Celtics hold off Sixers, LeBron keeps Cavs going

BOSTON — Kyrie Irving scored 36 points and the Boston Celtics held off the weary and short-handed Philadelphia 76ers, 108-97, on Thursday night to improve the NBA’s best record to 19-4.

It was Irving’s fifth game this season with 30 or more points. Al Horford added 21 points and eight rebounds, and Marcus Morris had 17 points as the Celtics bounced back from Monday night’s home loss to Detroit with their ninth victory in 11 games.

Boston led by five at the end of the third quarter but started the fourth by connecting on seven of its first 11 shots to increase the margin to 95-82.

Dario Saric led Philadelphia with 18 points. JJ Redick finished with 17 and Ben Simmons had 15.

It was the third game in four nights for the 76ers, who have lost two of three. Saturday’s game against Detroit will conclude a week featuring matchups with the East’s three top teams.

Philadelphia played without center Joel Embiid, who continues to rest on the second night of back-to-backs.

With Embiid out, Celtics coach Brad Stevens went with a bigger lineup, starting Aron Baynes in place of Morris.

Philadelphia was able to keep the game tight by knocking down 16 3-pointers.

The Celtics ended the second quarter on an 11-3 run and took a 54-44 lead into halftime. Boston shot 48 percent from the field and was 7 of 16 from beyond the 3-point line.

Philadelphia erased a 12-point deficit and took a 67-65 lead in the third quarter, but Boston got hot again, ending that period on an 11-4 run that included six points by Morris.

In Atlanta, LeBron James had yet another double-double, took command of a challenging defensive assignment and stuck around to see the end of the Cavaliers’ 10th straight victory.

James had 24 points and 12 assists, and Kevin Love had 25 points and 16 rebounds to help Cleveland hold off Atlanta to extend the NBA’s longest active winning streak. It was James’ 14th double-double in 22 games.

James had frequent exchanges with the officials, but avoided serious confrontations following his first ejection in 1,082 career games on Tuesday night in a home victory over Miami.

Dennis Schroder, who led Atlanta with 27 points, blew past Cavaliers guard Jose Calderon to score on three straight layups to give Atlanta a 67-58 lead late in the first half. James took over primary defensive duties on Schroder to close the half and continued covering the super-quick guard in the second half.

The Cavaliers, who lost 117-115 at home to the Hawks on Nov. 4, ended a streak of three straight losses in the series.

In Los Angeles, the Utah Jazz had seven players score in double figures, going on a 21-4 run in the fourth quarter to run away from the Los Angeles Clippers 126-107.

Reserve Alec Burks scored a season-high 28 points to lead Utah, with rookie Donovan Mitchell adding 24 points.

Austin Rivers led the Clippers with 25 points, and Lou Williams had 20.

The Clippers trailed 94-93 early in the fourth quarter before Utah took command. The Jazz outscored the Clippers 32-20 in the final period.

The Clippers were playing without four starters. Lone regular starter DeAndre Jordan finished with eight points and a game-high 16 rebounds.

The Jazz also played without four injured players, including starting center Rudy Gobert and leading scorer Rodney Hood.

The Clippers lost despite shooting 54.3 percent and out-rebounding the Jazz 36-33.

Depth hurt the Clippers, whose reserves were outscored 49-30 by the Jazz.

Meanwhile, Will Barton capped a career-high 37 points with a driving layup with 3.2 seconds left and the Nuggets overcame the loss of Nikola Jokic to beat the Chicago Bulls 111-110.

The Bucks’ Khris Middleton had 26 points while Eric Bledsoe had 25 as Milwaukee beat the Portland Trailblazers 103-91.

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