Sixers overcome James to vault into third place

Ben Simmons of the Philadelphia 76ers dunks past LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers as the 76ers rolled to their 13th consecutive victory 132-130
AFP

Los Angeles (AFP) – Australia’s Ben Simmons won the battle of the triple doubles with LeBron James as the Philadelphia 76ers rolled to their 13th consecutive victory with a 132-130 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. 

Simmons finished with 27 points, 15 rebounds and 13 assists on Friday as the Sixers surged to a 30 point first-half lead and scored 78 points by halftime.

James tallied 44 points, 11 assists and 11 rebounds and sparked a second half rally but it wasn’t enough as the Sixers held on to win by the slimmest of margins. James shot 17-of-29 on the night. 

The Sixers improved to 49-30 on the season and vaulted into third place in the Eastern Conference over the Cavaliers, who fell to 49-31.

“This was big, beating a team like that without an all-star,” said Melbourne’s Simmons, referring to the loss of Joel Embiid who is out with an injury. “I think everyone is coming together as a team. We are playing well.”

The outcome of the game came with James shooting from the free throw line with two seconds left.

He made the first one to close the gap to two points. After missing the second, James purposely missed the third. 

Larry Nance then botched a tip-in right before the buzzer, as the Philadelphia won its biggest game in five years.

Elsewhere, the Toronto Raptors clinched the No. 1 spot in the Eastern Conference and broke their team record for wins in a season with a 92-73 thumping of the Indiana Pacers.

Serge Ibaka scored a season-high 25 points and DeMar DeRozan delivered 12 as the Raptors won the Atlantic Division title and claimed the Conference crown for the first time in franchise history. 

“It’s gratification but you’re not satisfied, that’s the way I like to put it,” Toronto coach Dwane Casey said. “We haven’t got to where our ultimate goal is.”

Jakob Poeltl finished with 10 points and Kyle Lowry tallied nine and nine assists for the Raptors, who have won 33 of their franchise record 57 wins at home.

The Pacers were coming off an exhausting 126-106 rout of the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors on Thursday. They shot poorly from the outset on Friday and never got untracked against the Raptors.

Glenn Robinson scored 12 points and Trevor Booker had 11 for the Pacers, who shot just 29 percent.

Also, Greg Monroe came off the bench to register a triple double as the Boston Celtics easily beat Chicago struggling Bulls 111-104.

Monroe finished with 19 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists for his second career triple-double. Jaylen Brown finished with a career-high 32 points.

The Celtics went to their bench in the late season game after giving Al Horford and Jayson Tatum the night off.

In Memphis, Bogdan Bogdanovic drained a 16-foot shot with a second remaining lift the Sacramento Kings to a 94-93 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies.

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