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Two for one: High-powered 76ers hang on to beat plucky Cavaliers

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Not sure why this one was close, but it really was

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at Philadelphia 76ers Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

This game was pretty perplexing, but in the best possible way. This was a schedule loss. A night after expending a lot of energy to beat the Toronto Raptors at home, the Cavs were on the road against the Philadelphia 76ers without Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson, Larry Nance Jr. and more.

So, why did this game stay close well into the fourth quarter? How were the Cavs leading with under four minutes left in the game? The 76ers ultimately held on and won 106-99 to continue their march to the playoffs. The Cavs ultimately lost to hang onto ping pong balls on their march to the lottery. Everyone got what they wanted.

POSITIVE: The Cavs looked good without Kevin Love

Since the All-Star break, the Cavs have close to a positive net rating. Given the fact that they’ve spent most of the year with the worst net rating in the league, that’s a good thing. A lot of it has come in games Kevin Love played. In a blowout loss to the Detroit Pistons, for example, Kevin Love didn’t play. You could be forgiven for assuming a blowout was in play for tonight’s game. And with the Cavs down 24-10 early, it seemed we were heading that way.

But the Cavs just kept playing. The 76ers played sloppy and turned the ball over, and the Cavs were ready to run and push the pace and make them pay. Ultimately Joel Embiid was too much, but the 21 turnovers from Philadelphia helped make this a game. It was impressive to see the Cavs continue to work and go through stretches where the offense work. Oftentimes it seems like Kevin Love is a prerequisite for that.

POSITIVE: Collin Sexton continued on an upward trajectory

Twenty-six points on 20 shots is decent enough efficiency, and Sexton didn’t turn the ball over once. He only had one assist, but he made the right read more than a few times. Late in the game he had trouble asserting himself with Clarkson hijacking the offense a little bit, but Collin’s willingness to play with pace and work turning turnovers into points was a big part of the Cavs staying competitive. He continues to shoot more, and to shoot well, from three point range.

NEGATIVE: Jordan Clarkson and Cedi Osman just couldn’t make enough plays

Clarkson was 5-20 from the field, and 0-8 from three point range. Osman had 18 points on 19 shots. Osman did notch four assists, and he did make some threes, but late in the game when the Cavs needed to score these guys couldn’t get points. Defensively the Cavs did enough to win this game, which is crazy to say, but they just couldn’t score late. These guys took the shots, so they need to shoulder a lot of the blame. All that said, the Cavs will take this outcome every game until the season ends. Effort, growth from some young guys, and ping pong balls.