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Published: Thursday, 4/16/2009

LeBron sits as Cavs fail to match best home record

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Cavaliers Lorenzen Wright (55) and Delonte West, left, fight for the basketball. Cavaliers Lorenzen Wright (55) and Delonte West, left, fight for the basketball.
TONY DEJAK / AP Enlarge

CLEVELAND Anderson Varejao handled his pregame dust-blowing ritual. Wally Szczerbiak took his spot in the starting lineup and flirted with a triple-double, and Daniel Gibson took the big shots usually reserved for Cleveland s best player.

No, the Cavaliers didn t miss LeBron James.

Not until it mattered most.

With James, All-Star guard Mo Williams and their other starters either sitting out or playing limited minutes to get ready for the playoffs, the Cavaliers lost at home for just the second time this season, 111-110 in overtime on Wednesday night to the Philadelphia 76ers.

The loss left the Cavs at 39 home wins one shy of tying the 1985-86 Boston Celtics all-time home record of 40-1.

This isn t the history they re after, though.

We have other things to worry about, said Szczerbiak, who had a LeBron-like line of 21 points, eight rebounds and eight assists. We definitely were trying to win this game. We wanted the record, but we now have to put it behind us and get ready for the real thing.

That would be the playoffs, and the Cavs, who earned the No. 1 overall seed after a 66-16 regular season, will begin a quest for their first NBA title this weekend against the Detroit Pistons.

Andre Miller scored 30 points and Andre Iguodala 24 for the Sixers, who had to fight off Cleveland s reserves to snap a six-game losing streak. With the win and Chicago s loss, Philadelphia earned the No. 6 spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs and will meet No. 3 seed Orlando, a team that swept three straight from the Sixers during the season.

The Cavs open their first-round series against the Pistons on Saturday, and the 76ers will travel to Orlando for Game 1 on Sunday.

The Sixers may be in, but are not feeling very confident.

Getting a win was important, but we didn t play good basketball, Iguodala said. If the team plays the way we ve been playing, we re going to get swept. We have to look at ourselves, step it up and cut out a lot of the BS. We ve been a little selfish out there, not as far as guys trying score, but we ve got to collectively be one unit.

Cleveland was 24-0 against the East before the loss.

With the Cavs down by one in the closing seconds, guard Daniel Gibson, who made a 3-pointer in the final second of regulation to force OT, fumbled the ball away with three seconds left, a turnover that denied Cleveland a last shot at matching history.

Man, the lane opened up, Gibson said. Everything was feeling good for me, too. I felt like if I could just get an attempt at the rim it would go in.

Gibson scored a career-high 28 for the Cavaliers, who went into their finale with nothing to gain. So coach Mike Brown, not willing to risk any injuries, sat James, Williams, center Zydrunas Ilgauskas and forward Joe Smith. Delonte West and Anderson Varejao Cleveland s two other starters began the game but didn t play in the second half.

But even with their bench getting massive minutes, the Cavs gave the Sixers all they could handle.

It just shows how good our team is, Szczerbiak said. We have guys who don t even see the floor and when they get a chance to show what they can do, they are pretty darn good basketball players.

Philadelphia, which trailed by 12 at halftime, rallied and led 98-95 with 4.4 seconds left in regulation on two free throws by Miller.

But with the Cavaliers second home loss looming, Gibson swished a 3-pointer from the top of the key to tie it at 98 with 0.6 seconds left. The Sixers quickly called time, and when Gibson ran to the other end of the floor, he was greeted by James, who slapped hands several times with his sharpshooting teammate.

Philadelphia couldn t get off a final shot before the horn, and as the teams were getting ready for overtime, James and Williams joined the Cavs dance team in the center of the floor for an impromptu number.

But in overtime, Miller and Iguodala took turns scoring or getting to the foul line as the Sixers attempted 43 free throws to 12 for Cleveland.

Gibson then took an inbound pass, but slipped while trying to make a cut and the clock expired before he could recover and get to his feet.

Thaddeus Young added 20 points and Lou Williams 19 for the Sixers, who lost center Samuel Dalembert to a strained right shoulder in the first quarter. Coach Tony Dileo expects Dalembert to be ready for the playoffs.

James finished a likely MVP season in dress clothes. He averaged 28.4 points, 7.6 rebounds and 7.2 assists in 81 games a career-high in leading Cleveland to a franchise record for wins, its first division title since 1975-76 and home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.

He sat on Cleveland s bench in a navy blue sport coat, plaid dress shirt, black jeans and white sneakers. Before the opening tip, James addressed the crowd and thanked the fans for their support throughout the greatest regular season in Cavaliers history.

We re going to bring y all that championship, he said.



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