CLEVELAND (Ohio) • The Philadelphia 76ers led wire-to-wire in a 108-97 win over the Cavaliers in Cleveland on Thursday, perhaps the perfect sales pitch if they want to attract LeBron James to Pennsylvania next season.
The three-time National Basketball Association (NBA) champion, who said he was flattered by billboards rented by a Pennsylvania company in the Cleveland area urging him to consider a move to the Sixers as a free agent next season, led all scorers with 30 points.
That included a shot in the first quarter which came after he escaped a double-team by dribbling behind his back and through the legs of team-mate Tristan Thompson. He then leapt over 76ers centre Joel Embiid's outstretched leg and regained control of the ball inside the key. With a clear path to the basket, he finished with a left-handed lay-up.
James was in no mood to celebrate after his team lost but summed up his acrobatics.
"That's probably one of the best plays I've had in my career," said the 15-year veteran.
Embiid, as he often does after wins, got the last laugh on Twitter.
The All-Star had 17 points, 14 rebounds and six assists and his post managed to celebrate his team's victory while also appearing to accelerate his recruiting pitch for James.
"Trust The Process??? Always a great time playing against one of the best to ever play the game #summer2018goals," wrote Embiid.
The 76ers were fuelled by 22 points from shooting guard JJ Redick. Ben Simmons added 16 points, nine rebounds, and eight assists.
James also had nine rebounds and eight assists but Cleveland, who closed within one point with 2min 25sec remaining after trailing by as many as 13 in the fourth quarter, were never able to get in front.
A PLAY TO REMEMBER
That's probably one of the best plays I've had in my career.
LEBRON JAMES, Cleveland Cavaliers star, on his acrobatic first-quarter play where he escaped a double-team by dribbling behind his back and through the legs of a team-mate, leapt over Joel Embiid's outstretched leg and regained control of the ball inside the key before finishing with a left-handed lay-up.
"Looked like we had some heavy legs tonight," the 33-year-old said. "We fought back but it's been a tough stretch for us playing every other day the last four weeks.
"Couple breakdowns down the stretch didn't allow that to happen. Give credit where credit is due. I thought Philly played well."
Still, James' first-quarter play provided a highlight just a day after Houston Rockets star James Harden faked Wesley Johnson nearly out of his shoes before calmly hitting a three-pointer.
Early in Houston's eventual 105-92 victory on Wednesday, Harden was being guarded near half-court by Johnson of the Los Angeles Clippers. He feigned a drive before stopping on a dime to go back behind the three-point line.
A GAME TO REMEMBER
Trust The Process??? Always a great time playing against one of the best to ever play the game #summer2018goals.
JOEL EMBIID , Philadelphia 76ers centre, celebrating his team's win on Twitter while also appearing to make a recruiting pitch for LeBron James.
Johnson, trying to match the change in gears, ended up falling backward onto the court, leaving Harden without a Clippers player within 10 feet. Harden, the favourite for the NBA's Most Valuable Player Award, then rubbed the Clippers' faces in the misfortune by taking his time in setting up the three-point shot as his team-mates went berserk on the sidelines.
Asked about Harden's play before the 76ers game, James gushed about his rival's ability.
"That was one of those moves that sometimes you dream about having," he said. "That's a play that will be in his highlight reel the rest of his life."
The duelling plays came as the MVP race between Harden and James was beginning to heat up.
Harden is averaging a league-leading 31.3 points along with 8.9 assists and 5.2 rebounds, and his team have the best record (48-13). James is averaging 26.7 points, nine assists (a career-high) and 8.4 rebounds a game.
"Listen, man, it's all part of the game," James said. "This is a game of showmanship but, at the same time, this is a game of swag and whatever you've got to do, man."
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