Joel Embiid had 44 points and 17 rebounds, James Harden recorded his second triple-double with Philadelphia and the 76ers locked up a playoff spot with a 112-108 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday night.
Embiid was questionable coming into the game with a sore ankle. But not only did the 7-footer play, Embiid dominated down the stretch, scoring 12 points in a key sequence of the fourth quarter.
He also made 17 of 20 free throws, added five blocks and three assists in 38 minutes of another MVP resume builder. Embiid also made three 3-pointers.
Harden had an off-shooting night (4 of 13), but finished with 21 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists.
Darius Garland scored 23 and Caris LeVert and Lamar Stevens had 18 apiece for the Cavs, who played without injured 7-footers Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen.
THUNDER 117, SUNS 96
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Backup center Olivier Sarr scored a career-high 24 points and Aleksej Pokuveski recorded his first career triple-double to lead Oklahoma City over NBA-leading Phoenix.
Sarr came off the bench to shoot 9 of 12 from the field, including 5 of 6 from 3-point range. The other 7-footer, Pokuveski, had 17 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds while playing point guard for the bulk of the game.
The Thunder put seven players in double figures and took advantage of the Suns’ worst 3-point shooting effort of the season. Playing without scoring leader Devin Booker, Phoenix hit just 7 of 38 (18.4%) beyond the arc, well below its previous season low of 22% in a January win over Dallas.
Mikal Bridges led Phoenix with 18 points.
MAVERICKS 118, BUCKS 112
MILWAUKEE (AP) — Luka Doncic scored 32 points and matched a season high with 15 assists to help Dallas defeat Milwaukee.
Giannis Antetokounmpo led the Bucks with 28 points and 10 rebounds. Milwaukee was essentially at full strength Sunday after resting all of its usual starters in a 153-119 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday night.
Doncic flirted with a triple-double before finishing with eight rebounds. In six career games against the Bucks, Doncic has averaged 26.8 points, 11.3 assists and 9.2 rebounds with three triple-doubles.
Dallas’ Dwight Powell added 22 points and 13 rebounds — one off his career high.
CELTICS 144, WIZARDS 102
BOSTON (AP) — Jaylen Brown scored 32 points, Jayson Tatum had 22 and Boston cruised past Washington in the Celtics’ regular-season home finale.
Jockeying for one of the top seeds in the Eastern Conference, Boston posted its 13th win in 16 games with three games left in the regular season.
Derrick White added 17 points, Grant Williams 16 and Payton Pritchard 14 for the Celtics, who finished 28-13 at TD Garden. Tatum had seven assists and six rebounds, while Brown added seven boards with five assists.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Kristaps Porzingis each had 17 points for Washington, and Ish Smith finished with 16.
NUGGETS 129, LAKERS 118
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Nikola Jokic had 38 points, 18 rebounds and six assists, and Denver moved into fifth place in the Western Conference with a victory over Los Angeles.
Will Barton scored 25 points and Aaron Gordon added 24 points and eight rebounds for the Nuggets, who capitalized on LeBron James’ absence with a fourth-quarter surge to grab their fourth win in five games. Denver moved a half-game ahead of Utah for the fifth spot in the playoff picture, getting further insurance against being forced into the play-in tournament.
Anthony Davis had 28 points, nine rebounds and eight assists for the 11th-place Lakers, whose play-in hopes waned further with their sixth consecutive loss. Los Angeles has lost 28 of 38 since Jan. 7. Russell Westbrook added 27 points and Carmelo Anthony had 17.
The Lakers were competitive against a superior opponent, yet couldn’t overcome the absence of the NBA’s leading scorer, who sat for the fourth time in six games to rest his sprained left ankle.
PISTONS 121, PACERS 117
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Saddiq Bey scored 31 points and Fred Jackson had 19 to lead sharpshooting Detroit past Indiana.
Bey hit 11 of 18 shots, including shooting 7 of 9 on 3-pointers, in 23 minutes. The Pistons, who have won three games in a row, sank 21 of 41 3-pointers and set a team record for 3s in a half with 13 in the opening two quarters.
Oshae Brissett scored 20 points and had nine rebounds to lead the Pacers, who have lost seven straight games. Tyrese Haliburton flirted with a triple-double with 19 points, a career high-tying 17 assists and nine rebounds. He became the first player in Pacers history to record at least 17 assists without a turnover and first to do it in the NBA since LeBron James on March 21, 2018.
Buddy Hield and Isiah Jackson also scored 19 each for the Pacers.
KNICKS 118, MAGIC 88
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — RJ Barrett scored 27 points, Obi Toppin matched his career high with 20 and New York routed Orlando.
Toppin and Alec Burks scored 12 points each in a 37-point third quarter for the Knicks, who made 12 of their first 13 shots in the period. Burks finished with 19 points and seven rebounds, and Immanuel Quickley had his first triple-double (20 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists) in 34 minutes off the bench.
Moritz Wagner led Orlando with 18 points and nine rebounds in the Magic’s sixth straight loss.
TIMBERWOLVES 139, ROCKETS 132
HOUSTON (AP) — Anthony Edwards scored 33 points, Karl-Anthony Towns added 28 and Minnesota built a huge lead and held to beat Houston.
It’s the second straight victory for Minnesota, which is in seventh place in the Western Conference with three games remaining. The Timberwolves led by as many as 25 in the fourth and were up by 16 with about five minutes to go before Houston scored the next eight points, with five from Josh Christopher to get within 132-124 a couple of minutes later.
Jalen Green had 31 points for Houston and Christopher scored a career-high 30 off the bench as the Rockets dropped their fourth straight. Christopher was the main reason Houston made it close late as he scored 19 points in the fourth quarter.
HEAT 114, RAPTORS 109
TORONTO (AP) — Kyle Lowry had 16 points and 10 assists against his former team, Max Strus scored all of his 23 points in the second half, and Miami topped Toronto.
Victor Oladipo scored 21 points, Tyler Herro had 18 and Bam Adebayo 16 as the Heat won their fourth straight and remained two games ahead of Boston atop the Eastern Conference standings. Each team has three games remaining.
Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam each scored 29 points, and Scottie Barnes and Gary Trent Jr. both had 19 as Toronto lost for the first time in six games.
SPURS 113, TRAIL BLAZERS 92
SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Keldon Johnson scored 28 points and San Antonio defeated short-handed Portland.
Coupled with the Los Angeles Lakers’ loss to Denver, San Antonio’s magic number for clinching 10th place in the Western Conference is two games. The Spurs (33-45) also hold the tiebreaker over the Lakers (31-47) with a better conference record.
San Antonio won a two-game weekend series with Portland to complete a four-game sweep of the Trail Blazers. Zach Collins had 18 points and 13 rebounds for his first career double-double. Tre Jones added 18 points and Keita Bates-Diop 12.
The Blazers struggled to maintain any consistency offensively without Damian Lillard, Jusuf Nurkic, Josh Hart, Eric Bledsoe, Anfernee Simmons and several other injured players. Keon Johnson and Ben McLemore had 19 points each to lead Portland.
WARRIORS 109, KINGS 90
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Andrew Wiggins scored 25 points, Jordan Poole added 22 and Golden State held off Sacramento.
Nemanja Bjelica had season highs of 19 points and 12 rebounds to go with his six assists in the Warriors’ second straight win — something they hadn’t done since early March.
Harrison Barnes had 18 points and 10 rebounds for the Kings, who were eliminated from playoff contention with the loss. Sacramento lost all four games against Golden State this season.
CLIPPERS 119, PELICANS 100
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Marcus Morris Sr. scored 22 points, Ivica Zubac got his 22nd double-double of the season with 16 points and 14 rebounds, and Los Angeles prevented New Orleans from clinching a spot in the play-in tournament.
Morris made four 3-pointers for the Clippers, who were 21 of 44 from beyond the arc. It is the first time in franchise history they have made at least 20 in back-to-back games. Los Angeles made 23 3s and set a franchise record for points in a 153-119 victory over Milwaukee on Friday night.
Paul George had 15 points, seven assists and five rebounds in his third game back for the Clippers, who had six players in double figures. All of George’s field goals were 3-pointers.
CJ McCollum had 19 points and Brandon Ingram added 15 for the Pelicans, who had their three-game winning streak snapped. New Orleans could have wrapped up a play-in tournament berth with a win after Denver defeated the Los Angeles Lakers earlier in the day. (AP)
(Photo credits to: Fear The Sword)