Cavaliers 98, 76ers 92
PHILADELPHIA (AP)—LeBron James might want to send a good luck text message to his buddy and Nets part-owner Jay-Z.
James will certainly be scoreboard watching in the season finale, doing all he can to help Cleveland win while pulling for New Jersey to keep alive Cleveland’s shot at the No. 2 seed.
“We’ve got to take care of business on our home court,” James said. “We’ll be rooting for the Nets.”
The Cavaliers could move up to No. 2 if they beat Milwaukee on Wednesday night and New Jersey beats Chicago, also on Wednesday. If they play like this against the Bucks, they’ll surely be counting on the Nets to win and bump them up a few pivotal spots in the playoff race.
“Milwaukee is not going to lie down for us,” coach Mike Brown said. “It’s going to be a tough game at home and we have to come in with the right mind frame to get a win.”
Brown has called earning the No. 2 seed “critical,” but the surging Bulls have won three straight and eight of 10.
While the Cavs would surely rather be No. 2 than seeded fifth, James said the Cavs are primed for a deep postseason run no matter what team they play.
“We’re real confident. We believe we can beat anyone no matter who we match up against,” he said. “We’ve got guys in the inside and outside. Defensively, we’re one of the best teams in the NBA, so that’s not a problem.”
James added six assists in an all-around solid game and led a well-balanced Cavaliers attack that had six players score in double figures. Zydrunas Ilgauskas scored 14 points.
“We all know that we’re looking forward to next year based upon the players that have and the effort that they’ve given this year,” Sixers coach Maurice Cheeks said.
Hughes keyed a 13-4 run to start the fourth period that gave the Cavs some needed room and guaranteed their season finale will mean something. The Cavaliers won their 20th road game, tying them for third most in team history.
Hughes got the Cavs rolling to open the fourth quarter. He hit a 3 and a jumper, then Donyell Marshall scored for a 10-point lead. Marshall followed shortly after with his only other basket of the game, a 3-pointer that gave the Cavs an 86-74 lead.
Every game down the stretch has been like a playoff game for the Cavaliers. Closing out games, even with so much at stake, has been a recent problem, and they almost folded again.
Green pulled the Sixers within 92-85 with a 3-pointer, but there was no need for James to bail out Cleveland with some late-minute heroics in this one. The Cavs held on for the road win, but they’ll play a tougher team than the Sixers in the postseason.
“It was a game we needed to win,” Hughes said.
The 76ers played again without Andre Iguodala (strained lower back) and Kyle Korver (sprained wrist) and finish the season at Toronto on Wednesday night. They were able to finish above .500 at home (21-20) and need to beat the Raptors to end the season with a winning record since trading Allen Iverson in December (29-29).
“I see positives with the players that we have,” Cheeks said. “They are young and they understand going in that they have to take another step to be good.”
Sixers F Steven Hunter left after he sprained his right knee in the first quarter and did not return. He said he won’t play against the Raptors … Iguodala thanked the fans for coming out on fan appreciation night and also asked them to keep the victims of the Virginia Tech massacre in their thoughts and prayers. … Eagles coach Andy Reid was at the game, and signed autographs and posed for pictures with fans at halftime.