CLEVELAND — Jrue Holiday made five 3-pointers and scored 19 of his 24 points in the third quarter as the Philadelphia 76ers kept their hold on a playoff spot with a 103-87 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday night.
Holiday dropped four of his 3s during a stunning 24-2 run when the Sixers blew open a tight game. Andre Iguodala added 19 points as Philadelphia snapped a three-game losing streak, won for just the third time in 10 games and stayed ahead of Milwaukee in the standings.
The Sixers play their final four on the road, including a matchup against the Bucks next week.
Cavaliers rookie Kyrie Irving scored 9 points in his first game back after missing nine straight with a sprained shoulder. Samardo Samuels and Lester Hudson scored 15 apiece for Cleveland, which has lost 18 of 22.
Iguodala added 13 rebounds and Elton Brand had 12 points for the Sixers, who came in just 11-21 since Feb. 13 when they are among the Eastern Conference’s top teams.
It’s been all downhill since. However, Holiday applied the brakes for one night.
Antawn Jamison’s basket with 7:53 left in the third brought the Cavs, who lost by 39 on Tuesday night in Detroit and have been getting blown out regularly, even at 57-all.
Moments later, Cleveland trailed by 22, shot down by Holiday.
His 3-pointer made it 62-59 and the third-year guard made three more long-range shots as the Sixers went on their 24-2 run over a 5:21 stretch to open an 81-59 lead. Philadelphia scored 19 straight with ease during the shocking outburst before Cleveland’s Samardo Samuels finally ended the Cavs’ drought.
Then, like a cold-blooded assassin, Holiday drilled another 3 for good measure, making it 84-64.
Goodnight, Cleveland. Drive safely.
Holiday went 6 of 6 on 3-pointers and didn’t play in the fourth quarter as coach Doug Collins got some needed rest for his starters, playing their third game in three nights and faced with playing their last four on the road.
The Cavs ended a stretch of seven games in nine nights and look exhausted. They did get Irving back, but only for 19 minutes.
Cavs coach Byron Scott admitted having some serious apprehension about letting Irving play, but relented to the 20-year-old’s wishes and after the presumptive NBA rookie of the year was cleared by team doctors.
“He’s a competitor. He wants to play,” Scott said. “He wants to be out there with his teammates. The one thing I did tell him is that doesn’t mean you’re going to play the rest of the season. There’s still some games I still might shut him down. But I do want to see him get out there and enjoy being with his teammates and continue to get better as a basketball player.”
Irving didn’t wear a protective sleeve on his shoulder, which he first hurt on March 30. He gave the shoulder a good test in the second quarter, when he was sent sprawling into the padded basket stanchion after missing a layup.
Irving spent a moment laying on his back before being helped to his feet, a sight that drew a smile from Scott.
Notes: It appears Cavs C Anderson Varejao’s season is over. He hasn’t played since breaking his right wrist on Feb. 10. Scott said the team hasn’t made a decision on whether Varejao will return, but with just five games left, it’s unlikely he’ll get back on the court until next season. Varejao was having an All-Star-caliber season before getting hurt, averaging 10.8 points and 11.5 rebounds. … Philadelphia has won five straight over Cleveland. … The Sixers play at Indiana on Saturday, New Jersey on Monday, against the Bucks next Wednesday before finishing the regular season the following night in Detroit. … Browns WR Greg Little attended the game.