Recent acquisition Buddy Hield scored 24 points and the Philadelphia 76ers held on late to end the Cleveland Cavaliers' nine-game winning streak with Monday's 123-121 victory.

Despite still being without injured reigning NBA MVP Joel Embiid, Philadelphia handed the red-hot Cavaliers just their second loss in their last 19 games behind hot-shooting efforts from Hield and Kelly Oubre Jr. 

Hield, making his third appearance since being acquired by the Sixers from the Indiana Pacers on Thursday, finished 5 of 8 from 3-point range and 9 of 13 overall from the field. Oubre hit 10 of his 14 field goal attempts while also collecting 24 points.

The win was Philadelphia's second straight following a 1-8 stretch from Jan. 25-Feb. 9, during which the team lost Embiid for an extended period due to a knee injury that required surgery.

Cleveland got 36 points and six assists from All-Star Donovan Mitchell and 21 points and 10 rebounds from Jarrett Allen, but couldn't match the Sixers down the stretch after taking a 102-100 lead with seven minutes remaining.

Hield scored the final eight points of a 13-2 run that gave Philadelphia a 113-104 advantage with 4:28 left to play, and the 76ers led 120-110 with 1:25 to go following an Oubre 3-pointer.

The Cavs responded with a 9-0 spurt to pull within 120-119 on Mitchell's 3-pointer with 14 seconds remaining, and had a chance to win at the buzzer when Darius Garland launched a 3-point shot that just missed the mark.

Garland ended with 21 points and nine assists, while Tyrese Maxey recorded 22 points and nine assists for Philadelphia.

Timberwolves dominate second half in rout of Clippers

The Minnesota Timberwolves got 24 points from Karl-Anthony Towns and a big third quarter to pull away for a 121-100 win over the Los Angeles Clippers and pad their lead atop the Western Conference.

Anthony Edwards added 23 points, 12 of which came during a dominant third quarter in which the Timberwolves outscored Los Angeles by a 40-19 margin.

Minnesota entered Monday's clash owning a slim half-game advantage on the Clippers, Oklahoma City Thunder and Denver Nuggets, who were handed a 112-95 defeat by the Milwaukee Bucks, in the tightly bunched West standings. 

The Clippers kept it close until the latter stages of the third quarter, as the Timberwolves held a 70-69 edge with under five minutes left in the period.

Minnesota took over from there, as it closed out the quarter on a 19-3 run to take a commanding 89-72 lead into the fourth. Towns had eight points during the pivotal spurt.

The Timberwolves maintained a lead of 15 points or more throughout the final period en route to posting a second straight win and giving Los Angeles a second loss in its last three games.

Kawhi Leonard and Paul George led the Clippers with 18 points each, while James Harden finished with 17 points and six assists. 

Bucks use defence to get past champion Nuggets

The Milwaukee Bucks got 36 points and 18 rebounds from Giannis Antetokounmpo and another strong performance from their much-maligned defence to hand the defending NBA champion Denver Nuggets a 112-95 loss.

Milwaukee entered Monday's marquee matchup ranked 23rd in the NBA in scoring defence at 119.3 points allowed per game, but held the formidable Nuggets to their second-lowest shooting rate of the season at 38.3 per cent.

The Bucks have yielded under 100 points in consecutive games for the first time this season. Milwaukee lost five of its first six outings under new head coach Doc Rivers prior to Friday's 120-84 rout of the Charlotte Hornets.

Nikola Jokić amassed 29 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists for the Nuggets. Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr., Denver's second and third-leading scorers on the season, were a combined 4 of 16 from the field, however.

Murray managed just three points on 1-of-5 shooting before sitting out the second half due to inflammation in his lower legs.

The Bucks had built a comfortable 60-44 lead at that point as Antetokounmpo racked up 26 points on 10-of-12 shooting over the first two quarters. The Nuggets never got their deficit under 13 points the rest of the way and are now mired in a two-game losing streak.

 

Philadelphia 76ers president Daryl Morey is hopeful the team could have Joel Embiid available for a potential playoff run, after the NBA MVP was forced to undergo knee surgery this week. 

Embiid has been sidelined since displacing a flap of the lateral meniscus in his left knee during the 76ers' 119-107 defeat to the Golden State Warriors at the end of January. 

That injury came on Embiid's return to action after he missed the team's previous two games with another knee problem. Last Sunday, Philadelphia confirmed that Embiid would go under the knife to correct the issue, throwing his availability for the rest of the season into doubt.

The 76ers currently sit fifth in the Eastern Conference standings with a 30-21 record, though they are 4-12 in games Embiid has missed this season. 

They have lost eight of their last nine following Friday's 127-121 defeat to the Atlanta Hawks, with that run casting doubt over their championship aspirations. However, should the 76ers manage a deep playoff run, Morey is upbeat regarding Embiid's prospects of featuring. 

"We're hopeful," Morey said when asked about Embiid before Friday's game. "The feedback has been more good than bad since we first heard about what led to his procedure. 

"So, we're hopeful and we're building the team to make it better this year. 

"Obviously, it's not at 100 per cent. But with Joel playing at an MVP level, hopefully, he could get back to that. This is a year where we have a real shot.

"If the hope wasn't there in Joel, I think it would have changed things dramatically. 

"We're very hopeful. Obviously, it's not 100 per cent. It's something that is probably a good chunk short of 100 per cent, but we thought it was the right thing [for Embiid to have surgery].

"There's a lot of ways to not win the title. Winning a title is hard; Joel not coming back at the level we hope is one of the ways we can't win a title this year.

"But you always want to be among the best teams and that means taking risks on the injury front. That's where we are at right now."

Philadelphia looked to rebalance their roster ahead of Thursday's trade deadline, acquiring veteran guards Buddy Hield and Cameron Payne in separate deals while allowing Patrick Beverley, Danuel House, Furkan Kourkmaz, Jaden Springer and Marcus Morris Sr. to depart.

Morey believes Hield, in particular, will provide vital support to Tyrese Maxey during Embiid's spell on the sidelines, saying: "Our priority was to get a big, but we wanted to add to our playoff rotation.

"We have to win games and it's going to be a battle, but we were focused on playoffs, we have a rotation that we know can win at a high level. He [Hield] was the only player who moved teams that would play a big role in our rotation. What he brings to the table is pretty obvious."

The 76ers' latest defeat came at the hands of a Hawks team inspired by Trae Young, who had 37 points and 12 assists as Atlanta improved to 23-29 with an impressive road win.

"This isn't the easiest place to play, so coming in here and getting a win at any time is a good thing for us," Young said after the game. 

"We had some guys out, so we needed other guys to step up and they did."

Donovan Mitchell scored 29 points and led a torrid shooting performance from 3-point range that carried the Cleveland Cavaliers to a sixth consecutive win, a 136-110 rout of the Sacramento Kings on Monday. 

Cleveland rolled to its 14th victory in 15 games by going 23 of 41 (56.1 percent) from beyond the arc. Mitchell finished 5 of 11 on 3-point tries and Max Strus was 6 for 10 while adding 22 points.

The Kings got 12 points, 19 rebounds and 15 assists from Domantas Sabonis - his 15th triple-double of the season - but couldn't match the Cavaliers' prolific perimeter shooting as Cleveland began pulling away early in the second quarter.

Cleveland scored five straight points to stretch its lead to 46-36 less than two minutes into the second quarter and went into the half owning a comfortable 74-59 advantage behind Mitchell's 19 points.

The Cavaliers remained up by double digits the rest of the way, with their lead expanding to as many as 29 points late.

Harrison Barnes led Sacramento with 22 points while finishing 6 of 10 from 3-point range. The Kings closed out a seven-game road trip in which they had won five of their first six outings and six of seven overall coming into Monday's clash.

Irving, Doncic lead Mavericks past ailing 76ers

Kyrie Irving and Luka Dončić combined for 42 points in the duo's first appearance together in two weeks to propel the Dallas Mavericks to a 118-102 win over the staggering Philadelphia 76ers.

Irving racked up 23 points on 10-of-17 shooting to go along with eight assists in his return from a six-game absence caused by a sprained right thumb. Doncic had 19 points and eight assists to help Dallas end a two-game skid and deal the ailing 76ers their sixth loss in seven games.

It was just the 23rd time in the Mavericks' 50 games this season they had a healthy Irving and Doncic together in the lineup.

Playing their third straight game without reigning NBA MVP Joel Embiid, who will undergo left knee surgery and is out indefinitely, the Sixers received 19 points from Kelly Oubre Jr. and 17 from Tobias Harris.

All-Star Tyrese Maxey, Philadelphia's second-leading scorer behind Embiid, had 15 points but was just 6 of 16 from the field.

The 76ers did manage to lead 33-26 after one quarter and 57-53 at the half, but Doncic hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 3:57 left in the third quarter to spark an 8-2 run that gave the Mavericks a 77-72 edge near the end of the period.

Dallas then dominated the fourth quarter, outscoring the 76ers by a 41-28 margin with its bench providing most of the offence, as reserves Jaden Hardy and Grant Williams each recorded 10 points in the final 12 minutes. 

Leonard's 36 points help Clippers cap trip with win over Hawks

Kawhi Leonard scored 13 of his 36 points in the fourth quarter as the Los Angeles Clippers outlasted the Atlanta Hawks and completed a successful road trip with a 149-144 victory.

James Harden added 30 points and 10 assists as he and Leonard powered Los Angeles to a ninth win in 10 games. The Clippers went 6-1 on an 11-day trek away from Crypto.com Arena while the venue hosted the Grammy Awards. 

In a fast-paced fourth quarter that saw both teams combine for 90 points, the Clippers outscored Atlanta by a 21-10 margin over a late stretch to move ahead for good.

Leonard began the run with a putback of his own miss that gave Los Angeles a 124-123 lead with 4:52 left, and Harden capped it when he was fouled after hitting a 26-foot jumper with 1:06 to go. He made the free throw to complete the 4-point play and extend the margin to 143-133.

The Hawks put forth a late rally and got to within 147-144 on Bogdan Bogdanović's 3-pointer with 26.7 seconds remaining, but Harden sunk two free throws on the ensuing possession to keep Atlanta at bay.

De'Andre Hunter had 27 points and seven rebounds off the bench to lead Atlanta, which had a four-game winning streak snapped. Trae Young finished with 25 points and 12 assists in the loss. 

 

Joel Embiid's availability for the remainder of this season is in question after the Philadelphia 76ers announced Sunday that the reigning NBA MVP will undergo surgery to repair a meniscus injury to his left knee.

The Athletic reported Saturday that Embiid suffered a displaced flap in his meniscus when he was injured in the 76ers' 119-107 loss to the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday.

The typical recovery time for such an injury is usually several months, meaning Philadelphia may need a deep run in the playoffs for their superstar center to return this season.

That doesn't seem likely given the Sixers' struggles when Embiid hasn't been available. Philadelphia is 26-8 when Embiid has played this season but 4-10 in games he has missed.

The injury also makes it all but certain that Embiid, who leads the NBA in scoring at 35.3 points per game, will not capture a second consecutive MVP award. Under terms of the NBA's new collective bargaining agreement, players must appear in a minimum of 65 regular-season games to be eligible for honours such as the MVP or All-NBA teams.

Philadelphia currently sits in fifth place in the Eastern Conference with a 30-18 record and trails the rival Boston Celtics by seven games in the race for the No. 1 seed.

The NBA's scoring champion in each of the previous two seasons, Embiid finished second to Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokić in NBA MVP voting in both 2020-21 and 2021-22 before claiming the award last season after averaging 33.1 points, 10.2 rebounds and 4.2 assists in 66 games and leading the Sixers to the third-best record in the East.

Embiid was putting up even better numbers when healthy in 2023-24, as his scoring and assist (5.7) averages were both career highs and his 11.3 rebounds per game ranks sixth among qualified players.

The 29-year-old has also often been beset by injuries since being selected by Philadelphia with the third overall pick of the 2014 draft. Embiid missed the entire 2014-15 and 2015-16 campaigns recovering from a broken foot and was limited to 31 games the following season due to a left knee injury. He has never played in more than 68 games in a regular season.

Paul Reed, who's averaged 11.2 points and 6.8 rebounds per game as a starter this season, will take over as the 76ers' primary center for the time being. Philadelphia may look for additional help prior to Thursday's league trade deadline. 

Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid has been diagnosed with a displaced flap of the meniscus in his left knee and could undergo surgery, The Athletic reported on Saturday.

Another option for the reigning NBA MVP would be to rest and rehab the injury instead of having a procedure on the knee.

Embiid was injured in the 76ers' loss to the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday in his first game back after missing two contests due to an issue with his left knee.

Embiid is the NBA’s leading scorer with 35.3 points per game and is averaging 11.3 rebounds and 5.7 assists in 34 appearances.

He had a franchise-record 70 points to go along with 18 rebounds on Jan. 22 against the San Antonio Spurs.

An MRI revealed that Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid suffered an injury to the lateral meniscus in his left knee and is out indefinitely, multiple media outlets reported Thursday.

The reigning MVP has been ruled out at least through Saturday as the 76ers’ medical staff formulates a treatment plan, but Embiid is expected to miss multiple games.

Shams Charania of The Athletic initially reported the injury as a torn meniscus in a post on X but later deleted the post.

Embiid missed the final 37 games of the 2016-17 regular season with a torn left lateral meniscus.

Embiid suffered his latest injury in Tuesday’s loss to Golden State when Warriors forward Jonathan Kuminga fell onto the star center’s leg.

While the severity of the injury has not been announced, Embiid can only miss five more games this season to be eligible for season awards. A new provision in the league’s collective bargaining agreement requires players to play at least 65 games to be voted as the MVP or to an All-NBA team.

Embiid had been a major contender to win his second consecutive MVP award, with even better numbers than last season. The Cameroon-born star is averaging a league-leading 35.3 points, 11.3 rebounds and 5.7 assists this season in 34 games.

Embiid’s absence will likely result in a starting role for Paul Reed and an increased workload for Mo Bamba, but the 76ers could opt to bolster their frontcourt ahead of the Feb. 8 trade deadline.

Philadelphia are 3-9 in games that Embiid has missed this season.

News of Embiid’s injury broke at virtually the same time that the NBA announced his teammate, point guard Tyrese Maxey, was selected to his first career All-Star Game.

Luka Doncic became the fourth player to score 73 points or more in NBA history as Dallas Mavericks beat Atlanta Hawks 148-143.

The 24-year-old’s haul also set a franchise record for the Mavericks, easily surpassing his personal best of 60 points, scoring 41 in the first half.

Doncic now joins an elite list of players, moving level with Wilt Chamberlain and David Thomson with 73 points, while Chamberlain holds the NBA record scoring with 100 points and also had a 78-point game, with Kobe Bryant racking up 81 points.

The Slovenian’s impressive tally comes only four days after Joel Embiid set a new Philadelphia 76ers scoring record after bagging 70 points in a 133-123 victory over San Antonio Spurs.

Doncic’s 73 points helped the Mavericks earn an important win having come into the match on a three-game losing streak.

“We’ve been struggling lately. Mindset was to get a win,” Doncic told the NBA website.

“(The performance) probably (ranks) at the top, one of the top. But I’m glad we got a win.”

In the Western Conference, leaders Oklahoma City Thunder won their fifth game in a row by beating New Orleans Pelicans 107-83, while LA Clippers earned a 127-107 win against Toronto Raptors.

Memphis Grizzlies edged to a 107-106 victory over Orlando Magic, Indiana Pacers also bagged a narrow 133-131 win against Phoenix, despite Devin Booker’s 62-point haul for the Suns.

Houston Rockets beat Charlotte Hornets 138-104 and San Antonio Spurs earned an important 116-100 victory over fellow strugglers Portland Trail Blazers.

In the Eastern Conference, Milwaukee fell to a 112-100 defeat against Cleveland Cavaliers, with the Bucks announcing Doc Rivers as their new head coach after the game.

Draymond Green's disciplinary issues this season have played a part in him missing out on selection for the Paris Olympics, so says Team USA chief Grant Hill.

Green, a two-time Olympic gold medallist, has not made the 41-man list, which was unveiled on Tuesday.

LeBron James, Stephen Curry and reigning NBA MVP Joel Embiid all featured on the list, which will be whittled down to a 12-man roster ahead of the Olympics, which take place in July and August in the French capital.

But Golden State Warriors power forward Green, who helped Team USA triumph in 2016 and 2021, will not feature at another Games, with executive director Hill claiming the two suspensions the NBA has handed the 33-year-old's way in recent months have swayed that decision.

Having served a five-game suspension in November for grappling with Rudy Gobert, Green then missed a further 12 games after striking the head of Phoenix Suns center Jusuf Nurkic.

"His contributions have been significant, and he is a real part of the legacy of this organisation for his excellence," Hill said of Green.

"But I think just in lieu of sort of what's transpired this year, we made a decision to not have [Green] on this list with this particular point in time with the process."

Warriors coach Steve Kerr is set to take charge of Team USA at the Paris Games.

Joel Embiid praised his teammates and reflected on a memorable night after setting a Philadelphia 76ers' franchise record with 70 points in a dominant performance against the San Antonio Spurs.

Embiid powered the Eastern Conference contenders to a 133-123 win on Monday, breaking Hall of Famer Wilt Chamberlain's team single-game record that had stood for over 56 years while also setting a season high with 18 rebounds. 

The reigning NBA MVP finished 24 of 41 from the field and 21 of 23 from the foul line.

Chamberlain's previous franchise record of 68 points took place against the Chicago Bulls on Dec. 16, 1967.

"Obviously, Wilt accomplished everything in the history of this league and basketball in general," Embiid said, per ESPN. "So to be in the same conversation, that's pretty cool.

"It was just a great night.

"I had it going. I mentioned a few times, a lot of teammates are extremely unselfish and they just kept giving me the ball, and I just finished it."

Embiid began his historic night with 24 points in the first quarter and had 34 by half-time, though the 76ers held a slim 62-58 lead at the intermission.

The superstar centre didn't let up in the third quarter, as he recorded 25 points for the period to help Philadelphia pull away for its sixth straight victory.

There was a prospect of Embiid being rested for the remainder of the game if the Sixers built a big lead, but the Spurs kept it close enough for him to re-enter midway through the fourth quarter to a huge reception from the fans.

He hit the 70-point mark with a steal and layup with 1:41 remaining.

"The game was still pretty close," Embiid said. "Felt like I needed to go back in. Once I got back in, I was like, 'There’s my chance. Might as well go and do it'.

"The only thing I told my teammates was please just don't force it. Let's just play basketball. If I'm open, pass it, if I'm not, make sure you make the right play.

"I feel like when you take 40 shots, obviously, you are supposed to have a big night.

"I was actually mad at myself, because I missed a lot of easy shots that I've been making all season. A lot of easy pull-ups.

"But when you're shooting that many shots, which I never thought I would be taking that many shots in my life, you're obviously going to make some, and you're going to have a big night."

The crowd were desperate for Embiid to take the record, urging him to shoot at every opportunity and he smiled as he recalled the fans booing Danuel House Jr. for taking an open corner 3.

He added: "It's unfortunate Danuel House got booed for [making the right play]! We were just trying to play the right way and make the right plays. 

"Obviously I made shots and they found me a lot."

Victor Wembanyama had an impressive game of his own in Embiid's shadow, as the Spurs' rookie sensation posted 33 points and seven rebounds in just 28 minutes.

Embiid is now averaging 36.1 points this season – better than he posted in his MVP-winning campaign.

Coach Nick Nurse realised something special was in the works early in the third quarter.

"The time that it kind of hit me, I thought, was the start of the third," he said. 

"I think he had a bucket and an and-1, like in the first minute. I was like, 'Wait a minute, he's already got like 37, 38, something like that'. I was like, 'Geez, that's a lot, with a whole half to go!'

"Obviously, he can score in so many ways, just his sheer size gets him a lot of stuff around the basket, gets him a lot of free throws.

"The shooting touch is the skill part. The way he moves, the skill he has, the size he is. If he gets motivated like that, anything can happen."

Sixers guard Tyrese Maxey had 18 points and eight assists in support of Embiid.

"He's great," Maxey said about Embiid. "I keep telling everybody, we cannot take this for granted. 

"Not just as teammates, not as an organization, but as fans – even if you are not a fan of Philadelphia, if you're just a fan of basketball, you can't take Jo for granted, man. What he's doing right now is special. 

"He's not just doing it off layups, he's not doing it off just 3s. He's doing it off every single thing. He's making free throws. He's doing so much out there.

"And you know, the kicker is he's on the other end, he's anchoring the defense as well. He's not taking any nights off on defense.

"We appreciate him, and everybody else should appreciate him, as well."

Joel Embiid set a new Philadelphia 76ers scoring record after plundering 70 points in a 133-123 victory over San Antonio Spurs.

Embiid, who had 34 points to his name by half-time, is just the ninth player in NBA history to reach 70 points in a single game.

The 29-year-old forward’s feat came 18 years to the day since Kobe Bryant’s 81-point game for the Los Angeles Lakers – the second highest in NBA history.

Embiid told the NBA’s official website: “From the time I started playing, Kobe was my guy. He’s the reason why I started playing basketball.

“It’s funny, on the same night, he got 81 and that was my favourite player.”

Although he bettered the Sixers’ previous best of 68, held by Wilt Chamberlain, Embiid remains some distance short of Chamberlain’s remarkable NBA record of 100 points in a single game set in 1962 when playing for the Philadelphia Warriors.

Embiid’s feat came on the same night as Karl-Anthony Towns set a new Minnesota Timberwolves high of 62 points in a 128-125 defeat by Charlotte Hornets.

Joel Embiid set a Philadelphia 76ers' franchise record with 70 points in a dominant performance that powered the Eastern Conference contenders to a 133-123 win over the San Antonio Spurs on Monday.

Embiid broke Hall of Famer Wilt Chamberlain's team single-game record that had stood for over 56 years while also setting a season high with 18 rebounds. The reigning NBA MVP finished 24 of 41 from the field and 21 of 23 from the foul line.

Chamberlain's previous franchise record of 68 points took place against the Chicago Bulls on Dec. 16, 1967.

Embiid began his historic night with 24 points in the first quarter and had 34 by half-time, though the 76ers held a slim 62-58 lead at the intermission.

The superstar centre didn't let up in the third quarter, as he recorded 25 points for the period to help Philadelphia pull away for its sixth straight victory.

Kelly Oubre Jr. capped a 12-4 run with a 3-point play with 6:38 left in the third to stretch the lead to 85-72, and the Sixers maintained a double-digit advantage for nearly the entire rest of the way.

Embiid re-entered the game midway through the fourth quarter and hit the 70-point mark with a steal and layup with 1:41 remaining.

Victor Wembanyama had an impressive game of his own in Embiid's shadow, as the Spurs' rookie sensation posted 33 points and seven rebounds in just 28 minutes.

Devin Vassell added 22 points for San Antonio, which had snapped a four-game losing streak with Saturday's 131-127 win over the Washington Wizards.

Timberwolves lose to Hornets despite Towns' team-record 62 points

Minnesota's Karl-Anthony Towns had a prolific record-setting performance of his own Monday, though his 62 points still weren't enough to prevent the Timberwolves from a stunning 128-125 home loss to the Charlotte Hornets.

The Hornets, currently in 13th place in the Eastern Conference, overcame an 18-point deficit late in the third quarter to shock the Western-leading Timberwolves and win for the second time in three games.

Towns made 10 of 15 attempts from 3-point range and ended 21 of 35 overall from the field to surpass his own Timberwolves' single-game record of 60 points, set against San Antonio on March 14, 2022.

The three-time All-Star had 58 points through three quarters as Minnesota owned a seemingly comfortable 107-92 lead, but the Hornets hit five 3-pointers while opening the fourth on a 21-7 run to quickly pull to within one.

Minnesota was clinging to a 121-120 edge with 3 1/2 minutes left before Charlotte scored six straight points, capped by Brandon Miller's jumper off a LaMelo Ball steal that gave the Hornets a 126-121 advantage with two minutes to play.

Miller scored seven of his 27 points in the fourth quarter, while Miles Bridges had 28 points for the Hornets and Ball compiled 18 points and 13 assists. 

The Timberwolves have lost back-to-back games for just the second time this season, previously doing so from Jan. 1-3.

Merrill's hot shooting gives Cavaliers' eighth straight win

The Cleveland Cavaliers remained the league's hottest team by rolling to a 126-99 rout of the Orlando Magic to extend their winning streak to eight games.

Sam Merrill went 8 of 13 from 3-point range to lead Cleveland with 26 points, while Donovan Mitchell had 25 points along with 13 assists in a game the Cavs never trailed and were up by as many as 36 points.

Merrill scored 20 of his points in the first half as Cleveland cruised to a 72-47 lead at half-time. The Cavaliers shot 59.5 per cent for the first two quarters and 59.1 per cent in the third to move into the fourth holding a commanding 107-74 advantage.

Paolo Banchero led the struggling Magic with 18 points and Franz Wagner added 17. Orlando has now lost nine of its last 13 games and is 7-14 since Dec. 15.

 

Nikola Jokic lauded Joel Embiid's "historic" form after the reigning NBA MVP came out on top in Tuesday's matchup between the two superstars.

Embiid finished with 41 points, seven rebounds and 10 assists, scoring 10 consecutive points in a crucial fourth-quarter run as the Philadelphia 76ers beat the Denver Nuggets 126-121.

Jokic, the reigning NBA Finals MVP and two-time league MVP, scored 24 points and had 19 rebounds and three assists.

Embiid was unable to extend his 16-game streak of having at least 30 points and 10 rebounds, though only Wilt Chamberlain has had a longer such run in NBA history.

"He's a really good player," Jokic said of Embiid.

"He's playing historic right now. He's averaging 30-something points every night, and that's extremely hard to do, especially every night.

"But I mean, I'm not playing against him. I'm playing against Philadelphia. It was a good matchup."

Embiid returned the compliment Jokic's way, saying: "Both of us, we just want to play basketball and win some games.

"He deserves [the title of best player] until you knock him [off]. He's the Finals MVP. Until someone else takes that away, then you can claim that."

Not that Embiid is lacking self-confidence.

"But then again, I also believe in myself," he added with a smile. "I'll keep it at that. I've just got to get there.

"I don't think I care what people decide who's the best. I know I want to be the best, and I'm going to do whatever it takes to be the best.

"But sometimes you've got to be able to win as a team. You've got to do the best job possible to make sure that you put yourself and the team in the best position possible to win. And it seems like if you want to be the best, you've got to find a way to win. So, that's my goal."

The Sixers have won their last three games. They sit third in the Eastern Conference with a 26-13 record, behind the Milwaukee Bucks (28-12) and the Boston Celtics (31-9).

"I said it at the beginning of the season. Y'all keep talking about Boston, Milwaukee. That's fine. They might be better than us, they might be more talented than us, but I still believe we've got a chance. We just need a little bit of luck," Embiid said.

"Like I always say, we've got to be perfect. We've got to be in sync together. We've got to play with each other. It's been working pretty well this year."

Embiid's teammate Tobias Harris, who added 24 points to the Sixers' tally, added: "It was a big game for us – playing the defending champs – we wanted to see where we were at.

"We've just got to stay at it, and keep working."

Asked about playing alongside Embiid and against Jokic, Harris said: "Both of those guys are just stellar basketball players. The way they handle their business on a court, there's a reason why [the Nuggets] won a Championship last year and Joel's put in tremendous work all year."

The Nuggets have been inconsistent after going on a six-game winning streak in December, losing four of their nine outings since then.

Coach Michael Malone, though, did not seem overly concerned about Tuesday's defeat.

"This was a game that went down to the wire," he said. 

"We came up short. Joel [Embiid] is a hell of a talent."

Joel Embiid had 41 points and 10 rebounds and got the best of fellow superstar Nikola Jokić in the Philadelphia 76ers’ 126-121 victory over the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday.

In a matchup of the last two NBA MVPs, Embiid had his 18th straight 30-point game, tying Hall of Famer Elgin Baylor for the sixth-longest streak in NBA history.

Jokic had 25 points and 19 rebounds, including 11 offensive boards.

Embiid converted a 3-point play with 5:30 remaining to extend Philadelphia’s lead to 118-113 and followed with his third 3-pointer of the game for an eight-point advantage.

Tyrese Maxey scored 25 points and Tobias Harris added 24 for the 76ers, who have won three straight after a three-game skid.

Michael Porter Jr. had 20 points and Jamal Murray finished with 17 and 10 assists for the Nuggets.

 

Suns stun Kings with furious comeback

Kevin Durant made two free throws with 1.8 seconds left and the Phoenix Suns stunned the Sacramento Kings with a game-ending 23-4 run in a 119-117 victory.

Grayson Allen matched a franchise record with 9 3-pointers and scored 29 points for the Suns, who faced a 113-96 deficit with just over five minutes to play.

Allen sparked the run with a 3-pointer and Durant hit a pair from deep before Eric Gordon drained consecutive 3-pointers to forge a 115-all tie.

Durant’s free throws with 30 seconds to play put the Suns ahead 117-115 but De’Aaron Fox tied it with a jumper with 19 seconds remaining. But he then fouled Durant, who was attempting a long jumper.

Domantas Sabonis notched his 11th triple-double of the season with 21 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists for Sacramento.

 

George scores 38 in Clippers’ win

Paul George scored 18 of his season-high 38 points in the fourth quarter and the Los Angeles Clippers defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder, 128-117 for their ninth win in 11 games.

Kawhi Leonard each added 16 points and Mason Plumlee had a season-best 14 in his first start of the season for the Clippers, who won their sixth straight at home.

Jalen Williams scored 25 points and Lu Dort and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander contributed 19 apiece as Oklahoma City dropped its second in a row after a 9-3 stretch.

Joel Embiid is simply focusing on staying healthy rather than paying too much attention to his chances of picking up a second MVP Award.

Embiid has played 28 times for the Philadelphia 76ers this season, and returned from his latest injury layoff to finish with 41 points and 10 rebounds in a 124-115 win over the Houston Rockets on Monday.

That was Embiid's seventh 40-point double-double of the season, and he now has 42 games of at least 40 points and 10 rebounds, the seventh-highest tally in the history of the league.

However, the reigning league MVP can miss only eight of the remaining 44 regular-season games if he is to be considered for the award this time around.

Embiid, though, suggested that is not his main concern.

"It doesn't matter how many games I play; the goal is to be healthy the rest of the year," Embiid said Monday.

"I've already done it. If I have a chance to get a second one, I'll do it. I'm not going to force myself or push for it.

"My game is always going to speak for itself. We're winning. That's the main thing. We've got to keep winning and you put in the stats to be in the [MVP] conversation that's great, too.

"But at the end of the day, if there's something going on, and I can't meet the requirement for the amount of games played to qualify for that, then so be it."

Philadelphia have won just three games without Embiid this season, losing seven. They are 22-6 with him in the team.

His latest issue concerns a knee problem, but Embiid hopes he is over the worst of it.

"We look at the long run and what's coming up next," Embiid said.

"Hopefully it doesn't swell up again."

Next up for the 76ers is a clash with Nikola Jokic's Denver Nuggets on Tuesday.

"They're best team in the league, best player in the league and we've got to try and do our best to get a win," Embiid said.

"It's fun. I like the competition. Who doesn't want to play against the best?"

Nick Nurse had no excuses after his injury-hit Philadelphia 76ers team fell to a second straight defeat against the Utah Jazz on Saturday.

The 76ers were without reigning MVP Joel Embiid because of swelling in his knee, while Tobias Harris, De-Anthony Melton, Robert Covington and Furkan Korkmaz were also out injured.

Philadelphia could not overcome those absences, going down 120-109 against the Jazz after suffering a heavy 128-92 defeat to the New York Knicks in their previous game.

Despite his team's injury troubles, Nurse insists the 76ers must perform better, telling reporters: "I believe even though you're missing five guys, that those guys can collectively play together better than that,"

"They can execute better. They can defend better than that. They can make those open shots. There were plenty of shots to step into and make in that game.

"When you’re short-handed, you got to play better than that. You've got to shoot the ball better and you've got to finish better than that."

Tyrese Maxey, who finished with 25 points but made just one of his eight three-pointers against the Jazz, acknowledged the team must play better going forward.

"Coach [Nurse] said we just didn't play hard enough," Maxey said. "He felt like the guys who came in, we could've played a lot harder and with a lot more force so he said we'll work on that.

"We'll get back to doing that and playing that way."

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