James scores 20 and Cavaliers slip past 76ers 87-86 

CLEVELAND:  The Cleveland Cavaliers won’t get style points for Sunday’s 87-86 win over the Philadelphia 76ers and that’s just fine with LeBron James.

Moving 2 1/2 games ahead of Chicago for second place in the Eastern Conference was all that mattered to James, who led Cleveland with 20 points.

The Cavaliers, coming off a stretch that had them play 14 of 19 games on the road, struggled to put away the team with the third-worst record in the league.nba-logo

Cleveland, which is 29-7 since Jan. 13, lost to Brooklyn on Friday and scuffled at times in wins over Indiana and Milwaukee.

The Cavaliers, who lost Kevin Love (back) and Iman Shumpert (left ankle) to injuries, won’t practice again until Wednesday before hosting Miami on Thursday.

Timofey Mozgov’s basket gave Cleveland an 87-83 lead with 4:04 remaining, but the Cavaliers didn’t score again and the 76ers cut the lead to one. Kyrie Irving missed a shot in the lane and Philadelphia called timeout with 8.5 seconds left to set up the last shot.

Irving scored 17 points while James, who was 8 of 24 from the field, had 11 rebounds and six assists. He moved within two points of passing Patrick Ewing for 20th place on the career scoring list.

Mozgov scored 14 points and had 10 rebounds while Love had 10 points and 10 rebounds.

Love took an elbow to his back, which has bothered him all season, in the fourth quarter and walked directly to the locker room. Shumpert hurt his ankle while missing a breakaway dunk in the second quarter.

Wizards  loss to Rockets; Nets win 3 in a row

WASHINGTON : For a team that entered the season with aspirations of winning 50 games and earning home-court advantage in the playoffs – the former now impossible, the likelihood of the latter fading quickly – John Wall’s Washington Wizards sure are slumping down the stretch.

They can’t even seem to run plays properly right after coach Randy Wittman draws them up during a timeout.

Losing for the fifth time in six games, which delayed their bid to secure a postseason berth, the Wizards were beaten 99-91 Sunday by the Houston Rockets, who got 24 points from James Harden, along with 11 points and 10 rebounds in 19 minutes from Dwight Howard, appearing in his third game back from a right knee injury.

The Wizards shot 29.2 percent in the first quarter, 38.7 percent for the game, and Wittman lamented afterward that there were basic problems when his team had the ball.

Corey Brewer scored 15 for Houston, including pairing with Pablo Prigioni for consecutive 3-pointers that pushed the lead back up to 85-75 with 8 minutes left after Washington had pulled within four.

Harden only made 7 of 20 shots, but went 9 for 10 at the foul line. He added six assists and one into-the-stands block of Bradley Beal’s 3-point try with 25 seconds left.

NEW YORK: Brook Lopez had 30 points and 11 rebounds, and the Brooklyn Nets kept up their playoff push by beating the Los Angeles Lakers 107-99 on Sunday for their third straight victory.

Joe Johnson added 18 points, eight rebounds and seven assists for the Nets, who moved into sole possession of eighth place in the Eastern Conference, a half-game ahead of Boston and Indiana.

Just like last season, the Nets are trying to overcome a disappointing first half of the season with a strong finish.

Los Angeles, which never led, cut it to 96-93 with under 4 minutes to play before a dunk by Lopez and 3-pointer by Johnson pushed the lead back to eight.

Rookie Markel Brown scored a season-high 17 points for the Nets, while Williams overcame an illness that sidelined him from practice Saturday to finish with 13 points and nine assists.

Results:

Houston Rockets 99 beat Washington Wizards 91, Brooklyn Nets 107 beat Los Angeles Lakers 99, New Orleans Pelicans 110 beat Minnesota Timberwolves 88, Cleveland Cavaliers 87 beat Philadelphia 76ers 86, Los Angeles Clippers 119 beat  Boston Celtics 106 , Miami Heat 109 beat Detroit Pistons 102,  San Antonio Spurs 103 beat Memphis Grizzlies 89, Indiana Pacers 104 beat Dallas Mavericks 99, Oklahoma City Thunder 109 beat Phoenix Suns 97

Vishnu Ravi Shankar
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