Cavs aim to start another streak vs. Embiid-less 76ers

CLEVELAND — At least the Cleveland Cavaliers have the good fortune of trying to start a new winning streak against a team that will be without its best player.

The Cavs lost to the Indiana Pacers 106-102 on Friday night to stop their winning streak at 13 games. A victory over the Pacers would have meant a team record for the longest winning streak.

Cleveland gets to play again Saturday when it hosts the Philadelphia 76ers. Star center Joel Embiid will not play for the Sixers, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer, and will instead play against DeMarcus Cousins and the New Orleans Pelicans on Sunday.

The Cavs were once 5-7 and facing questions about their collective age and miss-fitting roster. All of those issues were purged by a winning streak that started Nov. 11. And it could have continued if not for an ice-cold fourth quarter against the Pacers in which the Cavaliers scored one point in the first 5:55 of the quarter.

“Listen, that was a good streak,” said LeBron James, who finished Friday’s loss with 29 points, 10 rebounds, and eight assists. “We never talked about it, we just played each game, executed each game. Streaks are meant to be broken, obviously. We came in, we knew this was going to be a tough game for us, they’ve been playing extremely well at home. But we gave ourselves a chance. That’s all you can ask for.

“Best thing about this league is you always, most of the time you’ve got another one less than 24 hours. We definitely have that.”

The Cavs beat the Sixers 113-91 on Nov. 27 in Philadelphia. If there was a bright spot that night for the Sixers, it was Embiid. He scored 30 points to go with 11 rebounds, and was so disruptive that Kevin Love (who was guarding Embiid) said he apologized at the end of that game to James.

Otherwise, the Cavs smothered the Sixers in the first meeting, holding Philadelphia to .375 shooting. James posted 30 points, 14 rebounds and three assists.

The Sixers will still have young star power against the Cavs in the form of Ben Simmons. He registered his third triple-double of his rookie season Thursday in a loss to the Los Angeles Lakers (12 points, 13 rebounds, 15 assists) and became just the third rookie in NBA history to have three triple-doubles in his first 23 games (Oscar Robertson, Magic Johnson).

Simmons, who is 6 feet 10, is sometimes compared with James, who is 6-8 and is represented by the same agent (Rich Paul.)

“It’s not about me vs. Ben,” James said Nov. 27. “It’s about the Cavs vs. the 76ers and we want to continue to play good ball.”

The same is true now, as the Cavs look to start another streak.