CLEVELAND - How could the Cavaliers lose?
They couldn't. They haven't. Not at home, anyway.
And certainly not tonight, when Cleveland defeated the 76ers by 88-72 for its 13th victory in 13 home games.
The Cavaliers remain the NBA's only team undefeated at home. They are 20-3 overall, winners of 11 straight.
LeBron James, looking like a king ruling his kingdom, scored 28 points, grabbed 7 rebounds, and had 7 assists.
The Sixers are 9-14, losers of seven of their last nine.
Elton Brand, whom the Sixers pinned their vast off-season hopes on, struggled to 11 points on 4-of-13 shooting. Brand spent a decent portion of last night's game glancing at the scoreboard, which never displayed pleasant numbers, with a look that seemed to say: This is tough.
But if you want to know how the Sixers lost this one, you could look at the numbers. Or you could point to a 2-minute, 59-second stretch at the end of the second quarter.
It started with Cavaliers guard Mo Williams chasing down a lose ball, darting between Sixers as if their Nikes were glued to the hardwood.
The Cavaliers were leading, 43-37. Sixers swingman Andre Iguodala (16 points) badly missed a fadeaway jumper. The ball, which came off the far side of the backboard, was swatted out past the three-point line and bounced, unclaimed. Between two Sixers, Williams launched himself across the court, corralling the ball as he slid. Before the referees could debate a traveling violation, the buzzer sounded a 24-second violation.
The Cavaliers went on a 9-2 run to end the half and, essentially, the game. The Sixers got no closer than nine points the rest of the game.
After Wednesday night's loss to Cleveland, Sixers coach Maurice Cheeks called these runs, "separation points," and said his team needs to avoid them. Or, at least, shrink them to endurable.
Last night's loss, by itself, isn't troubling: The Cavaliers are perhaps the NBA's best team, playing in their home arena. What is troubling is the emerging pattern: game-changing stretches of ineptitude, an inability to feed the hot hand, missing crucial shots, and a handful more turnovers that make the game unwinnable.
Let's break those down.
Last night's stretch was the end of the second quarter.
Guard Willie Green scored 11 points in the first quarter. He finished with 19, took only one shot in the third quarter and four after halftime, and still led the team in scoring.
The Sixers shot 1 for 11 (9.1 percent) from the three-point line, with at least four of those attempts being momentum swingers.
The Sixers finished with 20 turnovers, and the Cavaliers, who need no help from their opponent, scored 22 points off them.
At Quicken Loans Arena, where the fans are becoming accustomed to victories, they danced their way through time-outs and smiled through stoppages of play as if the outcome of this one, like a favorite movie on DVD, was never in doubt.