NBA

Embiid makes MVP statement with 52 points against the Celtics, Warriors move up the standings

By Sports Desk April 05, 2023

Philadelphia 76ers center and MVP hopeful Joel Embiid put together arguably his best game of the season on Tuesday to deliver a 103-101 home win against the Boston Celtics.

Embiid put up 52 points – over half of his team's total and the third-most in his career – while shooting a remarkable 20-of-25 from the field. He also grabbed 13 rebounds, dished six assists and blocked two shots in his 39 minutes.

The 29-year-old, who has finished as the runner-up in the past two MVP votes, had never scored more than 50 points in a game prior to this season, but he has done so three times this campaign, highlighted by a 59-point, 11-rebound, eight-assist, seven-block showing against the Utah Jazz in November.

Against the Celtics, Embiid was supported in style by James Harden as the 76ers' second star chipped in 20 points (seven-of-17 shooting) and 10 assists with no turnovers. It was only his second game this season without a turnover.

Meanwhile, the Celtics were left short-handed as All-Star Jaylen Brown was ruled out in the hours leading up to tip-off, and Jayson Tatum was disappointing in his highly anticipated showdown against Embiid, delivering just 19 points on seven-of-20 shooting with six rebounds, six assists and three steals.

Tatum had a plus/minus of minus 13 in his 38 minutes, meaning Boston were plus 11 in the 10 minutes he was on the bench.

LeBron lifts the Lakers in overtime

The Los Angeles Lakers have now won seven of their past eight fixtures after a 135-133 overtime victory on the road against the Utah Jazz.

It was a mediocre offensive showing from the red-hot Anthony Davis as he shot just seven-of-16 from the field and seven-of-12 from the free throw line for his 21 points, but he added 14 rebounds, six assists, two steals and two blocks.

Instead it was LeBron James coming through for the Lakers, producing his best game since the All-Star break with 37 points (14-of-27 shooting), six assists and five rebounds. Austin Reaves stepped up in D'Angelo Russell's absence, contributing 28 points (eight-of-13) and six assists in an equal team-high 42 minutes.

The win improved the Lakers' record to 41-38, leaving them tied with the Los Angeles Clippers for the sixth-best record in the West – with the Lakers and Clippers to face off on Wednesday.

Warriors stay out of the play-in

The Golden State Warriors were at risk of being leapfrogged by the Lakers and falling into the play-in tournament placings, before coming from behind to defeat the Oklahoma City Thunder 136-125.

It was the Thunder leading 106-102 heading into the fourth quarter, but with Klay Thompson missing through injury, Jordan Poole stepped up as the Warriors' hero.

Poole scored 18 points in the fourth quarter while the Thunder scored 19 as a team, with the fourth-year guard finishing with 30 points (eight-of-19 shooting). 

Stephen Curry was just as good, dropping a game-high 34 points (11-of-25), while Most Improved Player candidate Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had 32 points (11-of-17) and seven assists for the Thunder.

The win means the Warriors have jumped the Clippers into the fifth seed with just two games remaining, while the Thunder's loss keeps the Dallas Mavericks alive, with just a half-game separating the 10th and 11th seeds.

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    The Five Stripes are 12th in the Eastern Conference following a run of eight matches without victory.

    Although, they enjoyed a reprieve in the U.S. Open Cup last time out, defeating Charleston Battery on penalties to reach the quarter-finals.

    And Pineda hopes his side can build on that momentum when they welcome Los Angeles to the Mercedes-Benz Stadium. 

    "I think we are on the right path," he said. "I think it is really encouraging for the team, for the mentality of the team, to win. 

    "There are many positives out of that. We have to hold onto that positivity, and the mentality of the players that fought and put that together on Saturday."

    "I think that, especially being at home, we need to make sure we are on the front foot right away," midfielder Dax McCarty added.

    "Obviously, our stadium is such a fortress. When you score an early goal, you get everyone excited and the other team feels that pressure, which is such a benefit."

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    "The team is in a good way – winning games, scoring goals and not conceding – and we'd like to continue that," head coach Steve Cherundolo said.

    "We feel good about the moment we're in, and our players are confident. 

    "The players have shown an amazing response [to their defeat by San Jose Earthquakes at the start of the month]. We were shooting ourselves in the foot by making some mistakes in portions of the field where we don't usually do that.

    "The message was that we are really in control of our own destiny, which is a great place to be."

    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    Atlanta United – Thiago Almada

    Atlanta will be hoping for inspiration from the likes of Almada as they look to end their winless streak.

    The Argentina international has scored in two of their last three league games on home soil.

    Los Angeles FC – Denis Bouanga

    Bouanga scored both goals in LAFC’s 2-0 win over St. Louis City last time out in MLS.

    He has now found the net 33 times since the start of last season (including play-offs), seven more than any other player during that time.

    MATCH PREDICTION: LOS ANGELES FC

    Only once in their MLS history have Atlanta endured a longer winless streak, going 12 straight games without victory between May and August 2021.

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    OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

    Atlanta United: 38.2%
    Los Angeles FC: 32.8%
    Draw: 29.0%

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    Joe Mazzulla warned the Boston Celtics that the confidence garnered from taking a 2-0 series lead against the Indiana Pacers is not enough to secure progress.

    The Celtics won 126-110 on Thursday to move two games ahead in their Eastern Conference finals series against the Pacers.

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    The 45-year-old posted a regular season record of 170-159, with the youthful Cleveland winning at least 44 times in each of their last three campaigns.

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