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.

Magic sending Raptors draft pick as compensation for hiring Jeff Weltman

AP Photo/John Raoux
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The Raptors promoted Jeff Weltman, still working under Masai Ujiri, to general manager last year.

That paid off for Toronto when the Magic hired Weltman as their new president.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

The Magic have their own and the Lakers’ second-round picks next year. Even the lower of those two selections could be somewhat value.

In other words, Weltman’s already-difficult job is getting even harder simply by Orlando hiring him.

LeBron James still striving to surpass Michael Jordan

AP Photo/Chuck Burton
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LeBron James has discussed chasing Michael Jordan’s “ghost,” motivating himself by trying surpass Jordan as the greatest player in NBA history.

Just 27 points behind Jordan for the all-time playoff scoring lead – a record he could break in Cavaliers-Celtics Game 5 tonight – LeBron is again discussing that pursuit.

LeBron, via Dave McMenamin of ESPN:

“It’s just a personal goal of mine,” James said Thursday before Cavs shootaround in preparation of Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Boston Celtics. “It has nothing to do with passing the rings, passing the points, passing MVPs. It’s just my personal goal to keep me motivated — that’s all.”

“You guys are going to have the conversations about who is greatest of all time and things of that nature,” James said. “It doesn’t matter to me. At the end of the day, it’s so funny that the conversation is always talked about in the NBA about who is the greatest but it’s never talked about in the NFL about who is the greatest quarterback. It’s just like: [Dan] Marino, [John] Elway, [Peyton] Manning and [Tom] Brady. All great quarterbacks, you know — and it should be the same for us.

Jordan or LeBron? Save your hot takes. LeBron just burnt them all.

The greatest quarterback of all time is never debated? Claiming that is now the hottest take in the entire realm of the Jordan-LeBron debate.

Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue: Kyrie Irving feeling ‘good’ after ankle injury

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BOSTON (AP) — Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue says that Kyrie Irving‘s left ankle is feeling “good” in advance of Cleveland’s Game 5 matchup Thursday night with the Celtics.

Irving was moving around and putting up shots during the Cavs’ morning shootaround.

The All-Star rolled his ankle in the third quarter of Game 4 when he stepped on Terry Rozier‘s foot. Irving was able to stay on the floor and finish the game, scoring a career playoff-high 42 points.

Cleveland leads Boston 3-1 and can wrap up its third straight Eastern Conference title Thursday night.

Several Celtics are also fighting injuries as they try to stave off elimination.

Jaylen Brown is listed as questionable with a right hip pointer. Jae Crowder is probable with a left groin strain, and Amir Johnson is probable with a right shoulder sprain.

Danny Ainge: Lonzo Ball declined to work out for Celtics, who hold No. 1 pick

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LaVar Ball said his son, highly touted draft prospect Lonzo Ball, would work out for only the Lakers.

You thought he was bluffing?

Celtics president Danny Ainge, whose team holds the No. 1 pick, on 98.5 the Sports Hub:

We just tried to get him in for a workout, and they politely said no.

It’s not ideal.

Listen, we’ve drafted guys that wouldn’t come in for workouts before. I mean, it’s not the end of the world. We’ve watched them play a ton. We have a lot of information on them.

Good for Ball. Professional sports teams already hold inordinate power over players entering the workforce. In no other industry are top young employees assigned to a particular company, the worst-performing companies typically getting priority, with no ability to bargain with competitors.

Ball wants to play for the Lakers, who offer proximity to his family and hold the No. 2 pick. He can’t force Boston to pass on him or Los Angeles to pick him. But he can influence decision-making.

It seemed likely the Celtics would draft Markelle Fultz, and though they could still pick Ball, him declining a workout with Boston makes that only less likely. The Lakers will probably draft Ball, but this plan carries risk. If they pass, he could fall once he gets to teams less familiar with him.

Still, Ball deserves to decide for himself how to manage his career – especially in such a closed job market. Not working out for the Celtics is probably his best path to getting where he wans to go.