Giannis Antetokounmpo has career-high 52 but Joel Embiid gets last laugh (VIDEO)

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MILWAUKEE (AP) Giannis Antetokounmpo scored a career-high 52 points, but Joel Embiid had 40 points and 15 rebounds to lead the Philadelphia 76ers over the Milwaukee Bucks 130-125 on Sunday.

Antetokounmpo was 15 of 26 from the field, including 3 of 8 from 3-point range, and made 19 of 21 free throws to better his previous career best by eight points.

Embiid and the Sixers weathered a late charge by Milwaukee to beat the team with the best overall record in the NBA (52-18) and the top home record (27-6). It was the fifth time this season Embiid scored 40 or more points and came in his fourth game back after missing nine straight with left knee soreness.

Jimmy Butler added 27 points, JJ Redick 19 and Tobias Harris 12 for the Sixers, near the top of the Eastern Conference standings at 45-15.

Milwaukee had a brief scare when Antetokounmpo was fouled on a driving layup and landed awkwardly late in the third. He got up favoring his right leg, but then sank one of two free throws.

Embiid scored 18 points and Butler had 14 in the fourth quarter. Antetokounmpo’s three-point play pulled the Bucks to 118-114 with 1:18 to go, but Ben Simmons then tipped in Embiid’s miss.

The Bucks got to 3 points twice in the closing seconds, but Embiid and Harris each made two free throws to seal the win.

Khris Middleton scored 13 points and Brooks Lopez added 11 for the Bucks.

Mike Scott hit a wide-open 3 to give the Sixers a 98-86 lead early in the fourth and force the Bucks to burn a timeout.

Scott also provided a fun highlight – late in the first quarter, he made a dive into the stands trying to save a loose ball. He landed in the second row, surprised a fan by taking a quick sip of her drink, and ran back on defense as play continued.

TIP-INS

76ers: Philadelphia moved to a season-high 20 games over .500

Bucks: Nikola Mirotic started for Malcolm Brogdon, who is out with a minor plantar fascia tear in his right foot. Brogdon had started 64 of 69 games and is out indefinitely. . Recalled F Christian Wood from the Wisconsin Herd.

MOMENT OF SILENCE

There was a pregame moment of silence for the victims and survivors of the New Zealand mosque attacks.

UP NEXT

76ers: Play at Charlotte on Tuesday.

Bucks: Host the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday.

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Embiid has 21 points, 17 rebounds, leads 76ers past Kings

Associated Press
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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A little rest and a taste of spring did a lot for Jimmy Butler.

Butler had 22 points, six rebounds and seven assists while playing with the type of assertiveness coach Brett Brown says the 76ers need from him in Philadelphia’s 123-114 victory over the Sacramento Kings on Friday night.

Joel Embiid added 21 points and 17 rebounds and made some big plays on both ends of the court late in the fourth quarter for the 76ers, who won their third in a row to pull even with idle Indiana for the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference.

Philadelphia holds the tiebreaker with the Pacers and is trying to maintain hold of home court in a first-round playoff series, something Brown said he coveted before the contest. Fifth-seeded Boston is two games behind the 76ers and Pacers.

In order to secure home court and go deep in the playoffs, Brown knows he’ll need Butler to play the way he did against the Kings.

“He was our bell ringer,” Brown said. “We will not be as good as we can be without him playing the way he played tonight.”

Butler rested in Philadelphia’s last game, a 106-99 victory over Cleveland on Tuesday. And he felt even more refreshed by Friday’s weather in Philly, which reached 75 degrees.

“That’s all it takes,” Butler said. “Rest and good weather. It makes my knees not ache.”

And it’s only going to warm up as the postseason draws near, a great sign for 76ers fans.

“The snow is gone,” Butler said. “We’re good. We’re ready to rock.”

Tobias Harris and JJ Redick each added 19 points and Ben Simmons contributed 18 for the 76ers.

Harrison Barnes and De'Aaron Fox had 16 points apiece for Sacramento, which lost its third in a row and seventh in the last nine to further hurt its playoff push. The Kings, who last made the postseason in 2006, entered ninth in the West, five games behind the Clippers.

“We’re playing hard, we’re playing the right way, we’re playing together,” Kings coach Dave Joerger said. “The wins are going to come.”

And how?

“Don’t play Golden State, Oklahoma City, Denver, Philly, Boston . I can go on,” Joerger joked.

With Philadelphia clinging to a four-point lead with 3 minutes remaining, Embiid blocked Willie Cauley-Stein‘s layup attempt. Two possessions later, Embiid rejected Barnes’ close-range try before hitting a short jumper of his own to make it 121-114 with 1:45 remaining.

“At the end of the day, I think Joel Embiid made two defensive plays that were terrific,” Joerger said.

The Kings were playing one night after a 126-120 loss at Boston, a game in which they had a 17-point first-half lead.

Against Philadelphia, Sacramento played from behind from the outset. Philadelphia increased its 62-58 halftime advantage to as many as 13 in the third quarter on Redick’s 3 that made it 93-80 with 2:13 left in the period.

The 76ers had a 10-point advantage to start the fourth, but Yogi Ferrell‘s 3 capped a 9-2 Kings run to start the period that pulled Sacramento within 101-98 with 9:25 to play. But Simmons scored consecutive buckets from close range to increase the lead to seven and Sacramento never would get closer than three the rest of the way.

 

Watch James Harden score 31 to help Rockets rout slumping 76ers 107-91

Associated Press
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HOUSTON (AP) — The Houston Rockets are finally healthy and it has them on a roll.

James Harden had 31 points and 10 rebounds and the Rockets extended their winning streak to a season-high seven games with a 107-91 win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday night.

While Harden has missed just four games this season, fellow stars Chris Paul and Clint Capela have missed 15 and 19 games, respectively, with injuries.

“I think it’s very obvious with Clint, Chris and James playing together and they’re all healthy and in rhythm we’re pretty hard to beat,” coach Mike D’Antoni said.

Houston improved to 21-9 this season in games when all three play after going 42-3 in such games last season.

“Our pace and energy has been really good and it always helps to be healthy,” Paul said.

The Rockets had a big lead for most of the night after a 37-point first quarter and were up by 22 entering the fourth. Philadelphia had trouble containing Capela with Joel Embiid out for the eighth straight game with a sore left knee, and Houston’s big man had 18 points and nine rebounds.

“They did an excellent job at defending us,” Philadelphia coach Brett Brown said. “I just think that first period sort of set the table and we found it difficult to respond after that.”

The victory came after Philadelphia won the first meeting this season 121-93 behind 32 points from Embiid.

Gerald Green and Iman Shumpert each made a 3-pointer to power a 6-2 run in the fourth quarter and extend the lead to 96-72 with nine minutes left. Philadelphia scored the next five points before Harden wowed the crowd with a between-the-legs bounce pass to Capela, but he was fouled on the shot and missed both free throws.

Houston led by 16 with about five minutes left when Harden had a dunk to make it 99-81 and give him at least 30 points in his NBA-leading 30th game this season. Coach Mike D’Antoni cleared the bench soon after that with the game in hand.

Tobias Harris had 22 points for the 76ers, who dropped their second straight. Ben Simmons played despite dealing with stomach flu and added 15 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds.

Philadelphia shot just 3 of 26 on 3-pointers with JJ Redick going 1 for 9 and Mike Scott missing all of his five attempts.

The 76ers opened the third quarter with a 9-6 run to cut the lead to 12 points, but Houston scored the next six points with 3s from Harden and Eric Gordon to push it to 71-53 with about six minutes left in the quarter.

Harden left briefly in the second quarter after crashing to the court after a collision with Simmons while attempting a shot. He remained on the court on his back writhing in pain for a couple of minutes before getting to his feet and going to the locker room. He appeared to have injured his right wrist and had it taped when he returned to the court.

It didn’t seem to be bothering him much after he returned to the game and he provided a highlight-reel play when he used a crossover to shake Jimmy Butler at the 3-point line and drove into the lane for a layup to leave Houston up 59-44 at halftime.

D’Antoni said that Harden was OK, but a team official said that he was getting a precautionary X-ray after the game and wasn’t available to reporters.

 

Tobias Harris on staying with Sixers: ‘I’m hopeful it can be a long-term partnership’

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Tobias Harris hopes to stay a while with his new team after bouncing around the NBA throughout his career.

Harris was the centerpiece of a blockbuster deal the Philadelphia 76ers made early Wednesday morning to bolster their chances at making a run at a championship. The 26-year-old forward was having a breakout season with the Los Angeles Clippers before coming to his fifth team in eight seasons.

He joins All-Stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, along with Jimmy Butler and JJ Redick, to form perhaps the best starting lineup in the Eastern Conference.

Harris is in the final season of a contract but the Sixers certainly will want to keep him around after trading sensational rookie guard Landry Shamet and four draft picks along with forwards Wilson Chandler and Mike Muscala to Los Angeles. Center Boban Marjanovic and forward Mike Scott came to Philadelphia as part of the deal.

“The top of the list for me is winning culture and No. 2 is loyalty,” Harris said Thursday. “Just finding the right situation for team basketball, a winning culture and loyalty from both sides. This team has made a big trade and I’m hopeful it can be a long-term partnership.”

Harris is averaging 20.9 points and shoots nearly 50 percent from 3-point range. He gives Philadelphia another shooter it needed. The Sixers, who were eliminated in the second round of the playoffs last season, are 34-20 and in fifth place in the East.

Harris said he had dinner with coach Brett Brown upon arriving in town and they discussed his role.

“He’s going to let me go play my game and figure things out on the fly,” Harris said. “When you have a team with this much talent, see what works and fueling off each other on the floor. We have a lot of talent but smart players, too.”

Harris is excited to play with Simmons, the talented 6-foot-10 point-guard.

“He’s a beast in the open court,” Harris said. “Matching up against him, the toughest thing is how well he passes the ball and gets other guys involved. I’ve always been a big fan of his game and how he plays, his size and speed and skill level.”

Marjanovic, a 7-foot-3 backup center, provides depth behind Embiid. He averaged 6.7 points in 10.4 minutes played.

“Big fan of (Embiid),” Marjanovic said. “I like how he plays, how he moves. I’m really impressed with that. Now, I’m on the same team. We can both help each other.”

Scott shrugged off a question about added pressure because the expectations have grown for Philadelphia and Marjanovic deferred to Harris, one of his best buddies. Harris handled it diplomatically.

“We understand the team invested a lot in us,” he said. “It was a big move. It was a win-now move. That means a lot. This is already a winning culture and we look to bring our games to it and help as best we can.”

The Sixers made two other moves before the NBA’s trade deadline, sending former No. 1 overall pick Markelle Fultz to the Orlando Magic, according to two people familiar with the negotiations. Philadelphia gets guard Jonathan Simmons, a 2020 first-round pick that the Sixers used to own but was conveyed in other deals. Philly also get a second-round pick this year. Fultz has played in only 33 games since the Sixers traded up to select him No. 1 overall in the 2017 draft.

Earlier, the Sixers added forward James Ennis from the Houston Rockets in exchange for draft considerations, according to a person familiar with the deal. Ennis, who averaged 7.4 points for the Rockets this season, has also played for Miami, Memphis, Houston and New Orleans. He’s a career 36 percent shooter from 3-point range and will add to Philadelphia’s bench depth.

AP Basketball Writer Tim Reynolds and AP Sports Writer Dan Gelston contributed to this report.

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Nikola Jokic returns to lead Nuggets past 76ers 126-110

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DENVER — If Nikola Jokic was fired up over his one-game suspension, it was hard to tell.

“He came back and did what we expect him to do,” coach Michael Malone said after Jokic’s seventh triple-double of the season led the Denver Nuggets past the short-handed Philadelphia 76ers 126-100 Saturday night.

“He was a huge part of our attack and made the right play time and time again,” Malone said after watching Jokic score 32 points, pull down 18 rebounds and dish out 10 assists. “He’s proven why he’s an All-NBA type player. Thank goodness he’s in a Nuggets uniform.”

The 76ers gave leading scorer Joel Embiid the night off, robbing fans of a Jokic-Embiid showdown but allowing their star to get a six-day midseason break before their next game Tuesday night against the Lakers in Los Angeles.

Jokic, the Nuggets’ leader in points, rebounds and assists, missed Denver’s rout of the Phoenix Suns on Friday night when he was handed a one-game suspension for leaving the bench during an altercation in Utah earlier in the week.

Malone said he didn’t think Jokic would be any more fired up than usual for his return and instead would focus on helping “his team win another game at home against a quality team from the Eastern Conference.”

Jokic did just that, scoring 17 first-quarter points on his way to a 20-point, 12-rebound first-half as the Nuggets, who led wire to wire for the second straight night, took a 77-68 lead into the locker room.

“That’s the Joker we like to see, coming out physical and aggressive early,” Torrey Craig said. “When he’s aggressive like that, we’re a great team.”

Through three quarters, Jokic had 28 points, 17 boards and nine assists, and he got the triple-double shortly after re-entering the game midway through the fourth quarter with a half-court pass to Malik Beasley, whose dunk put Denver ahead 118-104.

“He did what he does all the time,” Gary Harris said. “He came out and was aggressive. We asserted ourselves early and got the job done.”

Jokic sat out the final few minutes, leaving him two boards shy of the rare 30-20-10 triple-double.

While his teammates are starting to expect triple-doubles out of him on a regular basis, Jokic isn’t focusing on them.

“I don’t think going into the game I need these points, rebounds. I just play hard and try to win,” Jokic said. “If it happens, I like it, and it’s cool.”

Jimmy Butler (sprained right wrist) and Wilson Chandler (left hamstring tightness) also sat out for the 76ers, who got 22 points from JJ Redick and 20 from Corey Brewer but never led.

“We weren’t 100 percent,” said Ben Simmons, who scored 14. “We were missing Jimmy and Joel and Chandler. Pretty big puzzles on this team.”

This isn’t a game the 76ers will dwell on, though.

“We did all right considering what we had to play with tonight,” Redick said. “Overall, we competed. We made mistakes. Young guys made mistakes. You move on.”