CLEVELAND – For the most part, it seemed like a go-through-the-motions kind of game for the Cleveland Cavaliers. And when you're one of the hottest teams in the NBA and with a talent pool that includes LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, sometimes that is just about all you need.
But it wasn't so much the Cavs putting forth a half-hearted effort. The 76ers had a lot to do with Cleveland looking somewhat average for most of the game. Still, the Cavaliers prevailed, pulling out an 87-86 victory. It was the 16th consecutive win at Quicken Loans arena for Cleveland, which improved to 48-27.
The Sixers trailed 87-86 and had the ball with eight seconds to go in the game. They fed it to Nerlens Noel who backed down Tristan Thompson in the lane but missed a five-footer with a couple of seconds to go.
"You can't go past LeBron, I still think that, but my goodness, when you start looking at how they're playing and Kyrie and how J.R. (Smith) and those news guys found a role… They really have pieced together quite a special team," said Sixers coach Brett Brown.
Brown started Furkan Aldemir at center and moved Nerlens Noel over to the power forward slot. He explained prior to the game that will be the position Noel will be playing next season with Joel Embiid at the center spot, so he wants him to get used to it during the remaing games of the season. Aldemir played a career-high 27 minutes and also established a career-best 11 points to go with 10 rebounds. Noel, who did play for a lot of the fourth quarter at center in the close game, finished with 8 points and 11 rebounds.
James paced Cleveland with 20 points and Kyrie Irving scored 17. After the game, Irving laughed that it was "one of the ugliest games we've played here." He also gave credit to the Sixers and Brown for playing so hard.