CLEVELAND – The 76ers got a rare and much-needed victory.
The Sixers had lost 11 straight games to the Cleveland Cavaliers by an average of 10 points. Add in their recent struggles on the road, and a victory over the Cavs at Quicken Loans Arena on Thursday night appeared a stretch.
But the Sixers prevailed, 108-97.
This marked their first win over Cleveland (36-25) since Jan. 5, 2015 at the Wells Fargo Center. The Sixers (33-27) had lost their previous two games — to Washington Wizards and the Miami Heat – of this three-game road trip. Thursday's victory marked just their second victory in their last eight road games.
"Everybody would feel that we have more to give," Brett Brown said. "We hope something special is not too far away.
"But … we leave here pleased. We got a win against the third-ranked team in the East. There is some level of satisfaction winning here in Cleveland."
This was a good bounce-back game for JJ Redick.
The Sixers' shooting guard had 22 points on 7-for-11 shooting. He made 4 of 7 three-pointers. This game two days after shooting 4-for-14 and missing what would have been a wide-open, game-winning three-pointers at the buzzer.
"You going to have to some down shooting nights in the NBA," Redick said. "But I flushed the last two [games] and keep shooting."
Joel Embiid added 17 points, 14 rebounds, six assists, one block, and two turnovers for his 32nd double-double. Ben Simmons finished with 16 points, nine rebounds, and eight assists. Dario Saric (16 points), reserve Marco Belinelli (11), and Robert Covington (10 points, 10 rebounds) were the Sixers' other double-figure scorers.
Cavs superstar LeBron James had a game-high 30 points to go with nine rebounds and eight assists.
Cleveland guard Jordan Clarkson was ejected with 12.2 seconds left for throwing the ball at Saric's back and wanting to fight the Sixer after his dunk made it a 107-97 game. James also had to be separated from the Croatian player. The Cavs were upset that the power forward dunked the ball in the closing seconds of a game already decided.
"He made an honest mistake," Jerryd Bayless said of his teammate violating an unwritten rule. "He didn't know any better."
Saric said his actions weren't meant to disrespect the Cavs. He saw Simmons dunk the ball with 4 minutes, 38 seconds left and wanted to do the same.
"In one way, I want to apologize to them, because I finished that ball," Saric said. "I think they a little bit overreacted on everything. But OK, I want to apologize to them."
Newly re-signed Ersan Ilyasova entered the game with 3:24 remaining in the first quarter. He went on to produce six points, two rebounds, and two assists in 18 minutes, 11 seconds of action. The Turkish forward was mostly a role player.
But the sharpshooting power forward didn't have a problem with that. Ilyasova said during Thursday's shootaround that he welcomed backing up Saric. The Sixers want Saric to remain the starter to continue to develop him as a player.
But it didn't take long for Redick and Covington to make people forget about their poor-shooting performances Tuesday night against the Heat.
Covington, who shot 2 for 10 against Miami, made his first baskets — both three-pointers — in a span of 29 seconds to give the Sixers an early 8-2 cushion. Redick then took over, scoring nine of the team's next 10 points to give his squad an 18-11 lead with 7:58 left in the first quarter.
Covington cooled off. He went on to miss his other six three-pointers to finish 2 for 8. The small forward finished 4 for 11 overall from the field.
Following the duo's early lead, the Sixers went on to shoot 57.9 percent (11 of 19) overall and 45.5 percent on threes (5 of 11) while taking a 32-29 advantage after one quarter.
They went on to build a 10-point lead (57-47) on Embiid's turnaround fadeaway jumper with 2:11 before intermission. They clung to a three-point halftime advantage (59-56) after being outscored 9-2 the rest of the half. The Sixers extended their lead to six points (77-71) after three quarters.
Ilyasova's fastbreak layup with 9:07 left extended their cushion to 13 points (84-71). It was their largest lead of the game. The Cavs closed the gap to one point (95-94) on Kyle Korver's three-pointer with 2:25 left.
But Saric responded with a three-pointer on the ensuing possession to put the Sixers up by four. Then after Korver missed a layup, Embiid scored on a turnaround fadeaway to put the Sixers up 100-94. Redick's pull-up jumper with 55.3 seconds left gave them an eight-point lead (102-94).
"I think this has been a testament to our guys," Redick said. "We've really been great all season anytime we hit tough stretches and lost a couple of games. We had that 2-10 stretch in December. We've always sort of bounced back. We've been a resilient group."
Cleveland shooting guard J.R. Smith served a one-game suspension Thursday for detrimental conduct. James was named the Eastern Conference player of the month of February on Thursday.
After the game, Embiid's latest post on social media featured an interesting hashtag.