Philadelphia 76ers head coach Brett Brown is optimistic All-Star Joel Embiid will return to the court before the NBA playoffs get underway.

Embiid will sit out Philadelphia's clash against the Phoenix Suns in Orlando, Florida on Tuesday due to an ankle injury.

The three-time All-Star hurt his left ankle in the opening quarter of Sunday's loss to the Portland Trail Blazers at Walt Disney World Resort.

Philadelphia – sixth in the Eastern Conference with a 42-28 record – conclude their regular-season campaign against defending champions the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday and the Houston Rockets on Friday.

Brown, though, is hopeful Embiid will play prior to the postseason, telling reporters on Monday: "I do expect him to [play before playoffs], that's just one man’s opinion.

"Nobody's doing cartwheels over if something severe, but I do believe it would be good for him to play for the playoffs begin."

Embiid has been averaging 23.5 points, 11.8 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game for the 76ers this season.

Meanwhile, fellow 76ers All-Star Ben Simmons underwent surgery and is expected to miss the remainder of the campaign.

The 76ers said Simmons had surgery to remove a loose body in his left knee, with the Australian set to begin rehabilitation in Philadelphia immediately.

 

Damian Lillard was determined not to let another game slip away as he bounced back from defeat to the Los Angeles Clippers with a 51-point game against the Philadelphia 76ers.

Portland Trail Blazers point guard Lillard missed a pair of free throws and also a three-pointer in the closing seconds of his team's reverse to the Clippers on Saturday.

The five-time NBA All-Star then became involved in a social media spat with Clippers duo Paul George, who had waved from the bench after the finish to the game, and Patrick Beverley, but was back down to business on the court on Sunday.

His performance helped the Blazers move to within half-a-game of the eighth-placed Memphis Grizzlies - who lost to the Toronto Raptors - in the race to make the playoffs in the Western Conference.

"After the game, I was irritated with myself, I was frustrated. But it is what it is," Lillard said of Saturday's setback.

"I talked to one of my best friends and he said, 'It is what it is, this happened for a reason. You've had a lot of big moments and you usually come out on top, so you've got to expect to be some kind of balance, you've got to expect to come up against some adversity'.

"I knew we had a chance to get back on the court today, so I moved on from it faster than if it wasn't a back-to-back."

He later added during the post-match media call: "Definitely coming into tonight after yesterday, I knew how important it was to win the game. 

"We let one slip yesterday that we should have had and I'm a big part of why it got away from us. Tonight, I said that wasn't going to happen."

Lillard went 16-for-28 from the floor and hit 15 of his 16 free throws, helping the Blazers prevail 124-121 against a Philadelphia team who lost Joel Embiid during the first quarter.

"I don't think anyone thinks anything less of Dame because he missed free throws," Blazers coach Terry Stotts said of Lillard's performance.

"Tonight, he showed his determination and will that he's shown throughout his career."

Portland are back in action on Tuesday, as they take on the Dallas Mavericks. 

The Brooklyn Nets upstaged the Los Angeles Clippers 129-120, despite Kawhi Leonard's big performance in the NBA on Sunday.

Leonard posted a game-high 39 points for the Clippers but it was not enough against the Nets in Orlando, Florida.

Caris LeVert put up 27 points and 13 assists as the Nets clinched the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference.

Joe Harris added 25 points of his own for the Nets at Walt Disney World Resort, where team-mate Jarrett Allen (16 points, 16 rebounds) finished with a double-double.

Damian Lillard, meanwhile, dropped 51 points to inspire the Portland Trail Blazers to a 124-121 win over the Philadelphia 76ers.

Lillard made 16 of 28 shots and 15 from 16 free throws to lift the Trail Blazers past the 76ers and within a half-game of the Memphis Grizzlies for eighth place in the Western Conference.

It was Lillard's fifth game of 50-plus points this season – tying Houston Rockets star James Harden – with all of those performances coming against teams that made the playoffs last year

Per STATS, the last player to have five 50-point games against postseason teams from the previous campaign was Michael Jordan (6) in 1986-87.

 

Career-high night for Rivers

Austin Rivers had a game to remember as the Rockets soared past the Sacramento Kings 129-112. The Rockets guard registered a career-high 41 points off the bench. Rivers is the first player in NBA history to score 40-plus points, make six or more three-pointers and shoot 70.0-plus per cent from the field off the bench in a game, per STATS. Harden contributed 32 points, eight rebounds and seven assists for the Rockets.

Gordon Hayward's 31-point display helped the Boston Celtics top the Orlando Magic 122-119 in overtime. Jayson Tatum scored 29, including the tying basket with 4.2 seconds remaining in regulation.

Defending champions the Toronto Raptors secured the Eastern Conference second seed and their fifth consecutive season with at least 50 wins after outlasting the Grizzlies. Pascal Siakam had 26 points.

The San Antonio Spurs and their hopes of becoming the first team in NBA history to reach the playoffs for 23 straight seasons remain alive after emerging 122-113 winners against the New Orleans Pelicans. San Antonio are 10th in the west, half a game adrift of Portland for the ninth spot, which would secure a play-in series.

 

Pelicans eliminated from postseason race, Wizards winless in bubble

Zion Williamson will have to wait another year for playoff basketball after the Pelicans lost to the Spurs. Despite 31 points and a season-high eight three-pointers from JJ Redick, the Pelicans – coupled with Portland's win – were eliminated from postseason contention.

The Washington Wizards' woes continued after falling to a 121-103 defeat against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Washington are the only winless team remaining in Orlando, having gone 0-6 since the restart.

 

Dame with the four-point play!

After struggling against the Clippers, Lillard came up big for the Trail Blazers in their meeting with the 76ers. A spectacular four-point play with less than three minutes remaining catapulted the Blazers into the lead.

Sunday's results

Houston Rockets 129-112 Sacramento Kings
Portland Trail Blazers 124-121 Philadelphia 76ers
Boston Celtics 122-119 Orlando Magic (OT)
San Antonio Spurs 122-113 New Orleans Pelicans
Toronto Raptors 108-99 Memphis Grizzlies
Oklahoma City Thunder 121-103 Washington Wizards
Brooklyn Nets 129-120 Los Angeles Clippers

 

Raptors face Bucks

It will be an epic encounter as the Eastern Conference's two best teams meet on Monday. Giannis Antetokounmpo and the top-ranked Milwaukee Bucks take on the in-form Raptors.

Draymond Green has been fined $50,000 by the NBA for comments made about Devin Booker's situation with the Phoenix Suns.

Appearing as an analyst on TNT, Golden State Warriors forward Green praised Booker for his performances since the NBA season restarted, before adding it was "not good for him" to be in Phoenix.

"It's great to see Book playing well, and Phoenix playing well, but get my man out of Phoenix. It's not good for him, it's not good for his career," Green said.

"They've got to get Book out of Phoenix. I need my man to go somewhere where he can play great basketball all the time and win, because he's that type of player."

In a statement released on Sunday, the NBA announced the comments violated the league's anti-tampering rule.

Green was indeed jokingly asked on the show if he was tampering, to which he replied: "Maybe."

"The NBA announced today that it has fined Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors $50,000 for violating the league's anti-tampering rule," the statement read.

"The fine is in response to statements Green made as an analyst on TNT on August 7 regarding the Phoenix Suns' Devin Booker.

"As announced prior to the start of the 2019-20 season, the NBA has adopted a stricter enforcement approach for conduct relating to tampering, salary cap circumvention and free agency timing rules, including with respect to the rule prohibiting player-to-player tampering."

The Suns defeated the Miami Heat on Saturday to stretch their winning streak to five games. They have a 31-39 record and sit 10th in the Western Conference as they aim to make the playoffs for the first time since 2010.

TJ Warren overshadowed LeBron James' return as the Los Angeles Lakers slumped to a third successive NBA loss, while Luka Doncic dazzled on Saturday.

Back after a groin injury, Lakers star James had 31 points, eight rebounds and seven assists in 35 minutes but could not stop the Indiana Pacers and their thriving small forward from claiming a 116-111 victory.

Warren, a revelation since entering the NBA bubble, continued his incredible scoring run with 39 points on 15-of-22 shooting.

In the final minute, he hit a floater, a pull-up jumper and a clutch three-pointer over Anthony Davis to earn the Pacers a fourth win from five games at Walt Disney World Resort.

All-Star guard Doncic and reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo did not disappoint in their duel, sharing 70 points between them as the Dallas Mavericks outlasted the Milwaukee Bucks 136-132 in overtime.

Doncic did the business for Dallas, delivering a decisive triple-double with 36 points, 19 assists and 14 rebounds.

 

Pain for Mitchell, better for Booker

Donovan Mitchell's nerveless 35-point performance was not enough to help the Utah Jazz avoid a 134-132 defeat to the Denver Nuggets in double overtime, a thrilling game that included 30 points and 11 rebounds from Nikola Jokic.

Devin Booker's 35 points proved more valuable for the Phoenix Suns, who beat the Miami Heat 119-112 to stay undefeated since the restart.

 

Lillard's let down

After trading taunts with the Los Angeles Clippers, Damian Lillard let his opponents have the last laugh when he wasted two clutch free throws and missed a three-point attempt late in the Portland Trail Blazers' 122-117 loss.

 

Doncic's delicious dime

The Mavericks' main man went between the legs for one of his 19 assists.

Saturday's results

Los Angeles Clippers 122-117 Portland Trail Blazers
Denver Nuggets 134-132 Utah Jazz (2OT)
Indiana Pacers 116-111 Los Angeles Lakers
Phoenix Suns 119-112 Miami Heat
Dallas Mavericks 136-132 Milwaukee Bucks (OT)

 

Trail Blazers face 76ers

Lillard and the Trail Blazers (32-39), ranked ninth in the Western Conference, know they cannot afford any errors when they face the Philadelphia 76ers (42-27) on Sunday.

Philadelphia 76ers star Ben Simmons will undergo surgery on his left knee to repair an injury he suffered on Wednesday, the team announced on Saturday.  

The 76ers did not announce a timetable for Simmons' return but ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported they have not given up hope that the former number one overall pick could return in the case of a deep playoff run.  

The most likely outcome, however, is that Simmons' 2019-20 season is finished. 

Simmons left Philadelphia's game against the Washington Wizards midway through the third quarter after suffering the injury while trying to grab a loose ball.

He was diagnosed with a subluxation of the left patella – a partial dislocation of the kneecap. Further testing discovered a loose body in the knee, prompting Simmons, the team and their medical staff to choose surgery as the best treatment option.  

Even under the most optimistic return scenario for the two-time All-Star, the news is a major blow to the title chances of a talented but inconsistent 76ers team.  

Simmons is averaging 16.4 points, 8.0 assists and 7.8 rebounds this season, and his 35.4 minutes per game leads the team.  

He recently had his role on the team changed, starting at power forward instead of point guard, where coach Brett Brown added Shake Milton to the starting five.

It is likely that Philadelphia will add Al Horford to the starting lineup.  

The 76ers are 35-22 this season with Simmons in the lineup and 7-5 when he sits out, although their offense has been slightly more efficient with Simmons on the bench.

Philadelphia are 3-1 in the NBA's restart in Orlando but their toughest opponents still lie ahead. They have clinched a playoff spot and cannot fall lower than the number six seed in the Eastern Conference.

The Boston Celtics crushed the Toronto Raptors in the NBA on Friday, while the final two playoff spots in the Eastern Conference were secured.

The Celtics were too good for the Raptors 122-100 after another even team performance at the Walt Disney World Resort.

Jaylen Brown scored 20 points, with Boston seeing seven players in double-digits for points.

Jayson Tatum (18 points) and Kemba Walker (17) were among them as the Celtics improved to 46-23.

Toronto struggled in defeat, with Fred VanVleet going four-of-14 from the field for his 13 points.

The Brooklyn Nets and Orlando Magic clinched playoff spots in the Eastern Conference.

The Nets were too good for the Sacramento Kings 119-106, while Orlando lost to the Philadelphia 76ers, but secured their spot after the Washington Wizards' loss to the New Orleans Pelicans.

 

Harris, Embiid lift 76ers as Holiday shines

Tobias Harris (23 points and 15 rebounds) and Joel Embiid (23 points and 13 rebounds) saw the 76ers to their 108-101 win over Orlando.

Jrue Holiday went 11-of-16 from the field for 28 points in the Pelicans' 118-107 victory against the Wizards.

The San Antonio Spurs beat the Utah Jazz 119-111 thanks to 24 points from Derrick White.

 

Gilgeous-Alexander wayward

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander went three-of-13 from the field as the Oklahoma City Thunder were well beaten by the Memphis Grizzlies 121-92.

 

Brilliant Brown pass

Brown delivered a wonderful pass to Gordon Hayward in the Celtics' win.

Friday's results

San Antonio Spurs 119-111 Utah Jazz
Memphis Grizzlies 121-92 Oklahoma City Thunder
Brooklyn Nets 119-106 Sacramento Kings
Philadelphia 76ers 108-101 Orlando Magic
New Orleans Pelicans 118-107 Washington Wizards
Boston Celtics 122-100 Toronto Raptors

 

Lakers face Pacers

The Los Angeles Lakers (51-17) will be aiming to bounce back from back-to-back losses when they face the Indiana Pacers (42-27) on Saturday.

Doc Rivers is eager to see his title-chasing Los Angeles Clippers side at full strength before the NBA playoffs get under way.

The Clippers, who sit second in the Western Conference, overcame the Dallas Mavericks 126-111 on Thursday, with just four games left before the postseason campaign begins. 

However, Rivers is having to make do without the likes of Montrezl Harrell and Patrick Beverley and he wants his high-flying squad fighting fit for the business end of the season.

Asked where his team are at on a scale of one to 10, coach Rivers said: "That's a good question. I don't know, six or seven.

"We still have Trez [Harrell] out. We still have several guys that have minute restrictions that put a major problem on us, especially with guards. We still have Pat out."

Injury and illness have been a running theme of the Clippers' season since NBA action resumed, with Ivica Zubac and Landry Shamet having revealed they tested positive for coronavirus.

Indeed, Rivers suggested there had only been three instances when his whole team practiced together.

"I think it's been three with the entire group," he explained.

"It would be nice to have a stretch where our whole team was available, practicing and playing.

"But we haven't had that all year. It's been amazing. We just got to keep rolling."

Kawhi Leonard was the star in the Clippers' win over the Mavericks, scoring 29 points. 

The LeBron James-less Los Angeles Lakers fell to another NBA loss, while Giannis Antetokounmpo starred again on Thursday.

Without James (groin), the Lakers suffered a second straight loss, beaten by the Houston Rockets 113-97.

James Harden led the way for the Rockets with 39 points on 11-of-19 shooting, while the guard also had 12 assists and eight rebounds at the Walt Disney World Resort.

In James' absence, Anthony Davis had a double-double of 17 points and 12 rebounds for the Lakers.

Coming off back-to-back losses, the Milwaukee Bucks clinched the top seed in the Eastern Conference by beating the Miami Heat 130-116.

The Bucks recovered from a 23-point deficit to bounce back, with Antetokounmpo finishing with 33 points and 12 rebounds.

Khris Middleton also posted 33 points for Milwaukee.

Leonard, Lillard in form

Kawhi Leonard had 29 points as the Los Angeles Clippers eased past the Dallas Mavericks 126-111.

Damian Lillard hit 11 three-pointers in a 45-point haul to lead the Portland Trail Blazers to a 125-115 win over the Denver Nuggets.

A career-high 35 points from Bogdan Bogdanovic guided the Sacramento Kings to a 140-125 success against the New Orleans Pelicans.

 

Cook can't take chance

Quinn Cook was unable to make the most of his start for the Lakers. The guard went two-of-12 from the field for just six points in 29 minutes.

 

Amazing Lillard

Lillard went 11-of-18 from three-point range in an incredible performance.

Thursday's results

Sacramento Kings 140-125 New Orleans Pelicans
Milwaukee Bucks 130-116 Miami Heat
Phoenix Suns 114-99 Indiana Pacers
Los Angeles Clippers 126-111 Dallas Mavericks
Portland Trail Blazers 125-115 Denver Nuggets
Houston Rockets 113-97 Los Angeles Lakers

 

Celtics face Raptors

The Boston Celtics (45-23) and Toronto Raptors (49-18) go head-to-head in another blockbuster battle on Friday.

Giannis Antetokounmpo said the Milwaukee Bucks are their own biggest threat to reaching the NBA Finals after clinching the Eastern Conference top seed.

The Bucks overturned a 23-point deficit to overcome the Miami Heat 130-116 at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida, where Antetokounmpo put up 33 points and 12 rebounds on Thursday.

Milwaukee had lost back-to-back games and were staring at another defeat before rallying past Eastern Conference rivals the Heat – outscoring Miami 74-43 in the second half.

Asked about the Bucks' biggest threat in the east as they eye their first Finals appearance since 1974 and first championship since 1971, reigning MVP Antetokounmpo said: "I think the biggest challenge for us is ourselves.

"How are we going to play? How hard are we going to play? Are we going to play for one another? Are we going to defend hard? Are we going to be able to rebound the ball? Are we going to be able to make the extra effort? Are we going to dive on the floor?

"It's all about us. It's all about us."

The Bucks improved to 55-14 for the season, ahead of defending champions the Toronto Raptors (49-18), Boston Celtics (45-23), Heat (43-26), Indiana Pacers (42-27) and Philadelphia 76ers (41-27) in the east.

With the top seed comes home-court advantage, though that will look different inside the Orlando bubble amid the coronavirus pandemic.

"Well, I don't think you'd ever guess to be coaching in an NBA game on August 6," Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer said.

"So, pretty unique and rare times to win a game and more importantly to have the best record in the Eastern Conference is a tribute to our players and what they've done every night and how they've brought it. I'm very proud of them."

Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James has been ruled out of Thursday's NBA showdown with the Houston Rockets.

The Western Conference-leading Lakers cited a sore right groin for James' absence against the Rockets at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida.

James – who endured a difficult first season in Los Angeles after suffering a groin injury on Christmas Day in 2018 – posted 19 points and 11 rebounds in the Lakers' 105-86 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday.

The four-time NBA MVP and three-time champion is averaging 25.3 points, 10.3 assists and 8.0 rebounds per game this season.

James and the Lakers (51-16) have already clinched the top seed in the west as the Los Angeles franchise prepare for their first playoff appearance since 2013.

Ben Simmons is out indefinitely after suffering a subluxation of the left patella in the Philadelphia 76ers' 107-98 win over the Washington Wizards on Wednesday.

A subluxation is a partial and temporary dislocation, and similar injuries reportedly require a recovery period of several weeks. 

"This one stings for sure," Philadelphia coach Brett Brown said on Thursday. "We all felt like, with the pandemic and are we going to play again, it obviously bought time for Ben.

"In relation to sort of being incredibly down about it, I'm not. I feel numb to it."

Simmons was injured in the third quarter against the Wizards, appearing to tweak his knee after grabbing his sixth rebound of the game. At the next stoppage of play, he limped straight to the locker room. 

He is now looking at treatment options, and Brown expects the team will be able to put a timeline on his rehab by Friday.

"Some of the information is fluid, it's still moving," Brown said. "In relation to saying any type of deadline, timeline, playoff, whatever, I'm not in a position to offer anything. Not because we don't want to, but stuff is still being evaluated.

"What I do know — it's boring, but we play Orlando [Magic] tomorrow and we don't have him. That's kind of all I know at this point."

In his third full season in the NBA in 2019-20, the 24-year-old Simmons made his second All-Star team, averaging 16.4 points, 8.0 assists and 7.8 rebounds in 57 games. The 76ers went 35-22 with Simmons in the lineup, and 6-5 in games he did not play. 

"Ben is an incredible player, an incredible athlete," Sixers point guard Shake Milton said. "A superhuman. So hopefully he's able to heal superfast and get back out on the court, because we need him."

Philadelphia have already clinched a playoff berth and entered Thursday's play a game back of the Indiana Pacers for the Eastern Conference's fifth seed. 

LeBron James says the basketball community "couldn't care less" if president Donald Trump refuses to watch the NBA because players take a knee during the national anthem.

Trump on Wednesday told Fox News he thinks it is "disgraceful" that players do not stand for the Star-Spangled Banner before matches.

Players have repeatedly stated they take a knee to protest against police brutality and social injustice and have no intention of causing insult to the flag, military or nation.

Yet Trump said: "I think it's disgraceful. We work with [the NBA]. We work very hard trying to get them open. I was pushing them to get open. And then I see everyone kneeling during the anthem. It's not acceptable to me.

"When I see them kneeling, I just turn off the game. I have no interest in the game. When I see people kneeling during the playing and disrespecting our flag and disrespecting our national anthem, what I do, personally, is turn off the game."

Trump also said he has done more for the black community than any other president, with the possible exception of Abraham Lincoln.

That comment brought a smile from James, who replied when asked about that particular statement: "Trying to make me laugh right now? I appreciate it."

Los Angeles Lakers star James said it will be no loss to the basketball world if Trump is not watching and hopes Americans do their talking in the November elections.

"I really don't think the basketball community are sad about losing his viewership," he added after the Lakers were beaten 105-86 by the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday.

"That's all I really want to say because I already know where this could go and where it could lead to for me. I'm not going to get into it, but I think our game is in a beautiful position.

"We have fans all over the world and our fans not only love the way we play the game. We try to give it back to them with our commitment to the game, but also respect what else we bring to the game with knowledge of what's right and what's wrong.

"I hope everyone – no matter their race, colour, size – would see what leadership we have at the top of our country and understand that November is right around the corner and it's a big moment for us as Americans.

"We talk about 'we want better, we want change', and we will have an opportunity to do that.

"But the game will go on with his eyes on [or] without his eyes on it. I can speak for everyone who loves the game of basketball: we couldn't care less."

Gregg Popovich likened Nikola Jokic to a "reincarnation of Larry Bird" after he played a huge part in the Denver Nuggets' 132-126 win over the San Antonio Spurs.

Michael Porter Jr became the first Nuggets rookie to score 30 points or more and at least 10 rebounds in back-to-back games as his side move to 45-23 on Wednesday, hot on the heels of the second-placed LA Clippers in the West.

Porter poured in 30 points and provided 15 assists, but it was the performance of giant center Jokic that stood out for Spurs coach Popovich.

The Serbian landed 25 points, laid on 11 assists and grabbed four rebounds – three on offensive glass – and Popovich drew comparisons with Boston Celtics legend Bird.

He said: "Porter is a fine young talent. And Jokic, he's like a reincarnation of Larry Bird. He does everything. He's amazing. They were great."

Popovich said there was little his younger Spurs players could have done to stop Jokic from being so influential.

He added: "They've never seen anything like that,.

"He's stepping out and making threes. He's rebounding the ball, there should be an NBA rule, you can't tap it to yourself. He's Moses Malone.

"He's down there and he jumps about a quarter of an inch, then he taps it two or three times and then he gets it and he lays it back in.

"It's not just luck. He does it all the time. He is great on the board, he's obviously maybe the best big man passer in the league. If not, then close to it. He's a pretty special player."

The Philadelphia 76ers are waiting to discover the extent of a knee injury Ben Simmons suffered in a 107-98 NBA victory over the Washington Wizards on Wednesday.

Simmons left the court in the third quarter, having appeared to tweak his knee after taking a rebound.

The two-time All-Star limped to the locker room and was unable to return.

Philadelphia coach Brett Brown was unsure over how much damage the Australian point guard has done after the game.

"We don't know," Brown said. "I'm sure the club will make some announcement.

"But as far as knowing more than that, I don't. Obviously I'm very curious."

The 76ers are back in action against the Orlando Magic on Friday.

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