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Cavs welcome Sixers to the Q

(SportsNetwork.com) - The Cleveland Cavaliers march on in their pursuit for a Central Division title on Sunday when the Philadelphia 76ers stop by Quicken Loans Arena.

The Cavs are two games clear of the Chicago Bulls for division supremacy and the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference.

On Friday, Cleveland had a four-game winning streak halted with a 106-98 road loss to the Brooklyn Nets.

Kyrie Irving paced Cleveland with 26 points, while LeBron James finished with 24, nine assists and five steals in the setback.

"We knew we were playing against a team that very badly needed a win," said Cavs coach David Blatt. "We had to play at a level that was appropriate to that, and we didn't reach that level."

Brooklyn opened the fourth quarter on an 11-5 run, with Jarrett Jack and Bojan Bogdanovic each hitting a pair of field goals during the spurt. The lead was 92-89 when Brook Lopez potted four straight free throws, Joe Johnson drilled a deep 3-pointer late in the shot clock and Jack converted two from the stripe.

Johnson's free throws made it 103-93 at 2:05 and gave Brooklyn the first double-digit lead for either team.

Out of a timeout, the Cavaliers committed a shot-clock violation. Brooklyn shot 11-for-12 from the stripe over the final 5:12 to put the game away.

The Cavs begin a big three-game homestand on Sunday. The Miami Heat arrive on Thursday, then the Bulls come into Cleveland in one week.

The Sixers have lost three of their last four, but at least they snapped their 16-game road losing streak Wednesday in Denver. They returned home and lost by 21 to the Los Angeles Clippers, 119-98.

Nerlens Noel poured in a career-high 30 points, seven above his previous best, to lead the 76ers. Noel, continuing his fine month and bolstering his modest chances to win Rookie of the Year, added 14 rebounds, two assists and two steals. Ish Smith scored 18 in the loss and Luc Mbah a Moute had 13 points off the bench.

The Clippers shot 54 percent from the field and 41 percent from long range.

"We're so proud of (our defense) and we had a tough time dealing with them," Sixers coach Brett Brown said. "They can do so many things. ... You have this menu to figure out what you can try to guard."

Noel scored 12 of his 30 points in the second, Smith added 11 and the pair scored seven in a 9-0 run at the end of the half to get the Sixers within 62-54 after they trailed by 19.

But the Clippers pulled away in the third quarter, beginning it with an 8-0 burst behind Paul and Blake Griffin and going up by as many as 27 points. It reached as high as 32 points in the fourth quarter.

The Sixers beat the Cavaliers in Philadelphia on Jan. 5, but have lost four of the last five meetings. The Cavs have won three straight as the host in this series.