By DAN GELSTON – AP Sportswriter
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — James Harden is the new kid in town who elicited loud cheers from the moment he stepped onto the plaza. Joel Embiid hears wire-to-wire “MVP!” chants from Philly fans begging for a championship.
The 76ers are so much more than their dynamic duo.
Make room for Tyrese Maxey in Philly’s version of the Big 3.
Maxey hit five 3-pointers and scored 33 points to lead the Philadelphia 76ers to their fifth straight win, 125-119 over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday night.
“I don’t think we consider it Big 3, Big 2,” Maxey said. “I think we look at it as a unit.”
The 76ers improved to 4-0 with Harden in the lineup. Harden had 25 points and 11 assists. Embiid added 22 points and nine rebounds.
Maxey, however, stole the show.
“Any night, any of us can go,” Harden said. “Tyrese really picked it up for us tonight.”
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The sophomore guard from Kentucky broke through the Cavaliers in the second half, seemingly turning Embiid and Harden into spectators. His best sequence came in the fourth. Maxey hit a 3 that gave the Sixers a one-point lead, then dumped a 3 from a pass from Harden on the break that made it 110-106 and sent the Philly crowd raging.
Harden held up his arms and urged the crowd to raise their voices even more.
Maxey made 10 of 15 shots (5 of 6 on 3s) and 8 of 9 from the free throw line with five assists.
“He’s a fearless kid,” said coach Doc Rivers.
Darius Garland scored 26 points and had 19 assists for the Cavaliers, and Isaac Okoro added 22.
Harden, who had at least 20 points and 10 assists for the third time in four games, picked up his third foul at 8:32 in the second quarter and took just four shots through three. Still, he still had 18 points (and nine assists) with the strength of two 3s and 8-of-8 from the free throw line.
“I have to do better to be more solid,” Harden said. “I need to get smarter so I can be out there and help my team.”
His rapid success with Embiid was to be expected. But his presence has turned Maxey into a fake Allen Iverson since his arrival.
Maxey made 76ers fans — and, frankly, the 76ers — forget Ben Simmons with his game this season.
He chimed in in the third quarter and brought the Sixers back from long range, attacking the net and even breaking to Embiid with a skillful pass.
Maxey hit two 3s and scored 14 points in the quarter to bring the Sixers back from 21 points to take the lead late in the third. He sank a 3, then came back with a 12-foot to go a three-point deficit. The fast guard threw the ball to Embiid for the easy bucket that sent the crowd into a frenzy. He scored 20 points for the fourth straight game, the longest streak of his career — all with Harden.
But it was Georges Niang who finally brought the Sixers to 97-93 with a basket and a 3.
“He’s a Sagittarius. He does,” Harden said.
The Cavaliers hit their first nine shots and Kevin Love hit two 3s to help them take a 39-18 lead. They lost six out of seven.
“For the first time in a long time we felt and looked like ourselves,” said coach JB Bickerstaff. “We happened upon a really good basketball team.”
Cavaliers: Bickerstaff was fined $20,000 by the NBA for his behavior when he was kicked out of a game Monday night. The league fined Bickerstaff for using inappropriate language towards the officiating side and failing to leave court “in time”.
76ers: Veteran C DeAndre Jordan is expected to join the team Saturday after signing this week. Jordan’s arrival reunites him with Rivers, who was his coach with the Los Angeles Clippers. “I hope he recaptures the Lob City days,” Rivers said. “That would be fantastic for us.” Jordan, 33, is joining Paul Millsap as a backup center for the Sixers. “We now have a few backups. He’s just one of them,” Rivers said. “But it’s great to have him.”
Harden hit two 3s and has 2,559 in his career, a narrow distance from matching Reggie Miller in third place on the NBA career list.
Bickerstaff coached Harden as an assistant and interim coach while they were in Houston and raved about his size.
“He sees the game one step ahead,” he said. “He’s not one of those guys who just drives so fast he’s waiting for the offense to react. He forces the defense to react. He’s one of the most creative decision makers and passers in our game. He also knows when to make the game that’s right in front of him.”
garland joined LeBron James and Andre Miller as the only player in Cavs franchise history with multiple 25-point and 15-assist games in a single season.
Cavaliers: host Toronto on Sunday.
76ers: Play in Eastern Conference leader Miami on Saturday.
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