PHILADELPHIA — The Cavaliers entered the All-Star break as one of the hottest teams in the NBA.
The time off didn’t slow them down.
Tyler Zeller scored a season-high 18 points and grabbed a career-best 15 rebounds, Kyrie Irving added 14 points and the Cavaliers pushed their winning streak to five games Tuesday night with a 114-85 victory over the skidding Philadelphia 76ers.
Irving, selected MVP of the All-Star Game Sunday with 31 points and 14 assists, played only 23 minutes in this rout. The Cavaliers won their final four games before All-Star weekend and came out of the break with the same intensity.
“Give the guys in the locker room credit,” Cleveland coach Mike Brown said. “They’ve done a great job. Our guys just keep fighting.”
Dion Waiters had 13 points before leaving with a knee injury in the second quarter. Luol Deng also scored 13 and Tristan Thompson had 12 points and 10 rebounds for the Cavaliers (21-33), on their longest winning streak since an eight-game run in March 2010. That was LeBron James’ final season in Cleveland.
“We’re playing together and we’re working together,” said Zeller, who had his second double-double of the season and the ninth of his career. “When you play together and have success and win, it kind of takes some of the stress off.”
The reeling Sixers fell to 15-40 with their ninth loss in a row and eighth straight at home — their longest skid since the 1996-97 season. Philadelphia has dropped 19 of 22 overall.
C.J. Miles scored 10 points and Anthony Bennett had 10 points and 11 rebounds in a balanced effort for Cleveland.
Thaddeus Young and Michael Carter-Williams led the Sixers with 15 points each. Tony Wroten had 12 and Evan Turner scored 11.
Before the game, the buzz in the Philadelphia locker room centered around Young, Turner and Spencer Hawes. All three players have been mentioned in trade talk with the deadline looming Thursday.
Maybe that affected the last-place Sixers because they came out sluggish and struggled all night. Late in the third quarter, fans expressed their displeasure with boos throughout the arena.
“We’re all sticking together, trying to keep this locker room together,” Young said. “The biggest thing is going out there and staying focused.”
For the Cavaliers, the news wasn’t all good.
Waiters hyperextended his left knee following a spectacular, one-handed dunk with 54.1 seconds remaining before halftime. He stayed down on the court for several minutes before walking to the locker room on his own.
Brown didn’t have an immediate update on Waiters following the game and believed he would be examined further.
Waiters never returned, but the Cavaliers didn’t need him the rest of the way. They built a 64-43 lead at halftime and extended it to 85-62 after the third.
Even with such a large cushion, Cleveland stayed sharp and outscored the Sixers 8-4 to open a 93-66 advantage slightly more than 2 minutes into the fourth. Philadelphia didn’t pose a serious threat the rest of the night.
“There were effort problems,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said. “You can’t hide from that.”