The Phoenix Suns moved 3-0 up in their Conference semi-final series with a 116-102 victory over the Denver Nuggets despite MVP Nikola Jokic's triple-double on Friday.

Veteran Suns guard Chris Paul was exceptional with 27 points, eight assists, six rebounds and three steals to spark Monty Williams' side.

Young shooting guard Devin Booker scored a team-high 28 points, while center Deandre Ayton had 15 rebounds along with his 10 points.

Jae Crowder shot four-from-six beyond the arc, adding 14 points for the Suns, who opened up a 10-point lead at quarter-time and were never headed.

Denver center Jokic finished with 32 points, 20 rebounds and 10 assists, while Monte Morris came off the bench to add 21 points. But they lacked support with Jamal Murray out with long-term injury.

Michael Porter Jr was below his best with 15 points for the game, shooting at 38.3 per cent from the field.

The Suns are one win away from securing their spot in the Western Conference finals where they will face either the Utah Jazz or the Los Angeles Clippers.

Joel Embiid starred as the Philadelphia 76ers claimed a 2-1 lead in their Conference semi-final series with a road win over the Atlanta Hawks 127-111.

Embiid finished with 27 points, nine rebounds and eight assists, helping the Sixers run away with the game in the third quarter when they outscored the Hawks by 15.

Atlanta's Trae Young scored 28 points and had eight assists but was quelled by the Philadelphia defence led by Ben Simmons, with the Hawks guard shooting at 52.9 per cent from the field.

Simmons scored 18 points, with four rebounds, one steal and seven assists - including a spectacular lobbed pass for an Embiid dunk - while Tobias Harris added 22 points shooting at 62.5 per cent from the field, with eight rebounds and five assists.

The 76ers led by five points at half-time but blew away the Hawks with a 34-19 third quarter and controlled the better part of the second half.

Philadelphia 76ers coach Doc Rivers admitted Joel Embiid is playing through pain after leading his side to a 127-111 Game 3 victory over the Atlanta Hawks in their Conference semi-final series.

Embiid scored 27 points, with nine rebounds and eight assists for the 76ers who claimed a 2-1 lead in the series with a crucial road win.

The 2021 NBA MVP runner-up has been battling knee soreness for the latter part of the season and suffered a small lateral meniscus tear in his right knee in Game 4 of the series against the Washington Wizards, missing Game 5.

"He's playing hard. He's giving us everything," Rivers said during his post-game video conference.

"What he's doing is incredible. He is going through a lot, I'll tell you that. It's been great to watch."

Rivers added praise for the 27-year-old Cameroonian, who defensively also had three blocks and a steal, to go with his 27 points in Game 3 against Hawks center Clint Capela.

"He was great. He was patient," Rivers said. "They were going to send two-three guys on him all night.

"I thought overall he kept his patience. We've got to do a little better job on our spacing so he can see guys better but overall I thought our movement, 10 turnovers for the game, told the story."

The Sixers lost starting forward Danny Green after only four minutes to injury and Rivers said the outlook was not positive for the 33-year-old who won NBA titles in 2019 with the Toronto Raptors and 2020 with the Los Angeles Lakers.

"I have no idea [of the extent]. It's a calf injury," Rivers said. "My doctors will tell you calf injuries aren't great."

Rivers also offered praise to Australian guard Ben Simmons for his role in nullifying Hawks guard Trae Young who scored 28 points, shooting at 52.9 per cent from the field.

"It's been big. It's exhausting when you think about what we're asking Ben to do, follow Trae around and push the ball up the floor with pace," Rivers said.

"It's tough, he's young, he has endurance, he's been good for us."

In theory, the Milwaukee Bucks appeared to be the biggest obstacle on the Brooklyn Nets' path to an NBA championship.

To stand a chance of winning a seven-game series against the NBA’s premier trio of team-mates – Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving – you've got to be able to score points, and a whole lot of them.

Despite a recurring run of injuries that often rendered their Big Three to a Big Two – or many times a lonely One – the Nets were a remarkable 27-2 when allowing 112 or fewer points in a game during a regular season which they finished as a de facto 1A to the top-seeded Philadelphia 76ers in the Eastern Conference.

The true magic number when it comes to facing Brooklyn, however, is 120, as the Nets were a pedestrian 8-13 when opponents scored above that mark. So, how many teams averaged 120 points per game this season?

Just one, as a matter of fact. That would be the Bucks.

And what team had the most games this season totalling 120 or more points? Again, the answer is Milwaukee, whose 39 games hitting the mark was six more than the next closest competitor – which, you guessed it, would be the Nets.

Well, after two games of the most anticipated series of this year's conference semifinals, Brooklyn's perceived greatest threat had offered no challenge whatsoever.

After comfortably winning Game 1, even with Harden playing a mere 43 seconds after aggravating a previous hamstring injury, the Nets unequivocally justified their status as the favourites to claim the Larry O'Brien Trophy with a 125-86 Game 2 thrashing that came with Harden cheering on his fellow well-paid team-mates in street clothes.

In hindsight, those results were ones we maybe could have seen coming. Sure, the Bucks effortlessly disposed of the reigning East champion Miami Heat with a first-round sweep, but it came without their offense performing at its usually potent level.

Milwaukee shot just 32.7 per cent from three-point range for the series, well below their 38.9 per cent success rate for the season, and they had at least 15 turnovers in three of the wins. The Bucks advanced mostly on good defense, coupled with an unquestionably abysmal shooting performance from the Heat over the four games.

In the Brooklyn series, the Bucks haven't been able to hit water from a boat, going into Game 3, having shot a paltry 24.6 per cent from beyond the arc over the first two clashes.

The early stages of the series also exposed Milwaukee's greatest weakness during what was otherwise another splendid regular season under Mike Budenholzer – an inability to adequately defend the three. The Bucks permitted opponents to make 38.4 per cent of their trey attempts over the 72-game schedule, with only the lowly Minnesota Timberwolves yielding a higher percentage.

Against a locked-in team like the Nets, that can be – and has been – a recipe for disaster. The first team in league history to make 15 or more three-pointers in six straight games during a single postseason, Brooklyn have connected at an incredible 43 per cent rate from long distance so far in these playoffs, going into Thursday evening's third clash with the Bucks.

If the Nets could even come close to keeping that pace the rest of the way, that likely spells doom for the rest of the NBA. The three-point shot has been a strong indicator of success in this postseason, as teams have won at a 70 per cent clip (35-15) when recording a higher three-point percentage than their opponents and are 25-7 when hitting 15 or more triples in a game.

Moreover, teams that have shot better than 40 per cent from three-point range are 24-5 this postseason, and the five teams that lost each faced an opponent that also eclipsed the 40 per cent mark in that game.

So, assuming the Nets don't do the unthinkable and somehow lose this series, is it a fait accompli they'll represent the East in the Finals?

They did lose two of their three match-ups with the 76ers during the regular season, though it's hard to put much stock in those outcomes considering Brooklyn were without at least two of Durant, Harden and Irving in all of those games.

Philadelphia getting past the upstart Atlanta Hawks cannot be considered an absolute given either, but the Sixers will provide an interesting test provided they do get past their pesky second-round foes.

They have the lowest ratio of three-point attempts to total field-goal attempts of any of the eight remaining teams, not too surprising for an offense centred around MVP runner-up Joel Embiid and the perimeter-averse Ben Simmons. But while the Sixers generally aren't bombing away with the same frequency as those still left standing, it could be argued that outside shooting may be the single biggest factor in determining how far they ultimately go this summer.

Next to Embiid's ever-present fitness concerns, Seth Curry might just be the X-factor when it comes to determining whether the 76ers can end a 20-year Finals absence. When Curry is going well and Embiid is healthy, Philadelphia are awfully difficult to beat. And Steph's little brother is certainly doing just that right now, having averaged 24 points while shooting 61.9 per cent (13 of 19) from three-point range over his last three games.

The 76ers went 20-3 during the regular season when Curry made three or more three-pointers in a game, and they've hit the all-important 120-point mark in five of their seven playoff games thus far. If it comes to fruition, a Philly-Brooklyn match-up in the East Finals would surely be a treat.

As for the West, the Clippers could represent the most imposing roadblock to the Nets' first NBA title in franchise history – on paper, at least. No team shot above the coveted 40 per cent standard from three-point range more times during the regular season than Tyronn Lue's group, whose 42 such games were seven more than the team second on that list (again, the Nets). The Clippers also led the league in three-point percentage at 41.1 per cent.

There's no questioning the Clippers' talent and depth. Trust, however, is another matter. This is largely the same cast that famously blew a 3-1 series lead to the Denver Nuggets in last year’s West semifinals, and they couldn't hold on to a 13-point half-time advantage in losing Tuesday's series opener to a Utah team playing without starting point guard Mike Conley.

History isn't on the Clippers' side either, as they've never advanced past the conference semis in eight previous tries.

And what about the Jazz, for that matter? Utah may not possess the Nets' overall star power and haven't displayed the same level of recent dominance as their potential Finals foes, but they did lead the league in wins this season, are capable of shooting their way out of any deficit and haven't lost a game when Donovan Mitchell has taken the court since April.

That is only a seven-game winning streak since Mitchell missed over a month with a sprained ankle, but has there been a better postseason performer than Utah's All-Star guard over the last two years?

In 12 playoff games over that period, Mitchell has averaged 34.4 points on 50.6 per cent shooting, and a 45-point masterpiece against the Clippers on Tuesday was his fourth outing with at least 44 points during that stretch.

Of course, superlative individual efforts don't always coincide with championship glory. Just ask Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks.

Donovan Mitchell starred and Rudy Gobert produced a game-clinching block as the Utah Jazz drew first blood against the Los Angeles Lakers in their Western Conference semi-final opener.

Mitchell dropped 32 of his 45 points in the second half to guide the top-seeded Jazz to a thrilling 112-109 win at home to the Los Angeles Clippers in Game 1 on Tuesday.

Fellow All-Star Gobert – who finished with 10 points and 12 rebounds – came up big at the death, denying Marcus Morris Sr. and his potential game-winning three-pointer.

Kawhi Leonard (23 points) and Paul George (20 points and 10 rebounds) were unable to lift the fourth-seeded Clippers in Utah.

Earlier in the day, a disappointed Joel Embiid had a point to prove as he fuelled the Philadelphia 76ers' 118-102 win over the Atlanta Hawks in Game 2.

Embiid's MVP hopes were dashed by Denver Nuggets star Nikola Jokic, who was crowned the league's Most Valuable Player on Tuesday.

Already frustrated following a shock loss to the Hawks in the Eastern Conference semi-final opener, Embiid came out and scored 40 points with 13 rebounds to help level the series.

Embiid became the first 76ers player with 40 points and 10 rebounds in a playoff game since Hall of Famer Billy Cunningham in 1970, while his postseason career-high points haul saw him become the first Philadelphia player with 40-plus points in a playoff contest since Hall of Famer Allen Iverson in 2003.

Tobias Harris chipped in with 22 points, six rebounds and four assists for the 76ers at Wells Fargo Center, where he had 16 first-quarter points on eight-for-nine shooting.

It was not all smooth sailing after a fast start as Philadelphia squandered a 21-point advantage – Trae Young's pair of free throws giving Atlanta their first lead in the third quarter, 80-79.

But Shake Milton – who did not play in the first half – stepped up to the plate, scoring 14 points to help withstand Young (21 points and 11 assists) and visiting the Hawks.

 

Nuggets at Suns

In the only game on Wednesday, the second-seeded Phoenix Suns will look to claim a 2-0 lead over the Nuggets in the Western Conference second round.

Joel Embiid expressed his disappointment after losing out to Nikola Jokic in the MVP race, though the Philadelphia 76ers star insisted "if and when I'm holding that trophy, anything else won't matter" in pursuit of an NBA championship.

Denver Nuggets star Jokic was crowned the league's Most Valuable Player on Tuesday with 91 first-place votes and 971 total points, ahead of runner-up Embiid (586).

In response to the snub, Embiid posted 40 points and 13 rebounds to lead the 76ers past the Atlanta Hawks 118-102 as the top seeds levelled the Eastern Conference semi-final series at 1-1.

Embiid became the first 76ers player with 40 points and 10 rebounds in a playoff game since Hall of Famer Billy Cunningham in 1970, while his postseason career-high points haul saw him become the first Philadelphia player with 40-plus points in a playoff contest since Hall of Famer Allen Iverson in 2003.

Reacting to Jokic's MVP victory, Embiid – who missed game time during the regular season due to a knee injury – told reporters following Game 2: "There's only some things I can control. Obviously, we as a team we had a good year and I was a part of it.

"It's disappointing because as a player, you worked hard for moments like this, but then again, it's out of my control. There's nothing I can do about it. I just got to come out every year, and just be ready and do my job."

Embiid, who has been dealing with a small meniscus tear as the 76ers chase their first NBA title since 1983, added: "I'm focused on the playoffs, focused on winning the championship.

"I've been saying all season we got a good chance, so I'm not worried about those awards and stuff. If and when I'm holding that trophy, anything else won't matter."

Tobias Harris chipped in with 22 points, six rebounds and four assists for the 76ers at Wells Fargo Center, where he had 16 first-quarter points on eight-for-nine shooting.

"We're not really worried about that," Harris said in response to Embiid missing out on MVP honours. "Jokic had a great year. Congrats on MVP for him.

"Joel Embiid has had a great year, he's been the MVP for our team. Obviously, there was a period of time where he didn't play X amount of games. I think that played a factor into it, but we get to the Finals and that's the goal for our team. Go get the MVP there so that's just our mentality. We don't only focus on those things anymore."

Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doc Rivers said Joel Embiid was spurred on after missing out on the NBA MVP award to produce a "dominant" performance in Tuesday's 118-102 win over the Atlanta Hawks.

Embiid posted 40 points, 13 rebounds, two assists and two steals for the top-seeded 76ers, who levelled their Eastern Conference semi-final series at 1-1 in the playoffs.

All-Star Embiid's 40-point haul was a personal playoffs career high as he became the first 76ers player with 40 points in a postseason game since Allen Iverson had 45 in 2003.

Embiid is also the first 76ers player with 40 points and 10 rebounds in a playoff game since Hall of Famer Billy Cunningham in 1970.

Rivers hailed Embiid's display after he finished second to Denver Nuggets star Nikola Jokic in the MVP race earlier on Tuesday.

"It was awesome," Rivers said during his post-game news conference. "I remember being on the other side of it the night David Robinson got the MVP and we had to play [Hakeen] Olajuwon.

"I was on that spurs team, that didn’t go well for us. Tonight you felt like that was Joel. He was that magnificent and dominant for us early on.

"It was absolutely a team effort but he set the tone for us. That's what he has to do."

Rivers lauded Philadelphia's collective effort, particularly in the second half, stretching their lead from four points to 18 when Embiid was benched at one stage.

"It was huge. You'd think it was the worst time to take Joel out," Rivers said. "We felt we'd need him down the stretch.

"The fact that the second unit, we could wait until seven minutes to put Joel back in and he's come back with an 18-point lead, that was absolutely wonderful."

Rivers reserved special praise for Shake Milton, who contributed 14 points off the bench, sparking the 76ers in the third quarter, as well as George Hill and Matisse Thybulle for their defensive efforts.

The series moves to Atlanta, with Game 3 on Friday.

"It was big because we lost Game 1," Rivers said. "We don't ever want to go down 2-0 in a series. It's 1-1, we have to go to Atlanta and get home court back."

The NBA fined Daryl Morey and the Philadelphia 76ers $75,000 each for a tweet regarding Golden State Warriors superstar Stephen Curry.

Philadelphia president of basketball operations Morey violated the league's anti-tampering rules following a tweet last week, while the 76ers were also fined for his conduct.

Morey tweeted "join 'em" with a picture of an Instagram post by Curry regarding his brother and 76ers guard Seth Curry.

Stephen Curry posted via social media after his brother scored a playoff career-high 30 points in Game 5 of Eastern Conference first-round series against Washington Wizards.

Golden State's Curry is not scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent until after next season having signed a then-record $201million, five-year contract in July 2017.

Curry would be 38 at the end of such a deal, but the two-time MVP has shown no signs of slowing down after averaging a career-high 32.0 points during the regular season to become the oldest NBA scoring champion since a 35-year-old Michael Jordan accomplished the feat in 1997-98.

Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doc Rivers issued a warning about Joel Embiid's health despite his injury return, insisting "we're still not out of the woods" as the Eastern Conference top seeds look to bounce back against the Atlanta Hawks.

Embiid returned from a meniscus tear in Philadelphia's shock 128-124 loss at home to the fifth-seeded Atlanta Hawks in the NBA Eastern Conference semi-final opener on Sunday.

MVP finalist Embiid sat out the series-clinching win over the Washington Wizards due to the right knee injury, which he sustained in Game 4 of the opening-round matchup.

The 76ers outscored the Wizards by 31.6 points per 100 possessions with Embiid on the court but were outscored by 7.5 points per 100 possessions when he went to the bench (excluding Game 5), according to Stats Perform.

Embiid led all scorers with 39 points on 12-for-21 shooting, while he also had nine rebounds, four assists, three blocks and a steal against the visiting Hawks in Philadelphia.

Gearing up for Tuesday's Game 2 at Wells Fargo Center, Rivers provided an update on All-Star Embiid following Monday's practice, telling reporters: "He looked pretty good.

"Obviously, we didn't do much today, but just my observation, without being a real medical doctor, is that he looked pretty good. We were happy with everything."

Embiid has been averaging 27.0 points, 7.2 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game in this season's playoffs, while he boasts career highs in field-goal percentage (61.6), three-point percentage (43.8) and free-throw percentage (90.5).

In 2020-21, Embiid has averaged a career-high 28.5 points, 10.6 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game.

"I think we always have to worry," Rivers added. "I don't think we're out of the woods, I'll put it that way. I think after each game he's gonna be evaluated for a while.

"I don't know how long that lasts, there may be three or four or five games, but we're still not out of the woods, I guess, would be the best way to describe it."

The 76ers were blown away by Trae Young and the Hawks, who led 75-54 at half-time. According to Stats Perform, that is the highest first-half point total by a road team in a postseason series opener in history.

Young had 25 of his 35 points in the first half as the Hawks outscored the 76ers 42-27 in the first period.

Philadelphia's Ben Simmons (17 points and 10 assists) had a double-double but it was a disappointing outing for the 76ers, who are eyeing their first championship since 1983.

However, All-Star Simmons remains upbeat, adding: "The confidence has always been there. I think it's just more so we got to lock in and be ready for whoever comes in the building because it's not going to be easy.

"It's the playoffs and this is a good team we're facing right now. They play the right way. They share the ball, and they play together. We got to come together and play the right way."

Philadelphia 76ers All-Star Joel Embiid vowed to "keep pushing until I can't" in his pursuit of an NBA championship after returning from a knee injury in Sunday's shock loss to the Atlanta Hawks.

After sitting out the series-clinching win over the Washington Wizards due to a meniscus tear in his right knee, Embiid made his comeback in the 128-124 defeat to the fifth-seeded Hawks in the Eastern Conference semi-final opener.

Embiid, who hurt his knee in Game 4 against the Wizards, led all scorers with 39 points but his presence was not enough to help the top-seeded 76ers overturn a 26-point deficit at home to the Hawks.

"Playing on a torn meniscus is not easy," said Embiid, who was 12-for-21 shooting while also collecting nine rebounds, four assists, three blocks and a steal. "All I got to do is keep managing it. Do my best.

"Get as much treatment as I can. Try to manage it to make sure that it doesn't swell up too much. Obviously, the pain is going to be there. That's normal.

"But it's all about managing it, doing whatever it takes to win. Because my goal is to win the championship. I'm going to put my body on the line to make sure that happens. I'm going to give everything I got."

MVP finalist Embiid added: "I can adjust to any style of play. We just played Washington that played fast. This team, they were physical. They play fast. I can adjust to it. It's the playoffs.

"You can't worry about how many minutes someone is supposed to play or is going to play. You got to go with your best guys.

"As long as I'm OK to be out there and I'm going to give my best and I'm going to keep pushing until I can't.

"But as long as I'm out there, I'm going to play hard. I'm going to dive for loose balls. I'm going to do whatever it takes to win."

Embiid played a team-high 38 minutes for the 76ers at Wells Fargo Center, where the hosts were upstaged by Trae Young (35 points and 10 assists) and the Hawks.

Tobias Harris (20 points and 10 rebounds) and Ben Simmons (17 points and 10 assists) both had double-doubles for the 76ers, while Seth Curry added 21 points as Philadelphia's bench struggled.

Sixers head coach Doc Rivers was not happy with Embiid's game time, telling reporters: "I didn't like him in, even though we had to have him in.

"But when we were trapping and running around in that last three minutes and obviously we made a run, I did not like him on the floor at that point because I didn't want him doing those things, if you want to be honest. That's why we told him to just stand back. Because those are the ones that you get injured on."

Kawhi Leonard was the hero again for the Los Angeles Clippers, who completed their comeback against the Dallas Mavericks in Game 7 to progress to the Western Conference semi-finals.

A deciding game was needed in the opening-round series after Leonard erupted for 45 points to help the Clippers avoid elimination in the NBA playoffs on Friday.

In the winner-takes-all showdown at Staples Center, Clippers superstar Leonard stepped up to the plate with a double-double as the Clippers prevailed 126-111 to clinch the series 4-3 on Sunday.

Leonard posted 28 points, 10 rebounds, nine assists and four steals to lead the Clippers to a date with the top-seeded Utah Jazz in the second round, starting on Tuesday.

Luka Doncic carried the load for the visiting Mavericks in Los Angeles, but the All-Star's 46 points and 14 assists were not enough.

The fourth-seeded Clippers were 3-5 in Game 7 in franchise history – losers in each of their last three appearances (2015 Western Conference semi-finals, 2017 first round and 2020 Western Conference semi-finals) and looking to avoid becoming the fifth team in NBA history to lose four consecutive Game 7s.

While the Clippers led by eight points at half-time, the fifth-seeded Mavericks outscored the home team 19-6 to open the third period for an 81-76 advantage.

That sparked the Clippers, who responded with a 24-4 run for a 100-85 lead entering the fourth quarter and while the Mavericks chipped away at the deficit, there was no denying Leonard and the championship hopefuls – who became the first home team to win in this series.

In the earlier game, MVP finalist Joel Embiid made his return but top seeds the Philadelphia 76ers were upstaged 128-124 by the Atlanta Hawks in their Eastern Conference semi-final opener.

Embiid made his way back to the court following a meniscus tear and while he put up 39 points, the Hawks silenced a hostile crowd to draw first blood at Wells Fargo Center.

Trae Young had 25 of his 35 points in the first half as the fifth-seeded Hawks made a blistering start to the contest in Philadelphia.

Atlanta led Philadelphia 75-54 at half-time. According to Stats Perform, that is the highest first-half point total by a road team in a postseason series opener in history.

Young joined Lew Alcindor as the only players in NBA history to score 30-plus points in each of the first four road games of their playoff careers, while he became the first Hawks player in history to have 35-plus points and 10-plus assists in a postseason game.

 

Nuggets at Suns

The Phoenix Suns will host the Denver Nuggets in their Western Conference semi-final opener on Monday. In the east, the Brooklyn Nets can take a 2-0 lead over the Milwaukee Bucks.

Philadelphia 76ers All-Star Joel Embiid was cleared to start Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semi-finals against the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday.

Embiid has been managing a knee injury and missed the final game of the first-round series against the Washington Wizards, having bowed out after just 11 minutes in the previous encounter.

The center's return against a tricky Hawks team represents a big boost for the 76ers, though.

While Embiid has been limited to 24.0 points per game so far in the 2020-21 playoffs due to his knee complaint, he tallied 28.5 points along with 10.6 rebounds in the regular season.

The 27-year-old will be expected to improve on his 19.7 points per game across three meetings with Atlanta this year, although he was limited to 25 minutes or fewer in each clash.

Embiid was selected to start alongside Ben Simmons, Tobias Harris, Seth Curry and Danny Green, the Sixers' most-used starting five this season. They were 27-5 across 32 games.

Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doc Rivers said no decision has been made on Joel Embiid's status for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semi-finals in the NBA playoffs.

The top-seeded 76ers are set to open their second-round series against the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday with doubts over the fitness of All-Star Embiid.

Embiid suffered a lateral meniscus tear in his right knee during Monday's Game 4 loss to the Washington Wizards, forcing him to sit out Wednesday's Game 5 as the 76ers won 129-112 to clinch the opening-round series 4-1.

As the 76ers continue their championship bid against the fifth-seeded Hawks, Rivers was asked about MVP finalist Embiid – who missed 10 regular-season games due to bone bruising in his left leg – on Friday.

"He went through a lot of the stuff today," said Rivers. "He didn't do a lot of live stuff obviously, we're not gonna allow that yet.

"Nothing's changed. He's got to go through his treatment, but as far as when we were doing shooting and stuff like that, he looked great.

"It's too early [to rule him out]. I don't want to say one way or the other. We'll just find that out."

It has been a stellar season for Embiid, who has averaged career highs for points (28.5), field-goal percentage (41.3), three-point percentage (37.7) and free-throw percentage (85.9).

The 27-year-old has also been averaging 10.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists and a career-best 0.98 steals per game to lead the 76ers – eyeing a first NBA title since 1983 – to their first Eastern Conference championship since 2001.

Philadelphia team-mate Dwight Howard, gearing up for a reunion with former team the Hawks, added: "He looked good. His movement looked good and laterally, he was able to move around so he looked good.

"I think he should be ready to go. Now he can make sure he gets his body right and I don't want him to rush back or anything like that because we need him.

"We want to make sure we hold down the fort until he's back, but he looked great."

Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doc Rivers hailed the "absolutely amazing" defensive improvement made by Tyrese Maxey following the rookie guard's starring role in his side's progression to the Eastern Conference semi-finals.

Maxey laid on 13 points, six rebounds, two assists and claimed one steal during his 26 minutes on the court in Wednesday's 129-112 series-closing win against the Washington Wizards.

The 20-year-old has posted double digits in successive playoff games, but Rivers was more impressed by the other aspect of the youngster's performance against the Wizards.

"I think he is a hell of a player," Rivers said. "I think he has found himself. He figures out now how we need him to play. 

"That makes not only him a good player, but everybody else good on the floor when he is on the floor."

With star man Joel Embiid again absent for Game 5 due to a knee problem, Maxey has stepped up for the 76ers when needed after struggling during the regular season on defense.

"He was our worst defender and it wasn't close – the numbers said that to you," Rivers added. 

"The last month he has turned a corner defensively. He made so many little plays defensively – rebounds, digs, getting steals. Obviously, the offensive energy was there but watching him grow defensively for this team has been absolutely amazing."

Seth Curry's playoff career-high 30 points, a triple-double from Ben Simmons and a 28-point showing courtesy of Tobias Harris helped the 76ers past the Wizards.

The Atlanta Hawks await in the Eastern Conference semi-finals and Rivers is hopeful Embiid will be back in contention for Game 1 on Sunday.

"He's a competitor. The fact that he's not playing tonight or whenever he can't play, it bothers him," Rivers said. "He's really not in a great place that way, but he's good. He'll be fine.

"I don't know exactly when he will be back. At least I'm hopeful. I think that's be a better way of putting it. He's going do his treatment, and we're going to assess the day-to-day and see when we can get him."

Donovan Mitchell led the way as number one seeds the Utah Jazz progressed to the Western Conference second round, while the top-ranked Philadelphia 76ers also booked their spot in the Eastern Conference semi-finals.

Mitchell posted 26 of his 30 points in the first half to fuel the Jazz to a 126-110 win over the Memphis Grizzlies, sealing a 4-1 series victory in the NBA playoffs on Wednesday.

The Jazz All-Star tallied 10 assists and six rebounds, joining Deron Williams and John Stockton as the only Utah players with 30-plus points and 10-plus assists in a postseason clash.

With five three-pointers made, Mitchell also became the first jazz player in franchise history to finish with 30 points, 10 assists and five threes in a playoff encounter.

Mitchell was assisted by Jordan Clarkson (24 points) and Rudy Gobert (23 points and 15 rebounds) as the Jazz await the winner of the Los Angeles Clippers-Dallas Mavericks matchup.

Grizzlies sensation Ja Morant impressed again with 27 points and 11 assists as he finished his first playoff series averaging 30.2 points and 8.2 assists while shooting 48.7 per cent from the field – the highest ever points per game average by a Memphis player in a single postseason.

All three teams that had a chance to clinch a series midweek, won by 14-plus points following the success of the Jazz, 76ers and Atlanta Hawks. According to Stats Perform, it is the first time three franchises have claimed a series with double-digit victories on the same day since May 1, 2003.

 

Simmons flexes muscles as 76ers advance without Embiid

Despite the absence of MVP finalist Joel Embiid due to a meniscus tear, the 76ers still reached the second round thanks to a 129-112 rout of the Washington Wizards. Ben Simmons inspired the 76ers in Philadelphia, where he had a triple-double of 19 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds. It was Simmons' third career playoff triple-double, breaking a tie with Hall of Famer Charles Barkley to move into second place on the all-time list in Philadelphia history – behind only Wilt Chamberlain (eight). Seth Curry (playoffs career-high 30 points) and Tobias Harris (28 points) also starred as the 76ers defeated the Wizards 4-1. Wizards pair Bradley Beal (32 points) and Russell Westbrook (24 points and 10 assists) combined for 56 points, however, it was not enough at Wells Fargo Center.

Next up for the 76ers are the fifth-seeded Hawks, who saw off the New York Knicks 4-1 behind a 103-89 success. Trae Young silenced fourth seeds the Knicks with a postseason career-high 36 points in New York. Julius Randle's 23 points and 13 rebounds were not enough for the Knicks.

Luka Doncic put on a show as the Mavericks withstood the Clippers 105-100 for a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference first-round series. Doncic went off for 42 points and a playoff career-high 14 assists to take down the Clippers in Los Angeles. The All-Star became the second player in NBA history to record a game with 42-plus points, eight-plus rebounds and 14-plus assists in the postseason, joining LeBron James (2018).

 

Rose struggles

In the starting five, veteran and former MVP Derrick Rose failed to make an impact. In 27 minutes, Rose was three-for-11 shooting for only six points as the Knicks bowed out.

While Kawhi Leonard had 20 points, it was not an efficient display. The Clippers star finished seven-for-19 shooting – making just one of his seven three-point attempts. He also had five turnovers.

 

Ice Trae!

Young bowed to the Madison Square Garden crowd, happy after putting the icing on the cake with a long-range three as the Hawks sent hosts the Knicks packing.

 

Wednesday's results

Utah Jazz 126-106 Memphis Grizzlies
Philadelphia 76ers 129-112 Washington Wizards
Atlanta Hawks 103-89 New York Knicks
Dallas Mavericks 105-100 Los Angeles Clippers

 

Suns at Lakers

It is make or break for defending champions the Los Angeles Lakers, who will host the Phoenix Suns in Game 6 on Thursday. The Lakers trail the second-seeded Suns 3-2 in the Western Conference first round and face elimination.

Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doc Rivers does not know when Joel Embiid will return after the All-Star was diagnosed with a lateral meniscus tear in his right knee in a huge blow for the NBA championship contenders.

The top-seeded 76ers were eagerly awaiting the results of an MRI following Monday's 122-114 Game 4 loss to the Washington Wizards in the Eastern Conference opening round.

Embiid hobbled off the court midway through the first quarter in Washington after landing awkwardly and the MVP finalist did not return, having grimaced in pain.

Now, Embiid – considered day-to-day – will sit out Wednesday's Game 5 against the Wizards due to a small tear, with the injury to be managed with a physical therapy and a treatment program.

Asked about Embiid as the 76ers, who lead the playoff series 3-1, look to seal a spot in the Eastern Conference semi-finals, Rivers told reporters: "I have no expectation other than I hope for him to be back.

"I can't give you a timeline. I can just tell you he's willing to go through whatever it takes to get back on the floor.

"He's a warrior. And if there's a way for him to get back on the floor, he will find his way."

It is another setback for Embiid and the 76ers after the four-time All-Star missed 10 games in the regular season due to bone bruising in his left leg.

It has been a stellar season for Embiid, who has averaged career highs for points (28.5), field-goal percentage (41.3), three-point percentage (37.7) and free-throw percentage (85.9).

The 27-year-old has also been averaging 10.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists and a career-best 0.98 steals per game to lead the 76ers to their first Eastern Conference championship since 2001.

"He couldn't be in better shape," Rivers added. "For this to happen at this point, going through the whole year, it's really difficult."

"We've talked a couple of times. He is what you think he would be. He's a competitor. The fact that he's not playing tonight or whenever he can't play, it bothers him. He's really not in a great place that way, but he's good. He'll be fine."

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