CLEVELAND - How could the Cavaliers lose?

They couldn't. They haven't. Not at home, anyway.

And not last night, 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.

"It was more us than them," said Sixers swingman Andre Iguodala, who finished with 16 points. "I think we didn't have the mental toughness down the stretch. We just gave in."

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 loose ball, darting between Sixers as if their Nikes were glued to the hardwood.

"They beat us to a couple of loose balls," guard Willie Green said.

The Cavaliers were leading by 43-37. Iguodala 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 way.

After Wednesday night's 101-93 loss to Cleveland, Sixers coach Maurice Cheeks called these runs "separation points," and said his team needed to avoid them. Or, at least, shrink them to endurable. "That was a point of separation," Cheeks said of last night's final 2:59 of the first half.

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.

Green scored 11 points in the first. He finished with 19, took only one shot in the third quarter, four after halftime, and still led the team in scoring.

The Sixers shot 1 for 12 from the three-point line, with at least four of those attempts being momentum-swingers.

The Sixers turned it over 20 times, leading to 22 points for the Cavaliers. "Turnovers cost us," Cheeks said.

After the game, Iguodala stood in front of his makeshift locker and discussed what needs to change. He used the word

execution

. He used the phrase

get it done

. Then he said, "Games keep coming . . ."

Kate Fagan blogs all day about the Sixers at

Contact staff writer Kate Fagan at 856-779-3844 or kfagan@phillynews.com.