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Random dribbles following the Cleveland Cavaliers’ 105-98 comeback win over the visiting Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday.
1. Question: How do you survive a long night in Indiana with a travel delay? For the Cavaliers, the answer was Mediterranean food, ginger beer and chocolate cake. The refreshments were served Friday, after the Pacers snapped the Cavs’ 13-game winning streak.
2. The travel issues turned what should have been a two-hour flight into an all-night ordeal. Most of the Cavs didn’t even get to their cars in Cleveland until 4 in the morning.
3. Radio color analyst and Cavs legend Jim Chones got home at 5 a.m., then had to leave for a funeral a mere four hours later. “I made it through the day,” Chones after Saturday’s win. “Just don’t call me tomorrow.”
4. In other words, the Cavs were quite pooped — and played like it for most of the night. As an added whammy, they were also without Kevin Love, who missed the game with a sore left hip. Newcomer Ante Zizic started in Love’s spot.
5. Zizic finished with zero points in five minutes, so it’s safe to say he hardly made up for the absence of Love. Instead, the Cavs used balance, determination and a whole lot of LeBron James. It almost wasn’t enough.
6. But these are the Cavs, and rarely is anything easy — even a home game against the young and learning Sixers, who were without Joel Embiid, their own star center. The Sixers are limiting Embiid to just one game in back-to-back days. They play Sunday at New Orleans, so he never even set foot in Ohio.
7. Anyway, James (30 points, 13 rebounds, 13 assists) finished with the 58th double-double of his career, and the Cavs pushed out a 14-2 run to close the game. Presto, another winning streak has begun.
8. LeBron to reporters: “This is a big win for us. After everything that we went through last night, your whole day is kind of just screwed up. For us to come out here and be professionals — nobody’s going to feel sorry for you — everyone just gave what they had and we were very resilient.”
9. James struggled early, and it looked like fatigue would be the name of this game. But he scored or assisted on the Cavs’ last 22 points to secure the win.
10. More LeBron: “I started the game 3-of-11, was missing some chippies. I don’t need to score to be productive and to help win a game. I just stay with it. That’s a crazy stat, though. I didn’t know that, that’s for sure.”
11. It helped that the bench returned to form, with Dwyane Wade, Kyle Korver and Jeff Green scoring 13 points apiece. Both Wade and Korver made some biggies during the game-ending run.
12. But the biggest shot of the night came from none other than Jae Crowder, a 3-pointer that gave the Cavs a 104-98 lead and very clearly deflated the opponent. Crowder (12 points) has been up-and-down during his time in Cleveland, but he came up huge on this night.
13. Crowder to reporters: “Y’all know I’ve been struggling. It feels good to finally see one go down, especially late in the game. I’ve made quite a few of those in my career, but I haven’t made them like I wanted to here.”
14. J.J. Redick and Robert Covington scored 19 apiece to lead the Sixers, and rookie sensation Ben Simmons went for 14 points, 10 assists and six rebounds. The kid is on his way to being a super-duper star, and it may not be long before he gets there. Like, maybe next week.
15. Covington, by the way, crashed into the Cleveland bench with just more than a minute remaining and had to leave the game. He injured both his back and his hip, and Sixers coach Brett Brown said Covington is probably a “no-go” for Sunday’s game in New Orleans.
16. Back to the Cavs. They return to practice Monday, then play three more home games — vs. the Atlanta Hawks (Tuesday), Los Angeles Lakers (Thursday) and Utah Jazz (Saturday). Given their latest journey back from a road game, all of that is probably a good thing for a team that could use some rest.