PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Joel Embiid had 42 points and 10 rebounds and Tobias Harris scored 22 points to lead the Philadelphia 76ers to a 117-109 win over the Boston Celtics on Wednesday night.
Embiid is off to the best start of his career and topped 40 points for the second time in three games. He shot 12 of 19 from the floor (one 3-pointer) and was 17 of 21 from the free-throw line. He did it in 34 minutes and scored 20 points in a half (22 in the first) for the fifth time this season.
Ben Simmons had 11 points, eight rebounds and eight assists for the Sixers.
Jaylen Brown led the Celtics with 26 points and Marcus Smart had 25. Kemba Walker scored 19 points in his second game of the season after he missed the first 11 with a left knee injury.
The Sixers fell short in their attempt to trade for James Harden and left Embiid to perform the heavy lifting for a franchise that needs at least one other elite scorer to make a serious run in the East. When the Celtics snapped a tie game in the third with a 9-0 run it was Embiid — who else? — who steadied the Sixers with a three-point play.
Simmons was expected to develop into that true cornerstone star to pair with Embiid, only this season there has been more frustration than flashes of brilliance. Coach Doc Rivers has insisted he’s not worried about Simmons’ stats, but the Sixers need more than what he’s giving them. Simmons was whistled for two offensive fouls within 30 seconds late in the third and the Celtics ended the quarter with a 92-86 lead.
Walker returned in the fourth — he played only 90 seconds in the third on a minutes restriction — and the Sixers had to run out a lineup without Embiid or Simmons early in the quarter. Shake Milton, making a case for top NBA sixth man, and Harris, whose three-point play gave the Sixers a 100-99 lead, kept it a game until Embiid and Simmons returned.
Embiid checked in with 7:44 left and the Sixers holding that one-point lead. Down three, Embiid sank a fadeway to hit 38 points to pull the Sixers within one, grabbed a defensive board, drove to the hoop and was fouled. He sank both at the 5-minute mark as Simmons headed to the scorer’s table. Danny Green’s fourth 3-pointer of the game put the Sixers up 108-105 and they pulled away from there.
Cleveland 147, Brooklyn 135 Double OT
CLEVELAND (AP) — Kyrie Irving returned from his personal “pause” to score 37 points in his first game with Kevin Durant and James Harden but the new-look, star-studded Brooklyn Nets gave up 42 to Collin Sexton and lost 147-135 in double overtime to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday night.
Sexton scored 15 points in the second OT — most of them over Irving — for the Cavs, who outplayed the Nets all night. Sexton dropped two 3-pointers and fed Taurean Prince for another in a span of 55 seconds as Cleveland put away Brooklyn.
Durant led Brooklyn with 38 points and Harden added 21. But Brooklyn’s “Big 3” couldn’t do enough to outlast Sexton, who missed Cleveland’s last five games with a sprained ankle.
As he knocked down one big shot after another in the second OT, players on Cleveland’s bench were tackling each other in delight. Cedi Osman added 25 points and Prince — acquired in the four-team deal that brought Harden to Brooklyn — 17 in his Cavs debut.
The Nets overcame a 13-point deficit in the fourth quarter and tied it at 113-all on Irving’s putback with 1:10 left. Brooklyn had a chance in the closing seconds after Sexton’s turnover, but couldn’t score.
Brooklyn appeared in control in the first OT, but after Durant’s free throws put the Nets up 127-124, Sexton hit a 3-pointer over Irving with 1.2 seconds left. Durant’s last chance, a contested 3-pointer at the horn, was short.
The Cavs were breaking in some new pieces too, with Jarrett Allen and Prince making their debuts.
Irving had missed Brooklyn’s last seven games, leaving on Jan. 7 to address some issues he didn’t specify while speaking with reporters following practice Tuesday. Irving only said he needed time to work through some issues to find balance in his life.
While he was away, the Nets pulled off the blockbuster deal for Harden, whose arrival has made Brooklyn the favorite to unseat Milwaukee in the Eastern Conference and a legit NBA title threat — maybe.
Before the game, Nets first-year coach Steve Nash admitted being “curious” about how his trio of superstars would align on the floor.
“But I’m not in a hurry,” he said, stressing it may take time for Durant, Irving and Harden to figure things out. “How can we make beautiful basketball together and not worry about the minutiae?”
Dallas 124, Indiana 111
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Kristaps Porzingis posted season-high totals of 27 points and 12 rebounds in leading the Dallas Mavericks to a 124-111 victory at Indiana on Wednesday night.
Luka Doncic added 13 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists as Dallas snapped its first three-game losing streak in almost two years.
The short-handed Pacers have lost two straight by double digits, their two most lopsided losses of the season. Malcolm Brogdon had 26 points and Domantis Sabonis finished with 25 points and nine rebounds, ending his streak of consecutive double-doubles at 13.
Dallas took the lead for good on the final basket of the third quarter and pulled away with an 11-4 run in the fourth.
The Mavericks were in control most of the night after using an early 15-3 run to take a 37-22 lead late in the first quarter.
Indiana closed the deficit to 65-63 at the half, then took its first lead when Edmond Sumner’s 3-pointer broke a 67-all tie early in the third. It didn’t last long.
Porzingis scored all of the Mavericks points in a 9-2 run and Dallas eventually extended the margin to 84-76.
Again, the Pacers charged back, tying the score at 86 on Brogdon’s second 3 of the game, taking an 89-88 lead on his next 3 and then making it 91-88 when Brogdon made a layup.
But Dallas answered with a 13-3 run to make it 101-94 and gradually pulled away late to seal it.