It looked like the Cleveland Cavaliers were suffering from a severe case of an Ohio State-Michigan hangover.
The 76ers nearly took advantage of whatever ailed the Cavaliers in the early going Sunday before losing, 112-108, at the Wells Fargo Center.
The loss dropped the Sixers to 4-13 and extended their losing streak to three games. The setback also marked their eighth consecutive defeat to the defending NBA champion Cavs (13-2). And the Sixers dropped to 1-5 this season in games decided by six points or fewer.
Kyrie Irving and LeBron James showed why are among the world's best players on a day when Cleveland had a slow start.
Irving scored 19 of his season-high 39 points in the fourth quarter. He scored 10 of the Cavs' first 13 points of the quarter.
"It was warranted," he said of stepping up in the fourth.
The plays that Cavs coach Tyronn Lue drew up called for the three-time all-star to be aggressive coming off pick-and-rolls.
James finished with 26 points, a game-high 13 assists, and 10 rebounds for his third triple-double of the season and the 45th of his career.
"When those guys are on like that, it's really hard to beat them," Sixers center Joel Embiid said. "But [Irving] just made shots. He just got hot."
Kevin Love added 25 points and 11 rebounds, while Tristan Thompson had 12 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks.
Embiid led the Sixers with 22 points and added nine rebounds, four assists, three blocks, and three turnovers. His backup, Jahlil Okafor, had 14 points and a season-high nine rebounds.
Cleveland looked a little sluggish after its team plane made a pit stop in Columbus, Ohio, on Saturday to attend the football game at Ohio Stadium.
The team arrived in Columbus at about 9:30 a.m. for the noon game. The Cavaliers met Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer and his players before the game. Dressed in Ohio State attire, the Cavs were even clowning around and dancing on the field before kickoff. They left in the fourth quarter before their flight arrived in Philadelphia at about 6 p.m.
The Cavs probably would have liked to trade in their dance moves for made field goals at the start of the game.
The Sixers jumped out to a 10-2 lead at the timeout with 7 minutes, 2 seconds left in the first quarter thanks in large part to the Cavs missing their first 14 shots. Many of them were wide open. Some others went in and out. But the Sixers subbed in Okafor for Embiid at that timeout.
Twelve seconds later, James drove the lane and scored the Cavs' first basket of the game. Attacking the hoop, they made 7 of 10 shots after missing their first 14.
But why weren't they able to make shots early on?
"It's basketball, man," Irving said. "The thing about it was they were beautiful passes. They are normal shots that we make. So for us, it was just about continuing to play through one another."
However, the Sixers kept withstanding their charges and held a 10-point cushion (81-71) with 1:15 left in the third.
But Irving capped a 14-3 run with a layup to give the Cavs their first lead, 85-84, with 9:22 remaining.
The lead seesawed before the Cavs built an 11-point cushion (106-95) on Thompson's basket with 2:33 left.
The Sixers were without starting point guard Jerryd Bayless, who was sidelined with left wrist soreness. Bayless had missed the first 13 games of the season after tearing a ligament in the wrist during training camp in September. A top free-agent acquisition, Bayless has played in only three games, making his long-awaited start on Friday.
The 6-foot-2, 210-pounder said he felt soreness throughout that night's loss to the Chicago Bulls. Then he sat out Saturday's light practice. Bayless was scheduled to go to Toronto with the team Sunday evening. He is listed as questionable for Monday's game against the Raptors at the Air Canada Centre.
Embiid did not make the trip. The 7-2, 275-pounder does not play in both games of back-to-back situations.