June 30, 2016

Partly sunny

LeBron shows no rust in return

PHILADELPHIA — A six-day layoff may have limited King James’ conditioning, but not his skills. Any concern over LeBron James’ ankle was alleviated in the first few minutes.

James had 23 points, 10 assists and six rebounds in his return from a two-game absence, and the Cleveland Cavaliers won for the 14th time in their last 19 road games with a 100-95 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday night.

Back from an injured right ankle, James featured a crossover dribble for a step-back 3-pointer and soon followed with a no-look pass to Anderson Varejao. Don’t forget the monstrous re-verse dunk off an alley-oop pass.

“I felt a little off rhythm,” said James, who shot 7 of 18 from the field and 6 of 12 from the free throw line. “My wind was a little off, but it felt great to get back on the court with the guys.”

James, the league’s leading scorer, recorded his 26th double-double. He entered the game averaging 30.0 points, 8.5 assists and 7.2 rebounds.

Even with some offensive struggles, James’ defense stuck out.

“I thought defensively in the second half, LeBron had some big plays for us on the weak side,” Cleveland coach Mike Brown said. “He busted it a couple of times going from the strong side to the weak side. He definitely made some spectacular plays on the weak side.”

Mo Williams added 21 points, Delonte West con-tributed 17 and Varejao had 12 points and 12 rebounds for the Cavaliers (51-15), who own the league’s best record. Cleveland also won for the seventh straight time at the Wachovia Center.

“What a beautiful game,” Brown said. “It was pretty from all aspects.”

Cleveland’s bench outscored the Sixers’ 44-20. Cleveland played without forward Antawn Jamison, who didn’t make the trip because of left knee stiff-ness.

“It was good to get a win on the road like this without Antawn,” James said.

Andre Iguodala led the Sixers (23-42) with 30 points, Elton Brand added 24 and Thaddeus Young had 15. Samuel Dalembert grabbed 12 rebounds for Philadel-phia, which dropped its third in a row and fell to 10-21 at home.

“I think we played with a lot of intensity,” Brand said. “They’ve won a lot of these close games and we ha-ven’t.”

Trailing 98-95, the Sixers had a chance to get closer, but rookie point guard Jrue Holiday committed a turn-over and West followed with two free throws.

“He probably should have been more aggressive to score the basketball,” Sixers coach Eddie Jordan said of Holiday, the young-est player in the league.

The Sixers led 85-80 with 9:52 remaining, but Cleve-land responded with an 8-0 run to go ahead 88-85. Ja-mario Moon scored five points during the spurt.

“We have to keep work-ing at it and find ways to win tight games at the end,” Young said.

Thanks to some suffocating defense, the Cavaliers had plenty of chances. Williams hit a 3-pointer with 4:05 left to give them a 94-88 lead.

West scored 15 points and Varejao added 10, and Cleveland shot 57 percent in the first half on its way to a 61-57 lead. The Sixers kept it close thanks to 16 points apiece from Iguodala and Brand.

Former Sixers coach Larry Brown denied a published report that he advised Comcast-Spectacor Chairman Ed Snider not to fire coach Eddie Jordan before the season ends. “No, I’ve had no direct conversa-tions,” Brown said. “I think I said it when I was in Philly. I don’t think I said it the way you presented it, but I talked about what I thought about the coach, what I thought about the franchise and what I thought about their ros-ter. I tried to be positive, because there’s not a lot of positive stuff in the press about Philly.”

 Sixers F Marreese Speights missed the game with a sprained right knee.

 Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy attended the game.