Watch Joel Embiid put up 45, lead Philadelphia past Miami in OT

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PHILADEPHIA — Pick a position, Joel Embiid got to the basket at will and continued to stir early-season MVP hype. Dakota Mathias needed only one open look to squeeze his way into Embiid’s personal highlight reel.

Embiid had 45 points and 16 rebounds, Mathias’ only basket of the game was a go-ahead 3-pointer with 26.1 seconds left and the Philadelphia 76ers hung on to beat the undermanned Miami Heat 137-134 in overtime on Tuesday night.

“I’ve got a goal. I want to win the championship and I can’t do it alone,” Embiid said.

Embiid had some of the great moments of his career and carried the Sixers with a perfect third quarter and clutch buckets in OT to put them on the brink of victory.

“He willed that game for us,” coach Doc Rivers said.

It was little-known Mathias with the stunner that won it. Mathias, who went undrafted in 2018 and signed this season with the Sixers as a two-way G League player, got the ball from the top of the arc and buried it for the 134-132 lead.

“No hesitation,” Rivers said. “It says a lot about him.”

With Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo and Goran Dragic among the Heat sitting out for COVID-related reasons, they pushed the Sixers into OT with a mad-dash end to the fourth. Tyler Herro helped the Heat overcome Embiid’s dominant effort when his 3-pointer tied the game 115-all with 2:25 left. Precious Achiuwa scored two straight baskets — the first off Philly’s shot clock violation, then off a turnover — for a 119-115 lead.

Embiid buried the pull-up jumper just inside the 3-point arc with 3.3 seconds left that tied it 120-120 and sent the game into overtime. It was his only bucket of the fourth after he made all eight shots in the third.

Embiid’s go-ahead three-point play with 2:37 left in OT put the Sixers up 126-124, and Herro matched his regulation theatrics with another tying 3 for 129-all.

Danny Green matched the 76ers’ record with nine 3-pointers and scored 29 points and Mike Scott had 16 points.

Herro finished with 34 points, Duncan Robinson had 26 and Gabe Vincent 24.

“It’s a shame because our guys did more than enough to put ourselves in position to win,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “They could have kept on going another two overtimes. It wasn’t a matter of lack of want or lack of effort. Our guys emptied it all out there. It’s just a matter of getting over this hurdle of really finishing plays.”

Embiid finished plays in bunches and took over the third quarter when scored 20 points and in OT when he scored 11 points.

Embiid was all over the court in the third.

He smacked the ball away under the basket to break up a Miami possession, then hustled down to hit Isiah Joe for a 3 and cut the hole to four. Embiid followed that by shaking off a double team and tossing an underhand shot for the basket. He made the free throw and Sixers were down one. Embiid made it back-to-back three-point plays when he got the Heat to bite on a pump-fake from the free-throw line.

The big man even handled the rock with ease and went the length of the floor to hit a little fadeaway and extend the lead.

He was 16 of 23 from the floor and made all 13 free throws. Embiid had five steals and a blocked shot.

“There was no chance we were going down,” Embiid said. “Whatever I had to do and whatever my teammates had to do, we did it.”

Achiuwa had 17 points and 13 rebounds and the Heat made 19 of 56 3-pointers.

“We’re not just trying to develop guys for the future.,” Spoelstra said. “We’re trying to develop guys to learn how to win at the highest level, this year. Right now.”

The Heat stay in Philly and finish the two-game set on Thursday night.

What will Rockets do at trade deadline? Send out Gordon? Bring in Collins?

Minnesota Timberwolves v Houston Rockets
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There’s a sense in league circles that this is the final season Houston will be okay with having one of the worst — as of today, the worst — record in the NBA. The Rockets hope to grab one of the big names at the top of the draft board this season, but they already have drafted Jalen Green at No. 2 (2021) and Jabari Smith Jr. at No. 3 (2022), plus made a draft night trade for Alperen Şengün (who is playing well). With cap space to spend and extensions coming up, the tanking days will be over.

How will that impact the Rockets at this trade deadline? Here are a few names to watch.

Kelly Iko at The Athletic reports the Rockets have interest in the Hawks’ John Collins and the sides have talked, but there is no real traction yet.

There has been nothing concrete from the Rockets — merely ideas floated by the Hawks to Houston among other teams — but the interest is real.

The Rockets could also be part of a larger, three-team trade to move Collins.

Eric Gordon remains on the trade block, as he has been for more than a year. Gordon has been frustrated waiting, but the Rockets have held out for what they thought was fair — a first-round pick — to no avail. That price likely comes down, and according to Iko at The Athletic, the front office is “more inclined to trade him now” than in the past, but the proof will be in a deal.

• Teams also are calling about K.J. Martin, according to Iko.

K.J. Martin, there continues to be interest in the 22-year-old combo forward who has been quite productive as a starter — averaging 14 points and seven rebounds on 35 percent shooting from 3 — but nothing concrete at this juncture in terms of offers on the table.

The Rockets like Martin, it’s going to take a serious offer to get them to consider it.

Knicks reportedly offered multiple first-round picks for OG Anunoby, got nowhere

Boston Celtics v Toronto Raptors
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What are the Toronto Raptors going to do at the trade deadline?

It’s less than two weeks before the trade deadline and the entire NBA is still asking that question, the Raptors are the one team that could turn this trade deadline from a dud to epic if they decide to pivot toward a rebuild. Are they willing to trade players like OG Anunoby or Pascal Siakam, or will they look to add a more traditional big man such as the Spurs’ Jakob Poeltl, who has been linked to the Raptors in rumors? Everything seems to be on the table.

Anunoby is a player a lot of teams covet, including New York. The Knicks reached out to the Raptors, reports Ian Begley of SNY.TV.

“And Anunoby with Toronto, I mean, that would cost you a lot. That would cost you significant draft compensation. Maybe the Knicks are there, maybe they’re feeling like they could make the playoffs and make a big push if you added in Anunoby. I know that we reported they contacted Toronto on Anunoby and I was told in that conversation they offered multiple firsts. But this was a while back… Toronto has done a lot since then. But I don’t think the league is crystal clear on what [the Raptors] want to do on Anunoby.”

Anunoby is an elite on-ball wing defender who can be a finisher, averaging 17.3 points and 5.6 rebounds a game at age 25 — the asking price will start at two unprotected first-round picks in this market. The Knicks may have thrown some of their protected picks in the conversation, but Toronto’s asking price is reportedly sky-high because they’re not eager to get rid of him.

Anunoby is making $17.4 million this season and is under contract for $18.2 million next season, a fair price for what he brings to the court (he has a player option at $19.9 million in 2024-25). What the Raptors do with him may signal their direction.

At the deadline, most people around the league expect Toronto to trade Gary Trent Jr., but that’s it. Any other big moves are likely this offseason. If ever.

Reprots: Luka Doncic day-to-day with “mild” ankle sprain

Washington Wizards v Dallas Mavericks
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While there are grades of ankle sprains, ask anyone trying to walk around on one if there is a “mild” version.

Yet that’s what Mavericks sources say about Luka Doncic’s ankle sprain suffered against the Suns on Thursday night. He is “day-to-day” with the injury, a story first reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (and since confirmed by others).

Doncic has been playing through ankle soreness in recent weeks and it’s fair to expect the Mavericks to give him a few games off. However, it can’t be too many for a team fighting for a playoff spot, the Mavs are 0-5 in games Doncic has rested this season and have been outscored by 5.3 points per 100 possessions this season when he sits (although they did beat the Suns largely without him Thursday). Doncic is an All-Star starter averaging 33.8 points, 9.1 rebounds and 8.6 assists a game.

Dallas plays next on Saturday against the Jazz. It would be a surprise to see Doncic suit up for that game.

https://twitter.com/CallieCaplan/status/1619016699289956353

Boban? Crowder? Holmgren? Exploring player votes for All-Star starters

CrawsOver Pro-Am
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Four NBA players — not one as a joke, but four… as a joke — voted for injured Thunder rookie Chet Holmgren to start the NBA All-Star Game.

The NBA All-Star Game starters were announced Thursday, chosen from a weighted vote of fans (50%), media (25%) and current players (25%).

While most NBA players may take their All-Star Game starter votes seriously, some do not — they vote for friends, college teammates, guys with the same agent, or just whoever they feel like.

Which is comedy gold once we comb through the public vote (Note: names are not attached to who cast a vote, but we do see who got votes). This season, that list of players getting at least one vote to be an All-Star starter include:

Bol Bol (Orlando Magic, he got six votes)
Willy Hernangomez (New Orleans Pelicans, he got five votes)
Juancho Hernangomez (Toronto Raptors, he got three votes)
Omer Yurtseven (Miami Heat, he got three votes)
Georges Niang (Philadelphia 76ers, he got five votes)
Ochai Agbaji (Utah Jazz, he got four votes)
Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (Oklahoma City Thunder, he got three votes)
Bismack Biyombo (Phoenix Suns, he got three votes)
Jae Crowder (Phoenix Suns, he got two votes)
Udonis Haslem (Miami Heat, he got two votes)
Blake Griffin (Boston Celtics)
Boban Marjanovic (Houston Rockets)
Kemba Walker (Dallas Mavericks)
Kendrick Nunn (Los Angeles Lakers)
Ish Smith (Denver Nuggets)
Torrey Craig (Phoenix Suns)
Luka Garza (Minnesota Timberwolves)
Chimezie Metu (Sacramento Kings)
Furkan Korkmaz (Philadelphia 76ers)
R.J. Hampton (Orlando Magic)
Johnny Davis (Washington Wizards)
Cedi Osman (Cleveland Cavaliers)
MarJon Beauchamp (Milwaukee Bucks)
Paul Reed (Philadelphia 76ers)

That is just a fraction of the entire list.