LeBron James Beat 76ers on His Own—Do Cavaliers Even Need Derrick Rose?

"This is like NBA royalty," said `Philadelphia 76ers head coach Brett Brown of LeBron James and company before the Cleveland Cavaliers walked into Wells Fargo Center on Monday night. "And you don't back away from it. You're not intimidated by it. You embrace it. I said a while ago, the group isn't coming here looking for autographs. We're here to win a game."

Shorn of two All-Star point guards for much of this season so far, the Cavaliers have at times resembled tarnished royalty—a monarchy out of step with a brave new era. Isaiah Thomas continues to watch from the sidelines in civilian dress ahead of a projected return to play in January. Derrick Rose’s situation remains uncertain. ESPN reported on Monday that Rose was “in communication” with the Cavaliers’ front office, as he mulls over whether to try and return from an ankle injury. “Rose's increasing frustration with injuries is causing him to question his desire to continue playing,” Adrian Wojnarowski wrote.

Through those ructions, though—and despite often starting with a third-or-fourth choice point guard—the Cavaliers have kept winning. Since they lost to the Rockets on November 9, Tyronn Lue’s team has reeled off eight straight victories. The Cavs are third in the East, four games behind a Celtics team that looked ready to make some kind of assault on the Warriors’ single-season win record last week. The Celtics met Andre Drummond and the Pistons on Monday night and took some punishment, losing 118-108. Slowly, things aren’t looking so bad for the Cavaliers.

They still have a "King," of course. LeBron James put up 30 points, 13 rebounds and six assists against the kids trying to crash the Cavaliers’ Eastern Conference party. Dwyane Wade chipped in, vitally, from the bench with 15 points. Maybe more important than those 45 points between them for the old Heat buddies, though, were the intangibles they hit the baby 76ers with. “During a key sequence in the fourth quarter, it became about Wade and James vs. Joel Embiid,” Dave McMenamin wrote for ESPN. “James punctuated the play [a 23-foot shot over Embiid] with something to say to Embiid, causing the big man to drop his head at first, before flashing a smile back at James as he walked to the bench.” The 76ers’ big man ended the night with 30 points; the Cavaliers left Philadelphia with the all-important "W." Some things change, and others, well—when you have James, many of them stay the same.

Will Rose be back? No one seems to know for sure. Thomas will be—though in what shape, again, there is uncertainty. Even without a settled, elite starting backcourt, Lue can lean on James’s (and Wade’s) enduring greatness to keep on pumping out the wins.

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