CLEVELAND - With the Flyers fighting it out with the Penguins, the Phillies battling the Giants, and the Eagles getting ready for the NFL draft, there was undoubtedly little interest in the 76ers playing in Cleveland on Wednesday. After all the Sixers had lost seven of nine and three in a row, and the Cavaliers had trailed the Detroit Pistons by 50 at one point on Tuesday before losing by 39.
The Sixers paid a bit more attention to their task at hand than Philly fans, and polished off the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena, 103-87. The win improved the Sixers to 32-30 and, coupled with Milwaukee's loss in Washington, upped their lead over the Bucks to 2 1/2 games for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
During halftime of Tuesday's home loss to the Indiana Pacers, coach Doug Collins told forward Andre Iguodala he needed to stay aggressive in his approach, look to score and take the ball to the basket with more frequency. Tuesday, Iguodala responded with 23 points. Against the Cavs, Iguodala again showed positive aggression as he went for 19 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists.
Jrue Holiday single-handedly powered the Sixers to the win, though, with a huge third quarter. The point guard scored 19 points in the period, helping the Sixers to a 31-17 scoring advantage and a lead that grew to as many as 22 points. Holiday drained all five of his three-point attempts and also dealt five assists. He finished with 24 points and five assists.
Collins did a little lineup shuffling again Wednesday. After two turnovers and a foul in 2 minutes, 31 seconds to start the game, the coach benched starting center Nikola Vucevic, splitting the center time for most of the game between Spencer Hawes and Lavoy Allen.
Somehow, playing their third game in 3 nights, the Sixers looked very crisp against a Cavs team very much just playing out the string. The Sixers moved the ball well (season-high 32 assists), leading to many easy shots, hence the 52.4 shooting percentage (43-for-82).
"I've really just been forcing shots and happen to be making them," Iguodala joked after the win. "I'm just trying to stay aggressive somehow. The way that our offense is set up, it's like an equal-opportunity offense. Sometimes you find yourself trying to run the offense and you go a few possessions without scoring opportunities. The last couple of games, I've just been conscious of just trying to get my shots up, no matter what.
"But I have been trying to be aggressive all year, so my mentality is kind of the same. I'm just looking to force the issue a little bit more. We have to find a way to get wins, and we haven't been doing it, so we have to find a way to do it."
Holiday's explosion started at the end of the second quarter when, after having gotten knocked to the floor a couple of times, he started making some shots. It certainly carried over into the third, propelling the Sixers to the much-needed win.
"Jrue was very quiet in the first half until that second quarter, and I pulled him over and said, '[Tuesday], you had a doughnut in the first half against Indiana. I need you to get aggressive,' " Collins said. "He had points there at the end of the half, and I thought that got him going. I think he got upset. He got hit there a couple of times on drives, got hit in the mouth. So I've ordered up some [ticked-off] cream for the rest of the season.
"What I like [about Iguodala] is that he's looking to score, especially early in the game when we need him. Jodie [Meeks] has been struggling to score the ball, so with 'Dre getting us going that really, really helped."
Iguodala made three of his first four three-point attempts in the game, which made him an impressive nine of his last 14. Not normally known for his outside marksmanship, he seems to be more comfortable launching lately. And then Holiday did his thing in the third.
"I guess I just got open a lot," Holiday said. "I didn't feel like many of the shots I took there were really contested. Our team is kind of passive. We have a lot of guys who want to make the extra pass and sometimes you do have to be a little selfish. I'm not saying 'Dre was selfish, I think he had an awesome game. But sometimes you just have to force things."
Elton Brand and Thaddeus Young scored 12 points each for the Sixers, while Evan Turner added 10 to help give the team a little breathing room over Milwaukee.
"Your fate's in your own hands," Collins said of the playoff race. "I think [Milwaukee] plays in Indiana [Thursday]. If Indy can help us and give Milwaukee 33 [losses], then you're two wins away from taking care of your business. So let's hope Indy helps us and let's hope we can find a couple more wins."