CLEVELAND - Coach Maurice Cheeks is not one to lash out at his 76ers team. He has shown patience with an inconsistent group during this 10-14 season, and the Sixers probably have a few more wins than most figured at this point.
But even Cheeks has a frustration threshold, and he reached it Friday after a 109-99 loss to the Sacramento Kings.
Sacramento won its first road game in 10 tries, but that wasn't what bothered Cheeks. It was the way the Kings dominated the Sixers, scoring their final 13 field goals on dunks or layups. The Kings encountered no resistance while continually driving the lane.
So Cheeks voiced his concern to the team before Saturday's game at Cleveland. And his words struck a chord with the players.
The Sixers rebounded from arguably their most disappointing loss to earn one of their best wins in a 92-86 victory over the Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena. They outscored the Cavs, 35-17, in fastbreak points.
"Coach got on us and we understand that," said Willie Green, who scored nine points against the Cavs and frequently guarded LeBron James, who had a below-average 21-point night. "This could have been six [wins] in a row."
Instead, the Sixers have to settle for having won five of the last six.
"Obviously, the game wasn't the way we want to play on Friday night," Cheeks said. "All of us - the players, and coaches - said let's continue to play the way we've been playing."
It was interesting to survey the Sixers' locker room after each game this weekend.
On Friday, it was quiet, and the players spoke haltingly, the frustration seeping out.
On Saturday, the players seemed more relieved than ready to celebrate.
"We felt like we played like little girls in that [Sacramento] game," said forward Reggie Evans, who had 14 rebounds in the win over Cleveland. "We had to bounce back."
No one bounced back better than Samuel Dalembert, who had just four points, nine rebounds and two blocked shots on Friday. On Saturday, he had 16 points, 19 rebounds and 3 blocks.
"I know I had to give way more than I did on Friday," Dalembert said.
Sacramento was given an easy pass to the lane, but the Sixers made Cleveland work for everything.
None other than James was impressed with the effort.
"They held us to two field goals in the last eight minutes, so you have to give them a lot of credit," James said. "They did a great job of coming in here and beating us."
James took just two shots and had three points in the fourth quarter, when the Sixers outscored Cleveland, 25-18. (Of course, in the next Cavs practice, the team might work on getting him the ball more.)
When Dalembert has a strong performance, it usually is accompanied by a victory. Saturday marked his second monster game in the last three. On Wednesday, he had 18 points, 11 rebounds and 9 blocked shots in a 98-94 win over Minnesota.
Like the team, Dalembert has had his ups and downs. "The game before wasn't enough, and I had to come back with something extra," he said.
The Sixers entered the fourth period trailing Cleveland, 68-67. Earlier in the season, they might not have been able to close a game like this. Previous losses to Detroit (83-78) and Golden State (100-98 in overtime) are two examples of games the Sixers simply could not close.
"We are up and down, but this was a big win," Green said. "It goes to show that some of those losses early in the season helped us mature."