CLEVELAND (AP) — Kyrie Irving scored 12 points and played 18 minutes in his season debut and LeBron James had 23, leading the Cleveland Cavaliers to a 108-86 victory Sunday over the Philadelphia 76ers, who lost their 10th straight and fell to 1-28.
Irving was on the floor for the first time since breaking his left kneecap in Game 1 of the NBA Finals against Golden State. The Cavs managed without him, going 17-7 to start the season. But Cleveland is more complete with the All-Star point guard healthy and back.
Matthew Dellavedova made four 3-pointers and added 20 points for the Cavs, who improved to 12-1 at home and are eyeing a Christmas Day game against the Warriors. James didn’t play in the fourth quarter, logging a season-low 26 minutes.
Nerlens Noel had 15 points and 12 rebounds for the brutal Sixers, now 0-17 on the road and on their second double-digit losing streak.
Irving received a warm ovation from the crowd during pregame introductions. He waved in appreciation and was soon cheered again as he dribbled the ball up the floor for the first time, a sight Cleveland fans have been waiting months to see.
Irving missed his first five shots before scoring on an uncontested layup after James made a steal near mid-court. Following the assist, James walked over to Irving, who moments earlier had a shot rejected by Noel, patted his teammate on the head as they walked toward the bench and said, “Welcome back.”
The Cavs plan to ease Irving into the rotation, building up his stamina before extending his minutes. After he was taken out in the first quarter, Irving immediately began riding a stationary bike to stay loose.
Irving scored just two points in the first half, but had seven in the third quarter when he showed a couple moves that have made him one of the league’s premier backcourt players. He made a signature crossover dribble and scored on a twisting layup before dropping a 3-pointer to give the Cavs a 62-40 lead.
When the Cavs pushed their lead to 28 after three, it appeared Irving’s long-awaited debut was over. But coach David Blatt brought him in for five more minutes in the fourth quarter. Irving made a 3-pointer and tossed a perfect alley-oop pass to Jared Cunningham, who caught it with his right hand and dunked in one motion.
Cleveland outscored Philadelphia 34-13 in the second quarter to take control.
James seemed intent on net letting the Sixers gain any confidence. He scored 11 points in the quarter, finishing a 9-0 run with a two-handed dunk off a lob pass from J.R. Smith. James hung on the rim and kicked his legs like a little kid to punctuate the play.
76ers: Sixers coach Brett Brown coached Irving’s father in Australia and has known the 23-year-old since “he was two days old.” Brown unsuccessfully tried to recruit Irving for the Australian national team. … Newly hired associate coach Mike D’Antoni will join the team on Philly’s upcoming trip that starts Dec. 26 in Phoenix. … The Sixers came in last in the league in shooting percentage (.418) and points per game (91.4).
Cavaliers: The crowd roared when Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel’s touchdown pass against Seattle was shown on the arena scoreboard. Fans gathered around TVs at halftime to catch up on the action. … G Mo Williams missed his second straight game with a sprained right thumb. … G Iman Shumpert returned after sitting out one game with a strained groin. He had three points in 15 minutes.
76ers: Host Memphis on Tuesday night.
Cavaliers: Host New York on Wednesday night.
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