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James, West help Cavaliers survive 76ers

Mar 31, 2008 - 4:59 AM CLEVELAND (Ticker) -- LeBron James might have started slow, but that sure wasn't how he finished.

James poured in 20 of his 26 points in the second half as the Cleveland Cavaliers held off the Philadelphia 76ers for a 91-88 victory on Sunday.

Delonte West had 18 points and 11 assists and Joe Smith added 13 and eight rebounds off the bench for the Cavs, who bounced back from Saturday's 85-71 setback at Detroit.

The win also put Cleveland (41-33) 2 1/2 games ahead Washington (38-35) for fourth place and home-court advantage in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. The Sixers (37-37) trail the Cavs by four games.

"That's a very good team," James said. "This month they were the second-best team in the whole NBA. It was good to see that we were able to control our home court, which we've been doing throughout this year."

The 6-8 James also collected nine boards and nine assists to barely miss out on his eighth triple-double of the season.

"That's what superstars do," Philadelphia coach Maurice Cheeks said. "They rarely have two bad games in a row."

James' 3-pointer from the left wing put Cleveland ahead 80-76 with 6:33 remaining in the fourth quarter. But Philadelphia fought back as Andre Iguodala hit a 3-pointer and Miller added a pair from the line to cap a 10-2 surge at the three-minute mark.

"We had the game all the way, we were scrambling throughout the whole game," Sixers center Samuel Dalembert said. "It was a playoff atmosphere, just at the end, we couldn't pull it out."

However, West connected on two shots from the arc to sandwich Iguodala's basket with 1:13 left to help the Cavs tie the game at 88-88.

"I remember sitting on the bench right before we came out from a timeout and thinking, 'I'm getting ready to hit it; I'm going to sting them,'" West said. "Sure enough, the ball came right to me, and I let it fly."

"On this team, I attract a lot of double-teams and one thing he has to do is catch and shoot," James said. "(West) doesn't have to think about it. That's what he did."

After rookie Thaddeus Young's turnover, James drove the lane and hit the go-ahead runner with 19 seconds left.

"I just wanted to be aggressive and just take the opportunity to get us a good shot," James said. "I didn't think it was there in the beginning, so I backed up and relocated the defenders and just tried to attack."

The Sixers had two chances in the final seconds to pull it out, but Louis Williams and Iguodala both misfired from the arc.

Cavs reserve guard Daniel Gibson left in the third with a sore left ankle. The sharp-shooting Gibson had just returned to the rotation one game ago after spending 18 games on the sideline with the nagging injury.

Iguodala finished with 19 points and Miller chipped in 16 and nine assists for the Sixers, who shot 43 percent (36-of-82) from the field.

"It was a tough loss for us," Cheeks said. "To play Cleveland like this, with LeBron; it's like a playoff atmosphere. A tough loss for us, but I liked the way we played."

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