The Cleveland Cavaliers survived a scare in Philadelphia, despite giving up a five-point lead to the Sixers in the fourth quarter, 102-101. The team now improves to 6-0 on the season, a nine-game winning streak dating back to the NBA Finals.
Strong performances from both Kevin Love and LeBron James were all but erased to start the fourth quarter where a cold shooting streak and poor defense gave the Sixers as much as a five-point lead. But some late three point shooting from J.R. Smith and Channing Frye helped seal it for the Cavs. James had a game high 25 points, 8 rebounds, and 14 assist on 23 shots. His first field goal on the passed Hakeem Olajuwon as tenth overall on the all-time scoring list. Love had 20 points on 16 attempts with 11 rebounds.
The Cavs had 40 fast break points but struggled to score in some of their more length sets due to spacing issues and a off-shooting night. It was certainly an off night for Kyrie Irving who shot just 3-of-17 from the field and had four turnovers to just two assists. But Irving had two defensive stops in the final minute of play that
The Sixers look to be an improved and competitive ball club this season with the debut of both Joel Embiid and Dario Saric. Embiid led his team in scoring with 22 points, six rebounds, four blocks, one steal, and two assists. And in his second game with the team, Ersan Ilyasova had 21 points off the bench.
During a key sequence in the final two minutes of play, James failed to score while a double teamed from a screen with Tristan Thompson. Lue pulled Thompson for Channing Frye and the change got the Cavs the space needed as Joel Embiid hesitated between James and Frye, getting Frye and open look for the lead. A set of defensive plays closed out the game for the Cavs.
The game highlights a key issue for the Cavaliers to start the season: How do they play big with an undersized and perimeter-heavy frontcourt? Without Timofey Mozgov (who, granted, was not very good last season) their post scoring comes largely from James and Thompson who have run into these spacing issues before such as the Eastern Conference Finals in Toronto. Finding ways to utilize Thompson’s rebounding but not attract double teams for James inside will be a continued puzzle going forward. Love’s expanded role, though, can certainly help.
The Cavs, now 6-0, will hope to continue their streak on Election Night at home agains the Atlanta Hawks.