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Hot Cavaliers roll past 76ers for 11th straight win

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CLEVELAND — LeBron James has been in this position before, but a number of his teammates haven’t. After a 97-84 win over the Philadelphia 76ers, combined with the Atlanta Hawks’ loss to the New Orleans Pelicans, the Cavaliers’ 11-game winning streak now makes them the hottest team in the league.

James, however, isn’t overly impressed.

“We haven’t done anything. We haven’t earned anything,” James said. “We haven’t played in a playoff series together — not one playoff game, not one playoff minute. That’s when it really counts.”

James had 18 points and 11 assists and reserve guard Matthew Dellavedova made two big 3-pointers to help the Cavaliers hold off the Sixers, who cut a 20-point deficit down to two points early in the fourth quarter. They were within five before Dellavedova sank a 3-pointer with the shot clock winding down, extending the Cavs’ lead to 91-83 with 2:30 left.

His 3-pointer in the final minute extended the lead to 96-83 and essentially ended the game. The Cavs spent most of the night unsuccessfully trying to shake a Sixers team that has dropped seven straight on the road, but is gaining the reputation as a team that plays hard and never quits.

“Never underestimate a win,” coach David Blatt said. “But you can learn a lot from wins that aren’t spectacular and certainly tonight was not spectacular.”

Rookie forward Jerami Grant scored a career-high 18 points off the bench and forward Robert Covington had 18 points for the Sixers.

“The game was going the wrong way against a bunch of really great players and we were able to bring it back to respectability and then be in the game. LeBron quarterbacked the gym and my Australian friend wasn’t a friend,” said Sixers coach Brett Brown, who coached Dellavedova a few years ago with the Australian national team.

Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving had 24 points, five rebounds and five assists, and forward Kevin Love grabbed 15 rebounds on a night he struggled with his shot and finished with just five points.

“That shouldn’t happen,” Blatt said of Love not getting a shot after the first quarter. “Absolutely shouldn’t happen.”

Love shot 1-for-7 and didn’t take a shot after the first quarter. He returned to the court after the game to get in another workout and didn’t retreat to the locker room until 30 minutes after the game ended.

James felt he gave Love a couple of good looks after the first quarter, but Love passed them up.

“For Kev I think his confidence maybe shooting the ball is a little down,” James said. “But for me as a player I give him good looks. I want him to shoot the ball and shoot it with confidence.”

Love denied that his confidence is down.

“I’m just doing what’s being asked of me,” Love said. “I’ve been doing that all year. I’m keeping my head up, keeping positive, glass half-full. I’m trying to impact the game in other ways as best I can.”

The Cavs, who have held their last nine opponents under 100 points, are enjoying their longest winning streak since taking 13 in a row during the 2009-10 season.

The Sixers lost guard Michael Carter-Williams, the reigning Rookie of the Year, to a shin injury. Carter-Williams scored a career-low two points in 20 minutes and didn’t play in the second half after injuring the shin Saturday in Atlanta.

“I wasn’t sure I was even going to play him,” Brown said. “It’s part of the NBA. There’s not anybody who’s healthy who plays in the NBA. To his credit, he said, ‘OK let’s do it.’ You could tell he was struggling and I decided enough was enough. It was affecting his game and his team.”

Brown wasn’t sure if Carter-Williams, who missed eight of his nine shots, would play Tuesday at home against the Denver Nuggets.

NOTES: Sixers coach Brett Brown has plenty of ties to the Cavaliers. He coached G Matthew Dellavedova with the Australian national team and he coached G Kyrie Irving’s father, Drederick, in Australia as well. “Drederick was a New York City playground scorer and could score at will,” Brown said. … The Sixers have used 12 undrafted players this season, a new record, according to Elias Sports Bureau. … Irving was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week, the second consecutive week a Cavs player has won the award. F LeBron James won it last week. … Since their winning streak began Jan. 15, the Cavs are sixth in the NBA in defensive field-goal percentage. They’re 27th overall.

Up to the minute news and reports from the news wire of The Sports Xchange.

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