LeBron James has outlined his desire to finish his storied career with the Los Angeles Lakers, despite recent reports linking him with a trade.

While James' average of 24.8 points per game this season is down on last term's 28.9, the NBA's all-time leading scorer has continued to impress while playing through a niggling ankle injury in his 21st season in the league.

He has only missed seven of Los Angeles' 56 games thus far in 2023-24, helping the team win the inaugural NBA in-season tournament in December. 

James has a $51.4million player option for 2024-25 with the Lakers, but he recently said he was undecided on whether to take up that option.

That led to speculation that he could be available, with his current team fielding calls from the Golden State Warriors and the Philadelphia 76ers ahead of the trade deadline earlier this month.

However, the 39-year-old stayed put, and speaking before his record-extending 20th appearance in the NBA's All-Star Game on Sunday, he gave his clearest indication yet that he sees his future in Los Angeles. 

"I am a Laker and I'm happy. I have been very happy being a Laker for the last six years and hopefully it stays that way," James said. 

"I don't have the answer to how long it is or which uniform I'll be in, but hopefully it is with the Lakers. It's a great organisation with so many greats, but we'll see."

Warriors forward Draymond Green reportedly lobbied team owner Joe Lacob to enquire about a blockbuster trade for James, but he says he played no part in any talks with Golden State.

"I actually heard about it when everybody else heard about it," James told TNT Sports of their interest. 

"Sometimes there's conversations that happen behind closed doors that you don't even know about, I guess until it's real or not, then they'll bring it to you. It never even got to me."

Looking further ahead, James knows the curtain will soon come down on his glittering career, but he is yet to make any decisions regarding the nature of his NBA farewell.

Asked whether he would announce his retirement in advance in order to receive a proper send-off, as opposed to quitting in the offseason, James said: "I'm 50-50, to be honest.

"I was asked this question a couple of days ago; 'Will you take the farewell tour, or will you just Tim Duncan it?'

"There's times when I feel like I owe it to my fans that have been on this journey with me for two decades, to be able to give them that moment where it's every city and they give you flowers or whatever the case may be. That seems cool.

"But on the other side, I've never been that great with accepting praise. It's a weird feeling for me. I don't know how it's going to end, but it's coming. It's coming, for sure." 

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."

The New York Knicks have made another big move in an attempt to ascend in the Eastern Conference, acquiring scorers Bogdan Bogdanovic and Alec Burks from the Detroit Pistons in one of the headline deals commenced prior to Thursday's NBA trade deadline.

New York will send guards Quentin Grimes, Evan Fournier, Malachi Flynn and Ryan Arcidiacono along with two second-round draft picks to Detroit in exchange for two players who are both shooting over 40 per cent from 3-point range this season.

Bogdanovic is averaging 20.2 points per game after establishing a career best in that category last season, when the Croatian averaged a team-leading 21.6 points in 59 games.

Burks, who previously spent two seasons with the Knicks from 2020-22, has shot better than 40 per cent on 3-point attempts in four straight seasons and is averaging 12.6 points in 43 games in 2023-24.

New York is presently tied with the Milwaukee Bucks for third in the East and is 16-3 since Jan. 1, two days after it secured defensive standout OG Anunoby in a blockbuster five-player trade with the Toronto Raptors.

The team right behind the Knicks and Bucks in the East race added a sharpshooter of its own on Thursday, as the Philadelphia 76ers landed guard Buddy Hield from the Indiana Pacers for forward Marcus Morris, guard Furkan Korkmaz and three second-round picks.

Hield, a career 40.1 per cent 3-pointer shooter who is averaging 12 points in 52 games this season, will be asked to help stabilise a reeling 76ers team that has lost seven of its last eight games and will be without Joel Embiid for at least four more weeks after the reigning NBA MVP recently underwent surgery on his left knee. 

Indiana, which sits two games back of Philadelphia in sixth place, later traded Morris to the San Antonio Spurs for outside shooting specialist Doug McDermott.

Milwaukee's lone deadline move came via a trade with the 76ers for veteran defensive stopper Patrick Beverley, in which the Bucks sent fellow point guard Cameron Payne to Philadelphia.

The most active team in the Western Conference was the Dallas Mavericks, who swung two deals to bolster their frontcourt by obtaining center Daniel Gafford from the Washington Wizards and forward P.J. Washington from the Charlotte Hornets.

Gafford, whose 2.16 blocks per game ranks seventh among qualified NBA players, heads to Dallas for forward RIchaun Holmes and a 2024 first-round pick the Mavs acquired from the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Mavericks also sent a 2027 first-round selection, along with forward Grant Williams and guard Seth Curry, to rebuilding Charlotte for Washington, who's averaged 14.9 points and five rebounds per game over the past two seasons and is under contract for two more years.

Dallas currently sits in eighth in the West but is just two games behind the fifth-place Phoenix Suns, who traded four role players in a three-team deal with Brooklyn and Memphis to add perimeter-shooting forward Royce O'Neale from the Nets and second-year forward David Roddy from the Grizzlies.

Three teams - the Oklahoma City Thunder, Minnesota Timberwolves and defending NBA champion Denver Nuggets - entered deadline day tied atop the West. The Thunder were the only one of that group to make a significant move on Thursday, as they acquired former All-Star Gordon Hayward from the Hornets for guards Tre Mann and Vasilije Micic, forward Davis Bertans and a pair of second-round picks.

The 33-year-old Hayward is averaging 14.5 points, 4.7 rebounds and 4.6 assists in 25 games this season but has been sidelined since late December by a calf strain. 

One player who did stay put with the Hornets is Miles Bridges, the team's second-leading scorer at 21.9 points per game and an unrestricted free agent next season. Bridges had the right to veto any trade as part of the one-year contract he signed during the offseason to stay in Charlotte.

 

 

 

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. 

 

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.

Indiana Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle described Pascal Siakam's performance as "tremendous" after he notched his first triple-double in 15 months to help end the Philadelphia 76ers' six-game winning run.

Philadelphia arrived at Gainbridge Fieldhouse looking to close the gap on the Eastern Conference leaders, the Boston Celtics, with a seventh straight win. However, Siakam took centre-stage in a 134-122 home victory.

Siakam finished with 26 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists for his first triple-double with Indiana, who never trailed at any point in the game.

The victory came on the same night as Tyrese Haliburton was announced as a first-time All-Star starter, and just three days after reigning MVP Joel Embiid had a 76ers-record 70 points in a win over the San Antonio Spurs.

"We made it our kind of game," Pacers coach Carlisle said after seeing his team improve to 25-20.

"Siakam was obviously tremendous, the sixth triple-double of his career, his first, obviously, with the Pacers. When you have a power forward get a triple-double, it's pretty special."

The Pacers were without Haliburton as he missed another game due to a niggling hamstring injury, but they made light of his absence by racing into a 17-point lead within the first half.

Siakam's display was central to that, and Philadelphia coach Nick Nurse also heaped praise on the two-time All-Star, saying: "He was good, he was very good

"He got going early and when he does that, you're going to see him play really, really well. 

We got to him kind of late on some double teams and there was nobody there to rotate out, which is why he had such a big assist number."

The 76ers were made to pay for their slip-up as the league-leading Celtics beat the Miami Heat 143-110, avenging their defeat to the same team in last season’s Eastern Conference finals.

Jayson Tatum led seven Celtics in double figures with 26 points as Boston improved to 35-10, but head coach Joe Mazzulla warned the victory will be proven redundant if they don't reach the same level in the postseason.

"This game was really good, but it means nothing at all in the grand scheme of things if we don't take the lessons that we need to and apply it to the next game," Mazzulla said. 

"So, we'll enjoy it until we get to the plane and then it's onto the next one."

Pascal Siakam notched his first triple-double in over a year and the Indiana Pacers snapped the Philadelphia 76ers’ six-game winning streak, 134-122 on Thursday.

Siakam had 26 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists, Myles Turner added 20 points and nine boards and Andrew Nembhard contributed 19 points as Indiana snapped a three-game skid.

Joel Embiid scored 31 points just three days after setting the franchise record with 70 points. He has scored at least 30 points in 21 consecutive games.

Despite playing without All-Star guard Tyrese Haliburton, the Pacers were never seriously threatened in this one. They opened with six straight points, quickly extended the lead to double digits and led by 17 before settling for a 73-61 edge at the break.

 

Porzingis injured in Celtics’ win

Jayson Tatum scored 26 points and Kristaps Porzingis had 19 before leaving with a sprained left ankle as the Boston Celtics rolled to a 143-110 rout of the Miami Heat.

Jaylen Brown added 18 points and Jrue Holiday had 17 for the NBA-leading Celtics, who registered their most-ever points against Miami, with the 33-point margin their most lopsided win in 172 meetings between the franchises, including playoffs.

Boston made 22 3-pointers, shot 63.8 percent from the field and held a 47-31 rebounding advantage.

Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro scored 19 points apiece for the Heat, who dropped their season-high fifth straight.

 

Surging Knicks roll over Nuggets

OG Anunoby scored 26 points and Jalen Brunson added 21 as the New York Knicks sent the defending champion Nuggets to their worst loss of the season, 122-84.

Quentin Grimes had 19 points, Julius Randle scored 17 and Donte DiVincenzo chipped in 16 as the Knicks won their season high-tying fifth in a row and improved to 11-2 since Anunoby was acquired from Toronto.

Nikola Jokić led Denver with 31 points and 11 rebounds, but the Nuggets had a three-game winning streak stopped. Their previous biggest loss was a 119-93 defeat to Oklahoma City on Dec. 29.

New York was 15 of 38 from 3-point range, while Denver was 5 of 26.

 

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?"

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