Cavaliers look to get right against 76ers
CLEVELAND -- LeBron James said the Cleveland Cavaliers are in a bad spot after losing for the fifth time in seven games Thursday night.
At least they're not the Philadelphia 76ers.
Cleveland is muddling through a brutal March in which it has lost 10 of 16 games and fallen a half-game behind the Boston Celtics for first place in the East after a 99-93 loss to the Chicago Bulls.
The Cavaliers are hoping they can stop their three-game slide and begin to look like they might defend their 2016 title by getting themselves right against those Sixers on Friday night at Quicken Loans Arena.
"We're just in a bad spot," James said. "We're going to try to figure it out. Tomorrow's another day. It's another opportunity, but we've got some work to do. We don't have a lot of time."
James scored 26 points against the Bulls and moved past Shaquille O'Neal for seventh place on the NBA's all-time scoring list. He now has 28,599 points in 14 seasons.
"That means absolutely nothing right now," James said. "I've been healthy enough and I've had some great teammates that allowed me to get to that point. Shaq is an all-time great, and the most dominant player to ever play this game. Extremely excited to see him get a statue outside of Staples Center. But I could (not) care less about me passing him. Means absolutely nothing."
The 76ers are heading for their fifth straight lottery appearance and ravaged by injuries as the season nears its merciful end.
Cleveland begins a three-game homestand against the Sixers after playing six of the last seven on the road. Richard Jefferson (left knee tendinitis) and Kyle Korver (left foot soreness) were out against the Bulls.
Korver will not play against the Sixers and it is unclear whether Jefferson will be available.
The 76ers (28-47) know a thing or two about injuries even as they have matched their win total from the previous two seasons.
The latest casualty is up-and-coming forward Robert Covington, who will not make Philadelphia's trip to Cleveland and Toronto because of right knee soreness.
Covington, who is averaging 12.9 points and 6.5 rebounds, underwent an MRI on Thursday after sitting out a 99-92 loss to the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday. In his last game, Covington totaled 21 points and 13 rebounds in a 106-101 win over the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday.
"Our doctors and medical staff review and discuss the results of his MRI and continue to evaluate and treat him," the team said.
Jahlil Okafor also didn't make the trip, according to Philly.com, nor did Sergio Rodriguez. Okafor will miss his fifth consecutive game with right knee soreness and Rodriguez his third with a left hamstring strain.
The 2016 No. 1 overall pick, Ben Simmons, hasn't played a second of pro basketball because of his broken right foot, and Joel Embiid, who was probably on his way to rookie-of-the-year honors, is done for the year after knee surgery.
Without enough bodies, the Sixers turned to Richaun Holmes, who scored 25 points Wednesday.
"Each game that we play, we're forming our identity being a team that plays hard, plays together," Holmes said.
Add them all up and Philadelphia may at best have nine players available to face the Cavs, who have beaten them eight consecutive times.
Updated March 31, 2017