Philippine Daily Inquirer

EMBIID, SIXERS HOLD OFF UNDERMANNE­D NETS FOR EAST LEAD; DONCIC SAVES MAVS

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PHILADELPH­IA—Joel Embiid finished with 39 points as the Philadelph­ia 76ers won the battle for first place in the Eastern Conference by holding on to beat the short-handed Brooklyn Nets, 123-117, on Wednesday.

Seeking their first NBA championsh­ip since 1983, the Sixers are looking to earn top seeding and home court advantage in the postseason, and Wednesday’s win gives them the upper hand, at least for now, over the second-place Nets.

The 76ers improved to 38-17, just one game ahead of Brooklyn at 37-18.

Embiid shot 13-of-29 from the floor and pulled down 13 rebounds and the 76ers survived despite seeing a 22-point lead slashed to just three in the fourth.

Tobias Harris added 26 points and Ben Simmons finished with 17 points, nine assists and three steals for the Sixers, who won their third straight. Shake Milton had 15 points.

Extended playing time

With the Sixers up by double digits in the second half, Embiid was hoping to have an early night and rest for the fourth quarter. But the Nets had other plans, making a late run to cut a 22-point lead to just three.

“The last three games I sat out the fourth and I thought it would be the same. We made a bunch of mistakes and turned the ball over. It can happen,” said Embiid.

The depleted Nets played without offensive star James Harden, who is recovering from a strained hamstring, and Kevin Durant, who sits out when the team has games on back-toback nights. Durant had eight turnovers in his last game, a one-sided 126-101 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers.

Kyrie Irving led the Nets with 37 points and nine assists while Landry Shamet added 17 points and Jeff Green had 15. Bruce Brown scored 14, and DeAndre Jordan finished with 12 points and 14 rebounds. Irving was a late addition to the lineup after he took time off for “personal reasons.”

The Nets have been playing with all or a portion of their “Big Three” out for most of the season, but they are hoping that everyone gets healthy for the postseason.

Elsewhere, Luka Doncic delivered another clutch game winner, sinking an off-balance three-pointer to beat the buzzer and lift the Dallas Mavericks to a 114-113 win over the Memphis

Grizzlies.

Doncic scored 25 of his 29 points in the second half and finished with nine assists to help Dallas end a two-game losing streak. Kristaps Porzingis chipped in 21 points for the Mavericks.

“I was kind of falling down. It’s kind of lucky, but we’ll take it,” Doncic said.

Doncic scored the Mavericks’ final six points with a layup, free throw and then capping his incredible performanc­e with a falling three-pointer.

A little buffer

“He’s a really hard cover and that why he’s a MVP (most valuable player) candidate. He turned it on in the second half and I give him a lot of credit,” Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins said of Doncic.

Seventh place Dallas gave itself a bit of a buffer with the victory, extending its lead in the standings to 2 1/2 games over the eighth-place Grizzlies.

“The last play was amazing. You look at the last minute or so. In those situations, you pull off a miracle in a game like that once in a blue moon. It just doesn’t happen very often,” said Dallas coach Rick Carlisle.

Also, Khris Middleton scored a team high 27 points as the Milwaukee Bucks led wire-to-wire to win a second straight game without star Giannis Antetokoun­mpo, a 130-105 demolition of the Minnesota Timberwolv­es.

Middleton also had eight rebounds and seven assists in just over 25 minutes, with Antetokoun­mpo missing his sixth consecutiv­e contest with a sore knee.

 ?? —AFP ?? Joel Embiid was on target against the Nets.
—AFP Joel Embiid was on target against the Nets.

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