Cavaliers coach Byron Scott decided to go with Pargo, who had only played in three of the first 10 games, at the team's shootaround Wednesday morning. The second-year pro hit 11 of 19 from the field and scored five points during a 13-0 run after the Sixers cut the lead to 79-77 with 3:31 to play.
"I saw it all coming," Scott said following the game, a comment that drew a long laugh from the coach.
"I don't think anyone expected J.P. to come in and play the way he did. You have to give him a lot of credit. We talk about opportunities. He took advantage of it."
Pargo downplayed any notion he can take over a game as Irving has done many times in his brief career.
"Those are some big shoes to fill," he said. "I wanted to come out aggressive, play within myself and do whatever it took to win the game. You don't want to come out and force things."
The 76ers, who had their three-game winning streak end, were impressed.
"Pargo played the game of his life tonight. He kills us on screens with the ball, playing one-on-one, hitting three-balls," forward Thaddeus Young said. "It was like he was playing a video game against us, NBA2K."
The Cavaliers came into the game with a 2-8 record and an extended stretch without Irving looks ominous. The NBA's reigning rookie of the year is expected to miss a month with a broken left index finger. He was injured Saturday against Dallas and played the next night in Philadelphia before an MRI revealed a crack in the bone.
"I think of him as a combination of Isiah Thomas and Chris Paul," Sixers coach Doug Collins said. "You just don't replace a guy like that. But Byron is great, he'll figure it out."
The Sixers overcame a slow start to defeat Toronto on Tuesday. Collins said he thought about making a change in the starting lineup after that game. He actually may want to make a change after Philadelphia fell behind 38-19 against the Cavaliers.
"Last night, we were able to come back by making shots down the stretch," Collins said. "Tonight, they were the ones who made the big baskets. They just hit big shots tonight."
Pargo's previous career high came last season against Oklahoma City when he scored 15 points. He made five starts as a rookie with Memphis in 2011-12, but they totaled 23 minutes. Cleveland acquired him in an offseason trade.
Cleveland led 65-50 midway through the third quarter, but the 76ers chipped away at the margin. Nick Young's basket with 3:31 to play cut the lead to 79-77, but Cleveland put the game away with a 13-0 run. Two free throws from Varejao and 3-pointers by C.J. Miles and Waiters rebuilt the lead.
Irving has had several injury setbacks. He has missed time with a foot injury, sprained shoulder, concussion and broken hand in the past two years. The Cavaliers went 4-11 without Irving in 2011-12. Irving, looking sharp in a suit and tie, was seated at the end of the bench.
Daniel Gibson, Cleveland's backup shooting guard, missed his second straight game with a sore right elbow.
Philadelphia was 4 of 26 from the field midway through the second quarter. ... The Cavaliers had lost six straight to the 76ers. Their last victory in the series was a 101-93 win in Cleveland on Nov. 16, 2010. ... The 76ers host Oklahoma City on Saturday, the first of three straight games at home. ... Cleveland begins a three-game road trip Friday in Orlando. The Cavaliers also play in Miami and Memphis. ... Former Cavaliers F Larry Nance, the NBA's first slam dunk champion, attended the game.