The Philadelphia 76ers' trip to the Los Angeles Lakers is not quite the blockbuster clash it might have been, but Thursday's game should prove no less intriguing.

Rather than seeing MVP candidates Joel Embiid and LeBron James battle it out at Staples Center, the Sixers and the Lakers will attempt to show how they can cope without their leading men.

Embiid has been on the sidelines since March 12, over which time Philly have gone 5-1, but they crucially have the benefit of Ben Simmons, their second All-Star now fit and firing.

LA do not have the same luxury, as Anthony Davis is also out, with the team beaten by the Atlanta Hawks as James went down and again in his absence in Tuesday's game with the New Orleans Pelicans.

This could still be an NBA Finals preview, though, and the matchup will undoubtedly draw plenty of interested eyes...
 

TOP PERFORMERS

Los Angeles Lakers - Dennis Schroder

Schroder was a Sixth Man of the Year contender last year - missing out to now team-mate Montrezl Harrell - but now finds himself as the most important player in the champions' team with both James and Davis out.

The point guard has started all but four of LA's games this season, his absence coinciding with a four-game losing streak.

Defeat on Thursday would mean another stretch of four straight defeats and it will be up to Schroder to ensure that does not happen.

Coach Frank Vogel talked up Schroder's importance after the Hawks game and his 15 points against the Pelicans maintained his seasonal average at the same mark, third-most for the Lakers behind their big two.

Philadelphia 76ers - Ben Simmons

As the only remaining All-Star in this clash between two of the league's top teams, Simmons will be expected to make the difference.

The former first overall pick has previously been tasked with guarding James but should be freed in the absence of superstar opponents, perhaps able to focus his efforts instead on scoring and creating shots for others.

In a strange quirk, Simmons' four best scoring games this season have come in defeats. Fifth on that list, however, is the win against the Golden State Warriors last time out when he put up 22.

One of his four triple-doubles this season came in the previous game against the Lakers.
 

KEY BATTLE - CAN LAKERS HALT HARRIS?

That sole other matchup between the teams this season was settled by Tobias Harris' 15-footer with three seconds remaining as he switched onto the more diminutive Alex Caruso.

Harris' 10-for-16 shooting in that game was vital and the Lakers, without their best defender in Davis, must more effectively guard the forward.

While Simmons is the star name in this encounter, Harris is second only to Embiid on the Sixers with a career-high 20.8 points per game this year.

The Lakers will at least know to pay attention to Harris in 'clutch' moments, his two points in February among 71 this season that have him 18th in the league in such situations.
 

HEAD TO HEAD

The Lakers have the slight edge in the teams' all-time regular season record with 146 wins to the Sixers' 138 going back to their respective beginnings in Minneapolis and Syracuse.

Philly's dramatic 107-106 success earlier this year was their fifth meeting with LA since James moved to the Western Conference outfit, in which time the Sixers are 4-1 - albeit the four-time MVP missed the first defeat.

Embiid has only faced the Lakers six times, with a 4-2 record. LA are 4-3 in the seven Philly's main man has missed in his time in the league.

Joel Embiid's injury last week appeared to clear a path for LeBron James to collect his fifth NBA MVP award.

Philadelphia 76ers big man Embiid - averaging 29.9 points and 11.5 rebounds, as well as 1.4 blocks and 1.2 steals - had already missed seven games this season before he went down with a knee injury against the Washington Wizards.

But Los Angeles Lakers superstar James did not see his clear run at the league's top individual honour last long.

James, who has 25.9 points, 7.9 assists and 7.9 rebounds per game, has carried the Lakers in Anthony Davis' absence but faces his own spell on the sidelines after an ankle sprain on Saturday.

That setback, in a defeat to the Atlanta Hawks, means this year's two leading MVP contenders face an uphill task to remain in contention as they sit out a key stretch of the regular season.

Nikola Jokic, the Denver Nuggets center, appears the man most likely to profit and has quickly been installed as the bookmakers' favourite.

But with several twists already in the race to succeed back-to-back winner Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jokic's standing is not yet safe.

With the help of Stats Perform data, we run through four potential winners ahead of Sunday's action - including Denver's 'Joker'.
 

NIKOLA JOKIC

The case against Jokic earlier in the season was his displays had not been able to lift the Nuggets into serious contention in the West. With 13 wins in their past 18 games to improve to 25-16, that is no longer the case.

While team-mate Jamal Murray has not been able to consistently perform at the standard he set in the 2019-20 playoffs - averaging 26.5 points in the 'bubble' but 21.1 this season - Jokic has taken his game to another level.

The Serbian's stat line for the year - 27.0 points, 8.6 assists, 11.2 rebounds and 1.6 steals - has never previously been achieved in league history, nor has any player in the past attempted at least 30 field goals across a season while shooting 56.6 per cent from the field, 41.6 per cent from three and 86.6 per cent of free throws.

This is an unprecedented campaign.

DAMIAN LILLARD

Tied with Denver at 25-16 in the West are the Portland Trail Blazers. Considering CJ McCollum has only played 16 games and Jusuf Nurkic 12, that is a quite remarkable achievement, led, of course, by Lillard.

Understandably, Lillard's usage rate is at a career-high 33 per cent, but he is making the most of those extra touches. Only Bradley Beal (32.5) has outperformed his 30.6 points per game - another career benchmark - and the Blazers star leads the league with 1,225 total points. Of those, 136 have come in 'clutch' situations, again putting Lillard at the top of the standings.

Taking a break from Portland's playoff push, Lillard even preserved enough energy to score 32 points in the All-Star Game, just ahead of Team LeBron team-mate and rival Stephen Curry (28). An MVP triumph would certainly see Portland's finest emerge from the shadow of the Golden State Warriors great.

GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO

Antetokounmpo beat James Harden to this award in 2018-19 and then LA's James last season, so a case of voter fatigue was always set to make him an unlikely winner for a third straight year, regardless of performances.

But with Embiid and James both hit by injuries, the 'Greek Freak' surely has to come into consideration. Once again, his numbers are seriously impressive.

The only man to outscore Lillard at the All-Star Game, putting up 35, Antetokounmpo is slightly down on last year's points (29.0 versus 29.5) and rebounds per game (11.7 versus 13.6) but has improved in all of the other key metrics with 6.4 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.3 blocks.

The Milwaukee Bucks forward should be in the picture to retain both his MVP and Defensive Player of the Year titles.

JAMES HARDEN

Surely voters will not reward Harden in the year he forced his way out of the Houston Rockets? On performances alone, though, he deserves to be in the conversation.

The 2017-18 winner is not contributing the same number of points for the Brooklyn Nets as he was in Houston, but then his usage is down to 28.7 per cent for the year (28.1 in Brooklyn), by far the lowest it has been since the statistic was first tracked in 2014-15.

And Harden, still scoring an impressive 25.4 points since joining the Nets, is more than making up for this slight decline elsewhere.

So far the most prominent member of the team's 'big three', with Kevin Durant too often injured and Kyrie Irving absent for a spell, Harden leads the league in 2020-21 for assists (11.2) and is second for triple-doubles (11), making him an unpopular but worthy candidate.

Tobias Harris was inspired to prove the Philadelphia 76ers can compete without Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons after leading his team to a 129-105 victory over the Sacramento Kings.

Embiid missed a fourth straight game with a bruised left knee, while Simmons was a late omission after experiencing knee soreness on Saturday morning.

With fellow starter Seth Curry (ankle) also missing, the 76ers were heavily depleted but managed to chalk up the win with Harris in supreme form – falling just shy of a triple double with 29 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists.

Shake Milton tallied 28 points and Danny Green chipped in with 18 as the 76ers rallied in the absence of their key men.

For Harris, it was about making a point about the strength in depth of the roster.

"Are we willing to fall into the distraction of, 'hey, we don't have two of our top dogs?', or are we willing to embrace it?" Harris said.

"I take that stuff personal when people believe we can't win without those guys, because I know how much talent we have as a group and I know how well we play together as a team as a whole.

"We have a culture and a system here that works. When we trust it and do what is asked of us, we're a hell of a team."

Philadelphia's stats sheet was impressive. In the first quarter alone, they went 16-of-26 shooting and made six of their eight three-pointers to race into a 42-21 lead.

Late in the third they led by as much as 26 points and by the end of the game were 48 of 86 on shooting, making 11 of 23 from downtown.

Coach Doc Rivers said of Harris: "He really set the tone tonight with his attitude and then obviously his play. His total play was phenomenal.

"With all those guys out, what we did was execute well."

The 76ers are top of the Eastern Conference and now have a 29-13 record. They have a short road trip on Sunday to face the New York Knicks, seventh in the division, at Madison Square Garden.

The Philadelphia 76ers cruised in their first game without injured superstar Joel Embiid as Tobias Harris highlighted the team's collective effort.

NBA MVP candidate Embiid will spend at least two weeks on the sidelines due to a left knee bone bruise.

The 76ers were sweating on Embiid's fitness after he appeared to hyperextend his knee in a scary fall following a dunk in the third quarter of Friday's 127-101 rout of the Washington Wizards.

But Embiid escaped major damage and the Eastern Conference-leading 76ers crushed the San Antonio Spurs 134-99 in his absence on Sunday.

"We need everybody," Harris – who led the 76ers with 23 points, nine rebounds, seven assists and two steals – said post-game. "Everybody has to stay ready and be ready to step up night after night.

"With Joel being out for some time, it's on us to find different things and make our chemistry even stronger until he comes back.

"We know how important he is and the impact he brings to the game night in, night out with the level he has been playing at. We want to be able to maintain that type of intensity.

"It's a culture and attitude we've been building day after day, a winning-type attitude; next guy up mentality. It's been huge for us all year long, especially tonight and the games without guys."

Goodnight, Sixers Twitter. pic.twitter.com/hWgKZKm6UX

— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) March 15, 2021

Embiid, who posted 23 points before exiting against Washington, is averaging a career-high 29.9 points per game – second only to Wizards star Bradley Beal (32.1) in the NBA.

Philadelphia's Embiid is fourth in the league points, assists and rebounds per game (44.6), behind Denver Nuggets star Nikola Jokic (46.8), reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo (46.7) of the Milwaukee Bucks and Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (45.8).

The 26-year-old Embiid has also been averaging career highs in field-goal percentage (52.5) and three-point percentage (42.2).

"I was happy with the news," said 76ers head coach Doc Rivers. "It looked bad, but, obviously, we never know and that's what I was saying that night. We had to wait and see and it turned out in our favour, in a lot of ways."

Rivers added: "He's great. I don't think anybody's in great spirits, but he was happy that it wasn't as bad as a lot of people thought it was probably, including himself in that so he was in a pretty good place.

"Now that he knows all it takes is rehab, he has a game plan, we have a game plan, and we're moving forward with it."

The Los Angeles Lakers returned to winning ways in their first game since the All-Star break, LeBron James helping the NBA champions to a 105-100 victory over the Indiana Pacers.

The Lakers had dropped back-to-back games prior to Sunday's All-Star Game in Atlanta, but they snapped their skid at home to the Pacers on Friday.

James – who sat out the loss to the Sacramento Kings before the break – posted 18 points and 10 assists for his 16th double-double of the season.

But it was Kyle Kuzma who top-scored for the Lakers off the bench, putting up 24 points – including 15 in the final quarter – 13 rebounds and two steals.

Eastern Conference leaders the Philadelphia 76ers extended their winning streak to four games after topping the lowly Washington Wizards 127-101.

However, Philadelphia's triumph was overshadowed by a knee injury to MVP candidate and All-Star Joel Embiid.

Embiid will have an MRI after appearing to hyperextend his knee in a scary fall in the third quarter – the 76ers big man hobbled to the locker room in pain.

He had 23 points, seven rebounds, three assists and two blocks prior to the injury in Washington.

 

Westbrook reaches milestone

While Russell Westbrook saw his league-leading streak of 13 double-doubles come to an end, the Wizards star surpassed 21,000 career points. With 25 points, eight assists and five rebounds, Westbrook joined James and Oscar Robertson as the only players with at least 21,000 points, 6,000 rebounds and 7,000 assists in their careers.

The 76ers snapped a 10-game losing streak away to the Wizards. Philadelphia also swept the Wizards for the first time since 2008-09.

Goran Dragic scored 20 of his 25 points in the final period as the Miami Heat defeated the Chicago Bulls 101-90. Jimmy Butler led the Heat with 28 points against his former team.

The Denver Nuggets edged the Memphis Grizzlies 103-102 behind Nikola Jokic's double-double of 28 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists.

 

Cavs crumble, Rockets lose again

It was a forgettable outing for the Cleveland Cavaliers, who were humbled 116-82 by the New Orleans Pelicans. Cleveland scored just nine points in the third quarter. The Cavaliers shot 34.1 per cent from the field. Kevin Love – in his first game back since December – was one-of-four shooting, while he made only one of three attempts from beyond the arc for four points in 10 minutes. Isaac Okoro was one of eight from the field, while he missed both three-pointers for two points in 29 minutes.

The Orlando Magic were also swept aside 104-77 at the hands of the San Antonio Spurs. Michael Carter-Williams finished with five points on two-of-nine shooting, making just one of his three shots from beyond the arc.

The Houston Rockets were no match for the NBA-leading Utah Jazz – 114-99 – in the absence of Victor Oladipo, Christian Wood and Danuel House Jr. Ben McLemore was three-of-14 from the field for eight points. The Rockets guard was also two-of-six from three-point range. It was Houston's 15th straight loss.

 

Rudy says no!

After featuring in the All-Star Game, Utah's Rudy Gobert was back to business with a double-double (14 points and 13 rebounds). He put up six blocks, including an emphatic effort in the third period.

 

Friday's results

Philadelphia 76ers 127-101 Washington Wizards
Denver Nuggets 103-102 Memphis Grizzlies
New Orleans Pelicans 116-82 Cleveland Cavaliers
Miami Heat 101-90 Chicago Bulls
San Antonio Spurs 104-77 Orlando Magic
Los Angeles Lakers 105-100 Indiana Pacers
Utah Jazz 114-99 Houston Rockets

 

Pistons at Nets

The lowly Detroit Pistons (10-27) – bottom of the Eastern Conference – will visit the in-form Brooklyn Nets (25-13) on Saturday. Brooklyn have won three straight, while Detroit have dropped back-to-back games.

 

Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doc Rivers said he is "hoping for the best" after NBA MVP candidate Joel Embiid suffered a left knee injury against the Washington Wizards.

Embiid – enjoying an MVP-calibre season – will undergo an MRI after appearing to hyperextend his knee in a scary fall following a dunk in the third quarter of Friday's 127-101 win over the lowly Wizards.

Back in the line-up after sitting out Sunday's All-Star Game and Thursday's victory against the Chicago Bulls due to coronavirus contact tracing, Embiid posted 23 points on eight-of-11 shooting to go with seven rebounds, three assists and two blocks prior to exiting in pain.

Embiid stayed down for a couple of minutes before eventually hobbling back to the locker room at Capital One Arena in Washington.

As the Eastern Conference-leading 76ers sweat on Embiid's fitness, given his importance to their championship aspirations, Rivers told reporters: "I thought there was a little contact when he went up to dunk the ball.

"Thought he fell with his balance off. I'm not going to speculate, tomorrow [Saturday] we'll know, we'll have all the information for you. Hoping for the best.

"I did talk to him, he was in the locker room. He's in pretty good spirits so let's just hope for the best."

Heading into the Washington matchup, Embiid was averaging a career-high 30.2 points per game – second only to Wizards star Bradley Beal (32.5) in the NBA.

Embiid is fourth in the league points, assists and rebounds per game (45.0), behind Denver Nuggets star Nikola Jokic (46.8), reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo (46.0) of the Milwaukee Bucks and Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (46.0).

Prior to Friday's trip to Washington, the 26-year-old Embiid has also been averaging career highs in field-goal percentage (52.1) and three-point percentage (41.6).

"We don't do anything right now because we don't have any information, so we're just gonna wait," Rivers said. "I thought our guys took care of the game which is great, and then tomorrow we'll get some more information and then we'll go from there.

"Listen, it's a long season, so at the end of the day, hopefully, it's not something where we lose him, obviously. But our guys will be good, we'll be ready."

The 76ers (26-12) have won four consecutive games to top the east ahead of the star-studded Brooklyn Nets (25-13).

Philadelphia 76ers stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons have both been ruled out of Thursday's game against the Chicago Bulls due to coronavirus contact tracing.

Embiid and Simmons did not play in Sunday's NBA All-Star Game in Atlanta, the duo late withdrawals after coming into contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.

The pair will now miss the first game back following the All-Star break, though Simmons will also sit out Friday's clash with the Washington Wizards.

MVP candidate Embiid is eligible to return for Eastern Conference leaders the 76ers against the Wizards, while Simmons will be able to make his way back to the court at home to the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday.

Embiid has been averaging 30.2 points, 11.6 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game for the 76ers this season.

76ers team-mate Simmons, meanwhile, is averaging 16.1 points, 7.9 rebounds and 7.6 assists.

The 76ers (24-12) are half a game clear of the star-studded Brooklyn Nets (24-13) atop the east.

Philadelphia 76ers stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons will not play in Sunday's NBA All-Star Game after coming into contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus.

The NBA confirmed the duo had been exposed to the individual in Philadelphia prior to travelling to the event in Atlanta.

It will keep the Sixers pair out of the annual game, although it will have no impact on the rest of the players, a statement said.

ESPN reported Zion Williamson would take Embiid's place in the starting five for Team Durant. Simmons had been set to appear from the bench for Team LeBron.

The Sixers are 24-12 this season at the top of the East, led by Embiid, who is in the running for the MVP award.

The fifth-year center is averaging 30.2 points and 11.6 rebounds in 2020-21.

LeBron James selected two-time reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo with his number one pick for the NBA All-Star Game, while Kevin Durant drafted Brooklyn Nets team-mate Kyrie Irving.

On Thursday, team captains James and Durant filled out their rosters for Sunday's All-Star contest in Atlanta.

Los Angeles Lakers superstar James and Milwaukee Bucks forward Antetokounmpo often go head-to-head in the All-Star Games as respective captains, but that is not the case this year.

Antetokounmpo will team up with James, who also selected Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry, Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic and the Denver Nuggets' MVP candidate Nikola Jokic as starters.

Team LeBron's reserves are Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers), Ben Simmons (Philadelphia 76ers), Chris Paul (Phoenix Suns), Jaylen Brown (Boston Celtics), Paul George (Los Angeles Clippers), Domantas Sabonis (Indiana Pacers) and Rudy Gobert (Utah Jazz).

Durant – sidelined as he nurses a hamstring injury – turned to Brooklyn star Irving with the second overall pick in the All-Star draft.

MVP candidate and 76ers star Joel Embiid, Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard, Washington Wizards sharpshooter Bradley Beal and Jayson Tatum of the Celtics are the other starters for Team Durant.

The reserves drafted by Durant are James Harden (Nets), Devin Booker (Suns), Zion Williamson (New Orleans Pelicans), Zach LaVine (Chicago Bulls), Julius Randle (New York Knicks), Nikola Vucevic (Orlando Magic) and Donovan Mitchell (Jazz).

Team LeBron have won the past three All-Star Games after topping Team Giannis 157-155 in Chicago last year.

Joel Embiid took on his critics after a stunning display helped the Philadelphia 76ers edge the NBA-leading Utah Jazz after overtime.

Embiid hit a game-tying three-pointer with 5.3 seconds remaining to force OT and finished the game with 40 points and 19 rebounds as the 76ers earned a 131-123 win.

He dominated against Rudy Gobert, in a duel between two players likely to be fighting for end-of-season honours, and was quick to aim a jibe at a local reporter.

Keith Pompey, of the Philadelphia Inquirer, recently noted how Embiid had missed a number of head-to-heads with top-class centers.

Embiid showed he was fearless up against Gobert, a fellow Defensive Player of the Year contender.

"First of all, according to Keith Pompey I'm scared of [Gobert] and I'm afraid of top centers," Embiid said in a post-game news conference.

"Man, as we saw tonight it looks like I was very, very scared of them, so yeah, keep talking.

"But going up against them, one of my goals is to also be Defensive Player of the Year."

Embiid is now averaging 11.6 rebounds and 30.2 points per game this season, while the Eastern Conference-leading Sixers improved to 24-12 for the season.

Gobert had nine rebounds and 12 points.

"When you go against those type of guys, he's a great player, he does a lot of things that don't show up on his stat-sheet," Embiid said.

"When you go against those guys, he brings something else to the rest of my game. I want to dominate, on the offensive line but mainly on the defensive line because that's the goal I set for myself at the beginning of the year.

"Those are the matchups that you want to go out there and just dominate, and prove to everyone that we have a great team and individually that you should be up there when it comes to those rankings, so hopefully that came through."

Joel Embiid enhanced his MVP credentials with a monster double-double as the Philadelphia 76ers trumped the NBA-leading Utah Jazz in a thrilling battle, 131-123 after overtime.

Embiid hit a game-tying three-pointer with 5.3 seconds remaining to force OT – Eastern Conference leaders the 76ers outscoring the Jazz 13-5 in the additional period to reign supreme in Philadelphia on Wednesday.

MVP candidate Embiid finished with 40 points and 19 rebounds to fuel the 76ers to back-to-back wins heading into the break, with the All-Star Game scheduled for Sunday.

Sixers team-mate Tobias Harris scored 11 of his 22 points in overtime as the 76ers improved to 24-12.

Jazz star Donovan Mitchell, who was ejected with 30.8 seconds remaining in OT, recorded 33 points in the road loss – Utah (27-9) suffering back-to-back losses.

James Harden showed no mercy in his first game against the Houston Rockets since January's blockbuster trade to the Brooklyn Nets.

Former MVP Harden had 29 points, 14 assists and 10 rebounds for his eighth triple-double since joining the Nets, who downed the injury-hit Rockets 132-114.

 

McConnell makes history

T.J. McConnell put up 16 points on eight of eight shooting, 13 assists and 10 steals off the bench in the Indiana Pacers' 114-111 win at the Cleveland Cavaliers. McConnell became the first player in NBA history to record 10-plus steals and make 100 per cent of his field-goal attempts in a game, per Stats Perform. He also became only the 10th player with a 10-plus steal triple-double since steals began being tracked in 1973-74.

Trae Young ended the game with 32 points as the Atlanta Hawks edged the Orlando Magic 115-112.

The Chicago Bulls trumped the New Orleans Pelicans 128-124 behind Zach LaVine's 36 points.

Triple-doubles from Mason Plumlee (14 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists) and Dennis Smith Jr. (10 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists) inspired the Detroit Pistons to a 129-105 win over the Toronto Raptors. Norman Powell had a game-high 36 points for the Raptors.

 

Lakers' poor form continues

Playing without LeBron James for the first time this season and with Anthony Davis already sidelined, defending champions the Los Angeles Lakers went down 123-120 to the Sacramento Kings. The Lakers have lost six of their last eight games, falling into a tie for third place in the Western Conference heading into the All-Star weekend.

The Rockets have lost 13 games in a row – the franchise's longest skid since dropping 15 straight in 2001.

 

Lillard sinks Warriors

Damian Lillard (22 points) scored the final eight points for the Portland Trail Blazers, including the game-winning three with 13.7 seconds remaining, in a 108-106 win against the Golden State Warriors. Stephen Curry's 35 points were not enough for the Warriors.

 

Wednesday's results

Indiana Pacers 114-111 Cleveland Cavaliers
Philadelphia 76ers 131-123 Utah Jazz (OT)
Detroit Pistons 129-105 Toronto Raptors
Brooklyn Nets 132-114 Houston Rockets
Atlanta Hawks 115-112 Orlando Magic
Charlotte Hornets 135-102 Minnesota Timberwolves
Chicago Bulls 128-124 New Orleans Pelicans
Dallas Mavericks 87-78 Oklahoma City Thunder
Portland Trail Blazers 108-106 Golden State Warriors
Sacramento Kings 123-120 Los Angeles Lakers

 

Clippers at Wizards

The Los Angeles Clippers (24-13) will look to snap a run of back-to-back defeats before the All-Star break when they visit the lowly Washington Wizards (13-20) on Thursday.

Joel Embiid felt he "dominated" Myles Turner once more as he boosted his Defensive Player of the Year hopes in the Philadelphia 76ers' win against the Indiana Pacers.

Embiid posted 24 points, five assists and 13 rebounds – all on the defensive end – as the Sixers raced to a 130-114 victory, improving to 23-12 at the top of the East.

It was a fourth defeat in a row for the Pacers and a punishing night for center Turner, who had promised to "step up to the challenge" of taking on MVP contender Embiid.

Turner is now 4-7 against Embiid in their career regular-season matchups, only once surpassing 11 points – his contribution on Monday – across those 11 games (25 points in March 2018).

By contrast, Embiid has averaged 28 points against the Pacers and enjoyed two of his 12 career 40-point games in meetings with Turner.

"He's a great player and I have a lot of respect for him," Embiid said of Turner, who joined the NBA the year before him.

"I say this respectfully: that's a matchup that I have dominated since I got to the league."

While Embiid looks to be going toe-to-toe with LeBron James for the MVP award, he says a DPOY challenge is also on the cards.

Rudy Gobert is widely considered the leading candidate for the outstanding Utah Jazz, topping the charts for defensive rebounds with 9.9 per game, Turner has been mooted as an alternative.

He has a sublime 3.4 blocks per game – well clear of second-placed Gobert's 2.8 – but could not live with Embiid, who averages 9.2 defensive rebounds, 1.3 blocks and 1.2 steals.

"[Turner] is a great defender," Embiid said. "He leads the league in blocks, he should be up there for Defensive Player of the Year, and that's also one of my goals.

"In those types of matchups, that's where you've got to take advantage. Especially if I have my eyes set on being the Defensive Player of the Year."

The Brooklyn Nets' eight-game winning streak ground to a halt at the hands of Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks, who triumphed 115-98 in the NBA.

Nets star Kyrie Irving (right shoulder recovery) joined former MVP Kevin Durant (hamstring) on the sidelines for Saturday's clash.

Their absence proved too much for James Harden to carry, with the MVP candidate finishing the game on the bench in his casuals as the Mavericks won comfortably.

Harden scored 29 points, with seven rebounds and six assists for Brooklyn, who were jumped by the Mavs in a 38-26 opening quarter.

Despite the Nets closing to within four points at half-time, the Mavericks were never headed, led by Doncic – the All-Star posting 27 points, six rebounds and seven assists.

Doncic won special praise from Harden post-game, who said: "He never lets anyone speed him up, and he gets what he wants. We all know he has a very, very bright future. The Mavs got a special one."

The result leaves the Nets 22-13 in the Eastern Conference, while the Mavericks remain in playoffs contention with a 16-16 record in the west.

 

Sixers suffer rare home defeat, no stopping Jazz

Joel Embiid erupted for 42 points and 13 rebounds, but the Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia 76ers were upstaged by the Cleveland Cavaliers 112-109 in overtime. It was just Philadelphia's third home defeat of the season in 17 games.

NBA leaders the Utah Jazz returned to winning ways with a 124-109 victory against the Orlando Magic. Donovan Mitchell fuelled the Jazz (27-7) with 31 points, including 25 in the second half, while Rudy Gobert contributed a double-double of 12 points and 16 rebounds. Nikola Vucevic had a game-high 34 points for the Magic in Orlando.

It was a memorable outing for Bradley Beal and head coach Scott Brooks in the Washington Wizards' 128-112 success at home to the lowly Minnesota Timberwolves. Beal put up 34 points – his 20th performance of 30-plus points in 29 games played this season. Per NBA history, only Allen Iverson, Carmelo Anthony and Harden have managed that many 30-plus performances in the first 30 games of a season. Scott, meanwhile, celebrated his 500th win as a head coach. Wizards star Russell Westbrook (19 points, 14 rebounds and 12 assists) finished with a triple-double.

Nikola Jokic (19 points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists) had his eighth triple-double of the season as the Denver Nuggets crushed the Oklahoma City Thunder 126-96.

 

Curry crumbles

It was a forgettable game for Philadelphia's Seth Curry, who finished with four points in 39 minutes. Curry was just one-of-13 from the field, making one of seven from beyond the arc.

 

Ben… from beyond the arc

It is not often Ben Simmons attempts a three-pointer, let alone make one. But the 76ers All-Star hit his fourth career three on Saturday. Simmons finished with 24 points on 11-of-17 shooting from the field, while he was 100 per cent from three-point range.

 

Saturday's results

The races for the top seeds in each conference in the NBA are getting more interesting.

It was a fascinating seven days of action in the NBA, which saw the Brooklyn Nets surge even with Kevin Durant on the sidelines.

They are on a six-game win streak and trail the Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia 76ers by only half a game.

However, the Sixers can be encouraged by the form of their top two stars, who each enjoyed extremely productive weeks.

The Los Angeles Lakers are on a two-game losing streak and are two and a half games back of the Utah Jazz in the race for the top seed in the Western Conference.

They will be out to get back to their best this week, and an improvement in three-point shooting from the MVP frontrunner would be beneficial to them doing that.

Here we take a look at some of the best and worst performers across the past week, aided by Stats Perform data.

RUNNING HOT...

Ben Simmons

Simmons missed two games last week due to stomach flu but he was excellent in the pair of games in which he did feature for the Sixers.

He dropped 42 points in the loss to the Utah Jazz and, after a brief spell on the sidelines, was back with 28 in the defeat to the Toronto Raptors.

His points per game average for the week ballooned to 35, Simmons having entered the week putting up 14.13. Philadelphia will need more of the same the rest of the way if the Sixers are to clinch top spot in the East.

Jamal Murray

The Nuggets are in the thick of a crowded playoff race in the Western Conference, and their hopes of reaching the postseason will be boosted if Murray can maintain his form of the past week.

Having come into the week scoring 18.54 points per game, he averaged 35 last week, with that number inflated by a stunning 50-point game against the Cleveland Cavaliers, which saw him shoot 84 per cent from the field and go eight of 10 from three-point range.

He went from putting up just over two triples per game to averaging five and, with a game against a Portland Trail Blazers team two and a half games ahead of them in the standings next up, Murray's success from deep will be pivotal.

Joel Embiid

Arguably the closest challenger to LeBron James for the league MVP award this season, Embiid was a monster on the boards for the Sixers this week.

His 50-point game in the win over the Chicago Bulls on Friday was also the first of two successive outings with 17 rebounds. 

Embiid's rebounds per game average jumped from 10.77 entering the week to 15 over the past seven days.

He will need to continue making that kind of all-round impact in scoring and rebounding if Embiid is to have any hope of denying LeBron the MVP.

GOING COLD...

Derrick Rose

Rose's second week as a New York Knick did not go to plan.

The 2011 MVP had come into the week registering 14.28 points per game, but that dropped to just 5.33 over the course of the last three games.

He endured a dismal week from the field, hitting just five of his 27 shots. Having gotten him out of a bad situation in Detroit, the Knicks will want a lot more from Rose in the coming weeks as they look to cement their grasp on a playoff spot.

Nikola Jokic

While Murray has been outstanding for the Nuggets, their MVP candidate had a down week in one key area of his game.

Denver lost three of their four games last week, and the Nuggets will look for improved play on the boards from Jokic as they target a reversal in fortunes. 

Jokic had been recording 11.5 rebounds per game but that dipped to 8.75 over his past four outings, failing to put up double-digit rebounds in back-to-back games against the Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards.

He was back in double figures in each of Denver's last two games, and Jokic will aim to carry that momentum into this week and a key matchup with Portland.

LeBron James

This season has seen LeBron hit threes at his highest rate since joining the Los Angeles Lakers.

He has converted on 36.2 per cent of his attempts from beyond the arc but he suffered a decline from deep last week.

Having entered the week hitting 2.57 threes a game, he averaged just one over the course of the Lakers' last three matchups.

James has not made more than one three in a game since the second meeting in a back-to-back with the Oklahoma City Thunder on February 10.

With LeBron, though, drop-offs are only ever temporary. The MVP frontrunner should resume normal service from three-point range sooner rather than later.

Joel Embiid credited his team-mates after his incredible performance in the Philadelphia 76ers' win over the Chicago Bulls.

Embiid posted a career-high 50 points, to go with 17 rebounds and five assists, in the 76ers' 112-105 victory in the NBA on Friday.

But the All-Star paid tribute to his team-mates after the 76ers improved to 20-10.

"We did it as a team. It wasn't a one-man effort, we all worked together," Embiid told ESPN.

"My team-mates found me, I found them, we shared the ball, we moved the ball and we actually played better defense than we've been playing the past couple of games which makes me happy. It starts on defense and I'm pretty happy about what we did on that end."

Embiid added: "That's my job, that's why they pay me, defensively just being the best defensive player of the year because you know my aspirations are to win that defensive player of the year.

"Offensively doing whatever I'm needed to, if I need to get them open that's what I'm going to do, if I need to score that's what I'm going to do, if I need to set screens that's what's I'm going to do, so we did it as a team."

After back-to-back wins, the 76ers are top of the Eastern Conference.

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