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.

Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns out 4-6 weeks with calf strain

Minnesota Timberwolves v Washington Wizards
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It’s not good news, but it looked like it could have been much worse.

Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns is out for weeks with a right calf strain, the team announced Tuesday following an MRI exam. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reports it is likely 4-6 weeks.

The injury occurred midway through the third quarter Monday when Towns started to run back upcourt and went to the ground without contact, grabbing his knee and calf. It looked scary — Achilles scary — and he had to be helped off the court.

Towns has averaged 21.4 points and 8.5 rebounds a game, and while his numbers are down this season — just 32.8% on 3-pointers — the team has struggled at times without him, particularly lineups with Rudy Gobert and Anthony Edwards together, an -11.8 net rating (in non-garbage time minutes, via Cleaning the Glass).

Kevin Durant on chasing MVP: ‘Not really, I’ve been there, done that’

Orlando Magic v Brooklyn Nets
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Kevin Durant carried the Nets to another win Monday night, scoring 45 points on 19-of-24 shooting, plus seven rebounds and five assists.

If you’re having an MVP conversation a quarter of the way into the NBA season, Durant has to be part of it: 30 points per game on 54.8% shooting (and a ridiculous 65.9 true shooting percentage), 6.6 rebounds and 5.5 assists a game, plus playing solid defense and being the anchor of the Nets. After his 45-point outing to get Brooklyn a win over Orlando, Durant was asked about MVP chants and the chase for the award and was clearly not interested.

Durant has MVP numbers, but so do Stephen Curry, Luka Doncic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jayson Tatum and others. If Durant is going to move to the front of the conversation, the first thing that has to happen is Brooklyn has to win a lot more games — 11-11 is not going to cut it when Tatum’s Celtics and Antetokounmpo’s Bucks have the two best records in the NBA. Winning games and finishing on a top-three team in the conference matters to some voters (and traditionally is one measure of an MVP).

Watch Herb Jones inbound off Pokusevski’s back, seal win for Pelicans

Oklahoma City Thunder v New Orleans Pelicans
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With 2.3 seconds left in the game and the Thunder down 2, they needed to steal the inbounds pass from New Orleans to have a real chance. That’s why when Aleksej Pokusevski walked on the court it looked like he was going to guard the inbounder, Herbert Jones.

Instead, Pokusevski turned his back to Jones, putting himself in position to step in front of anyone cutting to the ball to catch the inbounds. Except, Jones made the clever play to seal the game.

Pokusevski fouled Jones, who sank both free throws and sealed the 105-101 Pelicans win.

The Pelicans got 23-8-8 from Zion Williamson and picked up a win without CJ McCollum or Brandon Ingram in the lineup. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander continued his dominant start to the season and scored 31.

Watch Lakers fan drain half-court shot to win $75,000

Indiana Pacers v Los Angeles Lakers
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It might have been the loudest the crypto.com Arena was all night.

Between the third and fourth quarters, Lakers fan Jamie Murry of Downey won $75,000 draining a half-court shot — and he got to celebrate with Anthony Davis.

Murry’s celebration is the best part — with Anthony Davis coming out to celebrate with him (and seeming a little shocked by the hug).

One other big shot fell at this game, but Lakers’ fans didn’t like it as much — Pacers’ rookie Andrew Nembhard drained a game-winning 3-pointer as time expired.