Without Joel Embiid, 76ers upset Blake Griffin and Clippers, 121-110 (VIDEO)

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) M. Night Shyamalan could not have scripted a twist ending from his courtside seat as implausible as this one: The 76ers pulled off a stunner over the 30-win Clippers without injured center Joel Embiid.

Nerlens Noel scored 19 points, Richaun Holmes had 18 and Philadelphia beat Los Angeles 121-110 on Tuesday night.

The Sixers rallied from 19 points down and proved yet again they are now a team trying to win games instead of tank seasons.

“We come here, put in the work every day and it’s starting to show for us on the floor,” Holmes said.

Embiid, out with a left knee contusion, waved his arms from the bench as the crowd shouted “Trust the Process” in the waning minutes.

Noel had three blocked shots in Embiid’s spot and the Sixers hit 10 3-pointers to spur the second-half rally.

The Sixers are 3-10 without Embiid this season.

Blake Griffin, a five-time All-Star, scored 12 points on 3-of-11 shooting in his first game since Dec. 18. He averaged 21.2 points, 8.8 rebounds and 4.7 assists this season, and played in 26 of the Clippers’ first 28 games.

Jamal Crawford hit six 3s and scored 27 points for the Clippers. J.J. Redick had 22.

“This one’s more disheartening,” Crawford said. “You have to put those games away, by any means. This one’s on us.”

Embiid continues to be hampered by the knee he hurt on Friday night. He’s scheduled to sit out Wednesday night’s game at Milwaukee because he does not play in one game of back-to-back sets.

The Sixers listed 17,591 at the Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday, another stout crowd for a franchise coming off one of the worst stretches of seasons in NBA history. Embiid’s growing popularity has forced the Sixers to at least consider playing him only the home game when they play on consecutive nights.

“We are mindful that our fans want to see Joel play,” coach Brett Brown said. “It’s one of several layers that influence the decision on when to play Joel. But it’s certainly on our mind to do the right thing by our fans.”

While fans are crushed when Embiid doesn’t play, Brown said other Sixers see his absence as their opportunity to develop and contribute.

“I think those type of words come to my mind more than `woe is me’ stuff,” Brown said. “That’s not it. That’s not it at all. We wind our guys up and we play NBA basketball and here we go.”

Jahlil Okafor missed his chance to start and was held out with right knee soreness. Noel made the most of his first start of the season, and Dario Saric and Holmes were clutch off the bench.

The Clippers made 12 of 19 3-pointers in the first half and rolled to a 19-point lead until the Sixers got going in the third.

DeAndre Jordan missed four straight free throws – the last one on an airball – that sent the crowd into a frenzy not heard in Philly in some time. Noel finished an alley-oop and Sergio Rodriguez‘s fast-break layup gave the Sixers an 87-86 lead.

The 76ers rallied from 19 down to win for the first time since Dec. 23, 2014, at Miami.

“You get a 19-point lead, nothing’s guaranteed, but you’ve got to secure it,” Clippers assistant Mike Woodson said.

TIP-INS

Clippers: Doc Rivers did not coach the Clippers because of an illness. Woodson ran the team. … Griffin had a shot blocked on a spin move in the paint by Holmes.

76ers: Shyamalan wore a “Trust the Process” shirt and visited with Embiid. Shyamalan’s daughter sang the national anthem. Comedian Kevin Hart also watched from a courtside seat . … Brown has yet to (hash)RaiseTheCat after a 76ers win. “The Australians would be proud of it,” Brown said.

SIMMONS UPDATE

Ben Simmons, the No. 1 overall pick, has continued to improve in his recovery from a broken right foot. Simmons, who hasn’t played this season, started light 1-on-1 drills against a 76ers D-League player.

“I’m just really happy with the path and plan we have in place for him,” Brown said.

The 76ers have held out Embiid and Noel for full seasons as they recovered from injuries. Simmons may not settle for the same fate, but the Sixers aren’t going to rush back a player they project as a cornerstone with Embiid for years.

“It’s nice and slow,” Brown said. “It’s not dramatic. It’s not anything that people should read into, here he is. It’s not that. It’s slowly building him up, very cautiously to a point where we can welcome him back, legitimately to the team.”

UP NEXT

The Clippers are off until Saturday when they play at Golden State.

The 76ers play Wednesday at Milwaukee.

Twins Marcus, Markieff Morris each fined by league for separate instances

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Twins Marcus and Markieff Morris have a special bond, one that includes doing so much together on the basketball court — playing at the same high school, the same AAU team, then going to college together at Kansas, and even playing together in the NBA for a while together with the Suns (they are now on separate teams).

That includes them both getting fined Saturday by the NBA for recent actions during the playoffs.

Washington’s Markieff Morris picked up a $25,000 fine for “attempting to escalate an altercation and pushing a game official,” the league announced. Here is the play in question, just minutes into Game 3.

Toronto’s OG Anunoby draws a foul knocking Morris to the ground, but Morris starts the incident with an elbow to Anunoby’s back, and he does push referee Kenny Mauer. Considering all that, a $25,000 fine is not that severe.

His twin Marcus Morris picked up a $15,000 for “public criticism of the officiating,” which he certainly did following the Celtics’ Game 3 loss to the Bucks. Here are his comments, and they are NSFW.

That $15,000 fine is pretty much the going rate for ripping the referees after the game.

Markieff outdid his brother on this one… if you consider getting the larger fine the “win.”

As expected, likely top-three pick Luka Doncic files to enter NBA draft

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Luka Doncic — the 6’8″ point forward who is putting up impressive numbers against men at the highest levels of European basketball — is bringing is game to the NBA. As expected.

Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports said the expected is now official.

Doncic, 19, submitted draft paperwork this week to formally enter his name, league sources said. Doncic is arguably the most decorated European player to make a jump to the NBA, a wunderkind who’s been playing in the EuroLeague since 2015. He is currently leading Real Madrid in the EuroLeague playoffs, averaging 14.9 points, 4.7 rebounds and 4.4 assists this season.

The 6-foot-7 Doncic has the ability to play multiple positions, from being a primary ball-handler to shooting and playmaking off the ball. His season in Europe could continue into late May or June. NBA executives have long been intrigued by Doncic’s potential stardom, and several are continuing to make scouting trips for him.

Doncic is expected to go in the top three (likely the top two) come this June’s draft.

If you’re about to bring up Darko Milicic or some other European bust, just stop. This Slovenian has proven he can play — in 54 games this season between Liga ACB (Spain’s league, second best in the NBA) and the Euroleague, Doncic is averaging 14.8 points, 5.1 rebounds and 4.6 assists a game. He has shown a gift for passing that should blossom in the more open play of the NBA, plus he just knows how to run a team and make plays. He can score when called upon and has three-point range, can shoot off the bounce, and if you switch a smaller guy onto him, Doncic can just post him up.

He’s not going to be a bust.

However, what his ceiling is remains the debate. He’s not an elite athlete by NBA standards who has struggled at points for Real Madrid when guarded by borderline-NBA level Americans in Europe. Can he defend at the NBA level? Can he be consistent with his jumper? He may be elite, but it’s no given.

He’s going to be good, and his floor is higher than a lot of the other top prospects in this draft class. However, if a GM thinks that Marvin Bagley III or Mohamed Bamba both have a higher ceiling and can reach it, they may go with the Americans. Doncic is going to put some GMs in an interesting position.

Ben Simmons earns triple-double, Sixers own fourth to win Game 4 vs. Heat, take 3-1 lead

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Joel Embiid’s biggest battle in Game 4 was with his mask — he hates that thing. A couple of times Saturday he tried to sneak into the game with it off, only to force Brett Brown to be the parent and threaten to bench him if he didn’t put it on immediately (winning Game 4 is not worth risking permanent eye/vision damage). Embiid was also battling his offensive game at times, still looking a little rusty.

More importantly, Embiid was also battling the Heat in the paint — when he was in the game Miami struggled to get good looks inside, allowing Sixers defenders to more aggressively challenge shooters on the wings.

That — and Ben Simmons’ triple-double — sparked a comeback from 12 late in the third as the Sixers held on to take Game 4 106-102, and that gives Philly a commanding 3-1 series lead heading back to the City of Brotherly Love for Game 5.

Simmons is the first rookie since Magic Johnson in 1980 to post a triple-double in the playoffs, with 17 points, 13 rebounds, and 10 assists.

This was the nail in the coffin of the Heat’s season — if the Sixers turn the ball over 26 times, shoot 7-of-31 from three and still win on the road, the Heat are overmatched.

For much of the game, Miami did not look overmatched in the least and this looked like a game they could win.

Miami brought the defense in this game, and they did it by getting physical and using their length to force turnovers — through three quarters the Sixers had turned the ball over on 28.2 percent of their possessions, more than one in four trips down the court. Miami also did a better job contesting threes in this game, and the Sixers struggled from there all game (22.6 percent from deep).

The physicality led to a chippy game.

These two teams don’t like each other. 😅

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Miami led by a dozen late in the third, but Philadelphia closed the third on a run and carried over to the fourth, a 14-0 run that put the Heat in front as they found their defense. Ersan Ilyasova was key in that stretch with a driving and-one and the next time down the court a three, two plays that changed the momentum of the game.

All series long, the Sixers have been the better team down the stretch — which is unexpected for a young team taking on a more veteran squad. Now that we’re four games in, this is a thing.

In Game 4, the Sixers kept running “horns” sets and the Heat seemed to have no answers. Then late with the game on the line Miami had a couple of terrible defensive breakdowns, one allowing Simmons a clear path to the basket without help rotations that led to a dunk, and the other was Hassan Whiteside not going out to challenge J.J. Redick in the corner and letting him have a clean look (Redick’s foot was on the line so the expected three was a two, but still).

Meanwhile, Joel Embiid owned the paint on defense. When he sat for a little fourth quarter rest, Brett Brown went to the “Ben Simmons and shooters” lineup that was so effective through the final eight games of the season for them when Embiid was out, and that worked. The Sixers kept executing and getting the shots they wanted, the Heat kept hoping Dwyane Wade would bail them out again. He couldn’t, despite a strong 25 point game. Miami also shot itself in the foot going 13-of-25 from the free throw line for the game.

Redick had 24 for the Sixers, while Embiid had 14 points and 12 rebounds. Goran Dragic had 20 points for Miami, and James Johnson added 15.

Tempers flare in chippy Game 4 between Heat, Sixers

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Miami is a physical defensive team, and in Game 4 at home Saturday they cranked that up. The Heat also are a handsy team they clutch, grab, hold, and get away with what they can (that isn’t new to this playoff series).

The Sixers are getting weary of it, and in a game with plenty of double technicals thanks to the referees trying to keep control. The game bubbled over a little midway through the second quarter when Robert Covington made sure Goran Dragic didn’t get off a shot after a foul.

These two teams don’t like each other. 😅

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Ben Simmons also leaned into Wade on a screen and pancaked him. But drew a foul.

😅

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Miami had the lead after three, but the Sixers have owned the games late this series. It’s going to go down to the wire.