Cavs match franchise-record win streak in Varejao's first start

CLEVELAND -- Wrapped in a pair of towels after his postgame shower, LeBron James paused in front of one of the flatscreen TVs mounted in Cleveland's locker room.

He saw the Boston Celtics were winning their 14th straight game.

The defending champions are the NBA's hottest team.

James' squad is right behind them.

James scored 28 points and Anderson Varejao added 17 in his first start this season as the Cavaliers, despite missing two key components, matched a club record with their 11th straight win, 88-72 over the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday night.

"We're rolling," said James, who added seven assists and seven rebounds. "We're playing great basketball."

Another game. Another win. Another milestone.

The Cavaliers aren't slowing down. They improved to 13-0 at home and tied their longest winning streak done four times previously, most recently in the 1994-95 season.

Cleveland, now 19-1 since starting the season 1-2, can set a record for consecutive wins in Atlanta on Saturday.

"We should be proud of this," James said. "But there's a lot of work still to do. It's a long season. We have to continue get better and continue to work."

For the first time this season, the Cavaliers were dealing with some adversity as starting center Zydrunas Ilgauskas was forced to sit out with a sprained left ankle, an injury he sustained on Wednesday night in Philadelphia. Cleveland was also without reserve guard Daniel Gibson, who is nursing a sprained toe.

The Cavs weren't whole.

But with James, they don't have to be.

Cleveland, which has been doing it with defense all season, gave up 25 points in the first quarter. But the Cavs put the clamps down on the Sixers and held them to 47 points the rest of the way. The Cavs have won by an average of 20.0 points during their winning streak.

"They're a good basketball team," Sixers coach Maurice Cheeks said. "They keep pushing the ball and they keep coming."

Varejao filled in for Ilgauskas, who is expected to miss several games, and the frizzy-haired Brazilian and rookie Darnell Jackson, playing a season-high 24 minutes, did a nice job holding their own inside against Philadelphia's big men. Varejao had seven rebounds, and Jackson, a second-round pick from Kansas added eight.

"I think this is a great opportunity for all the young players," said Jackson, who according to James has been playing well in practice. "This is a chance for us to go out and show the coaches what we can do."

Delonte West added 16 points and Mo Williams 14 for the Cavaliers (20-3), who didn't get their 20th win until Jan. 15 last season and were 10-13 after 23 games.

James scored 10 straight points during a stretch of the third quarter when the Cavs maintained a double-digit lead. He sat out nearly the first five minutes of the fourth, and while he was getting some rest, his teammates kept a comfortable advantage over the Sixers. In the past, Cleveland's leads would quickly disappear as soon as James went to the bench. Not anymore.

Willie Green led the Sixers with 19 points, Andre Iguodala had 16 and Elton Brand 11 and 11 rebounds in his second game back after sitting two with a sore hamstring.

"We didn't have the mental toughness down the stretch," Iguodala said. "We kind of gave in. I'm not saying that as a team we didn't play hard, but we didn't execute and we didn't get the stops we needed."

Philadelphia was still within striking distance in the fourth, but Sasha Pavlovic and Williams made 3-pointers as the Cavs pushed their lead to 18.

Down by eight early on, the Cavaliers caught the Sixers by the end of the first. Still trailing by three, Cleveland put together a 12-2 burst over the final 3:37 of the second to open a 52-39 halftime lead.

Varejao converted a pair of three-point plays in Cleveland's closing spurt.

Game notes
Ilgauskas, who is wearing a protective boot, could not have an MRI on his injury because of all the metal in his surgically reconstructed left foot. ... Sixers G Lou Williams missed the game with the flu. ... Cavs rookie F Jawad Williams scored 2 points in his NBA debut. ... James doesn't know his exact weight, but he's pretty sure it's not 274 pounds. During Cleveland's game in Philadelphia, ESPN ran a graphic comparing James to Carolina defensive end Julius Peppers. "People are just guessing. I don't step on a scale much," James said. "I'm not as big as him, I don't think." ... Speaking of football, James had little to say about the Dallas Cowboys, his favorite team whose stars are feuding. "Turmoil," James said. "It's really bad right now." ... Cleveland's game with the Hawks will be their first stop on a four-game road trip that will include Minnesota, Denver and Oklahoma City. ... The Sixers will host Washington on Saturday. Philly has lost five in a row on their home floor.

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