Cavs drop fourth straight

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- John Salmons and the Philadelphia 76ers keep
getting better in Allen Iverson's absence.

After setting a career-high earlier in the week, Salmons
established a new mark with 22 points while leading Philadelphia to
a 86-71 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday night,
keeping the Sixers' once-fading playoff hopes alive.

Salmons made six of his first seven shots and registered double
figures for the sixth time in his last 10 games. In 15 starts this
season, he is averaging 10 points.

"The season is so long," Salmons said. "It's been hard to
stay focused when we're losing and there's coaching changes and
injuries. The year's been so crazy that I'm just trying to stay
focused on what I have to do."

Kenny Thomas had 19 points and Eric Snow added 13 assists for
the Sixers, who never trailed to win their third straight game --
all without injured All-Star Iverson.

Iverson was again absent from the bench and the locker room
following the game. His status for Sunday's game in Boston is
uncertain, the team said. The Sixers are 7-1 in their last eight
without Iverson.

"Why is it just without Allen? We have four guys out," Snow
said. "You're going to talk about who's out, talk about everybody.
It's a team game. That's why we have 12, 13 guys."

Cleveland lost its fourth in a row, and Philadelphia pulled
within one game of the Cavaliers, who fell a half-game behind
Boston for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern

LeBron James had 16 points on 5-for-13 shooting to lead
Cleveland, which had won seven straight prior to its slide.
Zydrunas Ilgauskas scored 15.

"We're just not playing the way we were three weeks ago,"
James said. "A lot of other teams have been stepping up and we
really aren't. But we're OK. We're going to find it."

Salmons, who had 21 points in Monday's win over Dallas, sank a
pair of 3-pointers in the third quarter, including one with 6:02
remaining that gave the Sixers a 15-point lead.

Salmons had a steal in between two baskets by Thomas that put
Philadelphia ahead 69-51 after three, leading to a standing ovation
from a crowd that has booed the Sixers often this season.

"The crowd has been great," Snow said. "They supported us
even when we were losing, still coming out and helping us out."

Philadelphia started the final quarter with a 10-3 spurt, but
Ilgauskas had seven points and Kedrick Brown six during a 17-3 run
that cut the lead to 11. Salmons and Aaron McKie then made layups
to end the threat.

McKie and Samuel Dalembert had 12 points each. Dalembert added
10 rebounds for his 10th double-double.

The Sixers shot 7-of-13 on 3-pointers and are 29-for-49 during
their winning streak.

"We have some real good shooters on this team," Salmons said.
"Teams have been doubling Kenny a lot and he's been finding the
open guy."

The Cavaliers, who shot just 33 percent in the first half,
trimmed a nine-point deficit to four with 4:40 remaining in the
second quarter, but Kyle Korver made a 3 to start a 10-2 Sixers
run. Korver closed the spurt with an 18-footer before James sank a
pair of free throws to make it 44-34 Philadelphia at halftime.

"Everybody is going to have to pick it up," Cleveland coach
Paul Silas said. "The energy level is just not there."

Game notes
Ilgauskas wore a mask to protect his nose, which was broken
in Tuesday's loss to Phoenix. ... Cavaliers F Carlos Boozer had 11
rebounds. ... Sixers F Amal McCaskill saw his first action since
injuring his back on March 9. ... Philadelphia F Greg Buckner left
the game in the second quarter with a sprained foot and did not
return. ... Cleveland won the first three games of the season
series. ... The last time the Sixers led the entire game was the
season opener against Miami.

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