PHILADELPHIA — Ben Simmons scored 26 points, Joel Embiid had 19 rebounds and made some big plays down the stretch and the Philadelphia 76ers held off the Cleveland Cavaliers 106-99 on Tuesday night.
Collin Sexton led the Cavaliers with 26 points, including a layup with 3:10 left that pulled Cleveland within one. Cedi Osman added 18 and put the Cavs ahead 97-96 with under three minutes to go as boos rained down in Philly.
But Mike Scott responded with a 3-pointer to put the 76ers back ahead. And after Simmons made a free throw and Jordan Clarkson a layup for Cleveland, Embiid followed his own miss with a thunderous dunk to give the Sixers a 102-99 lead with under a minute left.
Embiid, playing in his second game after missing eight straight with a sore left knee, had a block on the other end and then made four straight free throws to seal the win as “MVP! MVP!” chants replaced the boos.
Embiid and JJ Redick finished with 17 points apiece. Simmons added 10 rebounds and eight assists.
One night removed from a surprising 25-point win over second-place Toronto, Cleveland, owner of the third-worst record in the NBA, put a big scare into the third-place team in the East.
After shooting just 22 percent from the field in the first quarter to fall behind 24-12, the Cavs took a 38-37 lead midway through the second quarter on two straight 3-pointers by Osman. Playing against one of the league’s worst defenses, the Sixers had 14 turnovers in the first half, holding a slim 53-47 halftime lead.
Both teams gave key players planned days of rest: Jimmy Butler for Philadelphia and Kevin Love for Cleveland.
Cavaliers: Besides Love, the Cavs were missing, among others, Marquese Chriss (suspension), Tristan Thompson (foot), Matthew Dellavedova (concussion) and Larry Nance Jr. (ribs). . Cleveland surprised the Sixers during its last trip to Philly, notching a 121-112 win in November.
76ers: Zhaire Smith, a 2018 first-round draft pick, was recalled from the Delaware Blue Coats before the game but did not play. The rookie, who fractured his foot in August, has yet to make his NBA debut. . James Ennis III got the start in place of Butler, scoring 10 of his 12 points in the first half. He had an exciting follow slam at the beginning of the fourth quarter. . Center Boban Marjanovic, who returned to the court after missing six straight contests, scored 11 points after first checking into a big ovation.
Cavaliers: Visit the Orlando Magic on Thursday night.
76ers: Host the Sacramento Kings on Friday night.