NBA

Sat, Nov 21, 2009 - 7:30 PM ET
Game Recap
 

Cavs turn to defense to seal win over 76ers

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CLEVELAND (AP)

There's one thing - other than LeBron James, of course - that the Cleveland Cavaliers can always count on when things get tough. In a pinch, they turn to their defense. "That's where we make our mark at," James said. "On the defensive end. We just lock down." James scored 32 points, Mo Williams added 18 and the Cavaliers clamped down defensively in the fourth quarter for the second straight game, holding the Philadelphia 76ers to 10 points over the final 12 minutes for a 97-91 victory on Saturday night. James added nine assists, seven rebounds and delivered a resounding dunk with 2:41 left that effectively put away the Sixers. The Cavaliers, who have been guilty of lapses at both ends of the floor so far this season, trailed by six entering the fourth. But they held Philadelphia to 4 of 23 shooting from the field in the final quarter to win for the 10th time in 12 games after an 0-2 start. "We just turned it up," James said of Cleveland's air tight man-to-man. "When we're playing defense like that at a high level, it's hard to beat us." On Friday, the Cavs held Indiana to just 13 points on 4 of 18 shooting in the fourth in a 105-95 win. Cleveland needs to be more consistent on defense, but the Cavs are beginning to play with the same intensity that has made them one of the NBA's stingiest teams the past few seasons. "Defensively, everyone was on a string," Cavs coach Mike Brown said. "Everyone helped one another. Everyone trusted one another. It was great to see." Lou Williams scored 22 and Thaddeus Young had 21 for the Sixers. Andre Iguodala had 12 but was 6 of 22 from the field - only 1 of 7 in the fourth. "We had them against the ropes," Iguodala said. "We couldn't make shots and finish the game off." Playing their fourth game in five nights and without center Shaquille O'Neal for the fifth straight game, the Cavs could have been excused for being tired down the stretch. But they dug down and found some needed energy to hold off the scrappy Sixers, who took an 81-75 lead into the fourth. James, who scored 40 at Indiana, was on the bench when the Cavs caught the Sixers at 83-all on a jumper by Williams. The score was tied at 85 when James returned, and the superstar didn't need long to help the Cavs open some breathing room after an uneven performance through three periods. After Zydrunas Ilgauskas scored on a putback, James fed Jamario Moon for an alley-oop dunk to make it 89-85. Mo Williams then hit Moon on a bounce pass for another dunk, and James, who had his headband knocked off, scored to cap an 18-4 run that made it 93-85. Nothing was clicking for Philadelphia on offense, mostly because the Cavs finally decided to work hard with their backs to the basket. Moon was instrumental in slowing down Iguodala, the Sixers' leading scorer. "We missed some open shots and they got into us a little bit more," said Sixers coach Eddie Jordan, who had criticized his team's lackluster effort in a home loss on Friday to Memphis. "Credit their defense. They're a good defensive team when they want to be."
Philadelphia ended a nearly five-minute drought with four straight points, but James drove the lane and blasted a two-handed dunk to put the finishing touches on Cleveland's win. The slam came moments after his headband was retrieved. "I didn't even know who I was when my headband got knocked off," James said. "I couldn't function without it." The Cavs' early season has been a streaky one. They are essentially resting O'Neal for the second half and a title push, and the team is still trying to figure out what to do with guard Delonte West, who has been working through personal and legal issues. "They're going for the gold, man," Jordan said. "They're doing what they think is necessary to win the championship." And for the Cavs, it all starts with defense.

Notes

In his last eight games, James is averaging 32.6 points on 55 percent (88 of 159) shooting, 8.3 assists and 6.1 rebounds. ... West played just four minutes. ... Allen Iverson's toughness and scoring touch once symbolized the Sixers. However, the guard remains without a team, a fact James finds unfortunate. "He's a person I watched growing up," James said. "It's kind of strange not having him. It doesn't seem right." Iverson was recently released by Memphis. On Friday, the Knicks announced they would not sign him. ... Sixers G Jason Kapono sat out with a sprained left ankle. ... Ilgauskas played in his 721st career game, second most in Cavs history behind general manager Danny Ferry's 723.
Tagged: 76ers, Cavaliers

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