By Jerry Wein
Shake Milton scored 27 points, Dwight Howard had 18 points and 15 rebounds, and the Sixers finished a six-game road trip without their injured MVP candidate center Joel Embiid by beating the Cleveland Cavaliers 114-94.
The Sixers, who were beaten twice by the Cavs earlier this season, went 4-2 on their trip as they wait for Embiid to get back from a knee injury. They also kept pace in their race with Brooklyn for the East’s No. 1 seed.
The Nets lead at 34-15 and the Sixers are a half-game back at 33-15.
“We did a good job of holding the fort down without the big fella,” said forward Tobias Harris.
Seth Curry made five 3-pointers and scored 19 points, and Milton’s scoring off the bench helped offset an off night for Ben Simmons, who went just 2 of 11 from the floor but had 13 rebounds. Howard made 6 of 7 shots while matching his season-high.
Philly’s bench outscored Cleveland’s 65-26, and the Sixers wrapped up a trip that could have gone the other direction sans Embiid.
“That was a heck of a trip for us,” said Sixers coach Doc Rivers, acknowledging earlier this season his team would haver collapsed without Embiid. “I think we’re on the other side now. Now our guys don’t care. They just win.”
The Sixers defense clamped down on Cleveland in the third quarter, holding the Cavs to 17 points and just 38 in the second half. The Sixers pulled away early in the fourth thanks to two 3-pointers from Milton, who went 5 of 7 beyond the arc.
Collin Sexton scored 24 points to lead the Cavs, who welcomed back forward Kevin Love. The five-time All-Star played in just his fifth game this season because of a calf strain and finished with 13 points in 20 minutes — only five after halftime.
Matthew Dellavedova made his season debut for Cleveland after being out with a concussion and appendectomy. The crowd favorite didn’t score but had five assists in 16 minutes.
Embiid missed his 10th straight game with a bone bruise in his left knee, an injury he sustained dunking on March 12.
He’s close to returning — Saturday’s game against Minnesota seems likely — and the Sixers are expected to provide a medical update Friday on their talented big man, who was one of the MVP frontrunners before he got hurt.
While they missed him, the Sixers also figured out some things without Embiid as Philly’s reserves were forced to play a larger role.
“When we add Joel back, it will be lights out,” Howard said.