29 from the field. “I finally caught fire there in the third quarter. I had it going.”
But the Cavs made it tough on him in the fourth, especially McInnis, who was brought to Cleveland for his defense as much as for his playmaking.
“Once we put Jeff on A.I., he slowed him down a bit,” Silas said. “That was big.”
McInnis only had practiced once with the Cavs, who acquired him Wednesday in a trade with Portland for Darius Miles. But he started and finished with nine points and six assists in 35 minutes.
“It feels good to get that first win,” McInnis said.
Glenn Robinson had 20 points for the injury-riddled Sixers, who have lost six of eight. Philadelphia played without starters Derrick Coleman and Kenny Thomas, who were both hurt in a loss to Orlando on Friday.
“It’s wearing on us somewhat,” said Sixers coach Randy Ayers, who expects Thomas (scratched cornea) to be back on Tuesday. “We have to keep working.”
Cleveland’s bench outscored Philly’s 32-14.
The Cavs led by 18 in the third but appeared to be on their way to blowing another big lead when they missed their first 10 shots of the fourth quarter.
But Wagner, who sat out Cleveland’s first 33 games with a knee injury, buried a 3-pointer to make it 82-72. Then, following a steal, he drove past Robinson on the baseline to drop in a high floater.
“It’s hard to guard a guy like him,” Williams said of his teammate, who the Cavs think can be a big-time scorer. “He can get to the basket so well. He has the in-between game with the floater and his 3s have come along.”
With Iverson unable to shake free on offense, Robinson scored nine straight points and the Sixers crept within 90-85 with 58.5 seconds to play.
However, the Cavs, who gave away several wins earlier this season with fourth-quarter collapses, finished strong by making five of six free throws in the final 52 seconds to close it out.
“The guys showed a lot of heart, a lot of guts and a lot of toughness,” Silas said. “I really like the mix right now.”
The Cavs force fed McInnis their offense during his first practice on Friday, and he showed he’s a fast learner as he scored four points and handedout four assists to help Cleveland take a 30-18 lead after one.
James ran on his ankle Saturday for the first time since rolling it a week ago and says he may play against the Magic. “It’s getting there,” James said. … Only three Sixers—Samuel Dalembert, John Salmons and Eric Snow— have played in every game this season. … Ayers said he’ll give James serious consideration when Eastern Conference coaches vote for All-Star reserves. “I think a lot of people appreciate his game,” said Ayers, who wouldn’t reveal whether he would give James a vote. “He’s on everybody’s ballot.” … Miles, who wore No. 21 in Cleveland, is wearing 23 in Portland—a salute to his closefriend James, who moved into Miles’ old locker at Gund Arena.