NBA

Embiid stars as 76ers stay hot and Westbrook closes in on record as Jazz reclaim lead

By Sports Desk May 05, 2021

The Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia 76ers extended their winning streak to six games thanks to another dominant performance from MVP hopeful Joel Embiid.

Embiid posted 34 points and 12 rebounds in 25 minutes as the streaking 76ers (45-21) eased past the lowly Houston Rockets 135-115 in NBA action on Wednesday.

The All-Star became the first 76ers player in franchise history with a 30/10 game in 25 minutes or less, while Embiid earned his 15th 30-point, 10-rebound game of the season – only two-time reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo has more such games (16).

Kelly Olynyk scored 27 points and Rockets rookie KJ Martin had a career-high 23 points with 10 rebounds and six assists for Houston (16-50), who own the worst record in the league.

 

History beckons for Westbrook

Washington Wizards star Russell Westbrook posted another triple-double of 29 points, 17 assists and 12 rebounds in an agonising 135-134 defeat to the Milwaukee Bucks. Westbrook (179) is now within three triple-doubles of surpassing Oscar Robertson (181) for the all-time record. With 42 points against the Bucks, Wizards team-mate Bradley Beal tallied his 29th career 40-point game, passing Gilbert Arenas for the most in Washington franchise history. Antetokounmpo fell just short of a triple-double – 23 points, nine rebounds and eight assists.

The Utah Jazz reclaimed the number one seed in the west behind Jordan Clarkson, who was 12-for-16 shooting for 30 points in a 126-94 defeat of the San Antonio Spurs.

The Boston Celtics routed the Orlando Magic 132-96 and the Portland Trail Blazers crushed the Cleveland Cavaliers 141-105. According to Stats Perform, it is the second day in NBA history with two road teams winning by 35-plus points after November 10, 1971.

MVP frontrunner Nikola Jokic's 32 points and 12 rebounds inspired the Denver Nuggets to a 113-97 victory at home to the New York Knicks.

The Memphis Grizzlies held on to beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 139-135 after Ja Morant had 37 points and 10 assists. It was Morant's fifth 30-point, 10-assist game – the most in Grizzlies history. No other player has more than two. Timberwolves rookie Anthony Edwards tied a career high with 42 points.

 

CP3 struggles as sun sets on Phoenix

The Phoenix Suns were upstaged 135-103 by the Atlanta Hawks. Second in the west, the Suns slipped a game off the pace after star Chris Paul finished just three-for-11 shooting for nine points in 24 minutes. Phoenix team-mate Cameron Johnson was only one-of-nine shooting, missing all six of his three-point attempts for a measly two points in 19 minutes off the bench.

Amid uncertainty over head coach Nate Bjorkgren, the Indiana Pacers lost 104-93 to the Sacramento Kings. Aaron Holiday was two-for-nine shooting, including one-for-three from beyond the arc in a five-point display in the starting five.

The Trail Blazers made light work of the Cavaliers thanks to Damian Lillard's 32 points, but C.J. McCollum was far from his best. In 31 minutes, McCollum was three-for-14 shooting, making one of five attempts from three-point range for 10 points.

Rockets veteran Avery Bradley made just one of his six field goals, missing all three of his three-point attempts for two points.

 

The 'Greek freak'

Antetokounmpo was doing Antetokounmpo things for the Bucks, who won their fourth straight game. The Bucks superstar showcased his physicality with a powerful dunk against the Wizards.

 

Wednesday's results

Boston Celtics 132-96 Orlando Magic
Portland Trail Blazers 141-105 Cleveland Cavaliers
Atlanta Hawks 135-103 Phoenix Suns
Sacramento Kings 104-93 Indiana Pacers
Philadelphia 76ers 135-115 Houston Rockets
Milwaukee Bucks 135-134 Washington Wizards
Memphis Grizzlies 139-135 Minnesota Timberwolves
Utah Jazz 126-94 San Antonio Spurs
Denver Nuggets 113-97 New York Knicks

 

Lakers at Clippers

Bragging rights and playoff positioning will be on the line when the Los Angeles Lakers (37-28) face the Los Angeles Clippers (44-22) on Thursday. Defending champions the Lakers are sixth in the Western Conference, just a half-game above the play-in spot, while the Clippers are third and already assured a postseason berth.

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    The New Orleans Pelicans and star guard CJ McCollum have agreed to a two-year, $64million contract extension, according to reports.

    The deal, as reported by ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, keeps McCollum signed through the 2025-26 season, tying him to fellow stars Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram, who are signed through at least the next three seasons.

    McCollum – who was acquired from the Portland Trail Blazers in February – was a scoring machine down the stretch for the Pelicans and helped lift New Orleans into the play-in tournament and, eventually, a compelling six-game series against the top-seeded Phoenix Suns.

    The 31-year-old guard averaged 24.3 points in 26 games with the Pelicans last season, shooting 49.3 per cent from the field and 39.4 per cent from three-point range.

    With one offseason priority completed, the Pelicans can now turn their focus towards getting Williamson back on the court after he missed the entire 2021-22 season with a broken right foot.

    New Orleans fans spent much of last season waiting for Williamson's return, which never came.

    Williamson averaged 27 points over 61 games in 2020-21.

    With their stars now fully healthy, the Pelicans carry elevated expectations into this season, despite playing in a loaded Western Conference.

    New Orleans' high-scoring trio of stars is accompanied by veterans like Jonas Valanciunas, Larry Nance Jr. and Devonte' Graham, while second-year defensive ace Herbert Jones is expected to take a step forward.

    So much of the Pelicans' potential success, however, relies on health.

    Williamson has played 85 career games since being drafted No. 1 overall in 2019. McCollum has missed a total of 45 games over the past two seasons, and Ingram has never played more than 62 games in a season as a starter.

  • South Africa 38-21 Argentina: All Blacks take title despite Springboks win in Durban South Africa 38-21 Argentina: All Blacks take title despite Springboks win in Durban

    New Zealand retained the Rugby Championship title after South Africa could only beat Argentina 38-21 in the final match of the tournament on Saturday.

    The All Blacks' dominant 40-14 defeat of Australia had set the Springboks the sizeable task of securing a bonus-point win by at least 39 points to be crowned champions in Durban.

    And Ian Foster's side could ultimately watch on with some degree of comfort early on Sunday morning back home, as the world champions could not prevent them from claiming a fifth title in six championships and had to settle for second place.

    An 11th-minute Springboks try was ruled out as Eben Etzebeth had stripped the ball from team-mate Siya Kolisi in an offside position, although their pressure soon told with a yellow card for Marcos Kremer.

    South Africa made the most of their numerical advantage when Jasper Wiese scored the first and surely easiest try of his international career, walking the ball over at the back of a scrum.

    No sooner had Kremer returned than Juan Martin Gonzalez headed for the sin bin, and it was captain Kolisi's turn to capitalise as he powered through for the second, before Frans Steyn dispatched a long-range penalty.

    But Gonzalo Bertranou lunged for the line on the stroke of half-time to silence the Kings Park crown, then Gonzalez raced down the left for the first try of the second period.

    Argentina had designs on winning the match, yet they conceded pivotal penalty tries either side of Matias Moroni's score in a half that saw two yellow cards for each side, with the Springboks forced to scrap for their victory as Etzebeth and Faf de Klerk were off the field at the same time.

    Kurt-Lee Arendse's last-gasp try at least allowed South Africa to finish with a flourish, with the Pumas consigned to finishing bottom of the table.

    First-half frustrations again

    If South Africa were to hold any hope of stealing the championship from New Zealand, they needed a strong start. However, three of their previous six home Tests against Argentina – despite all ending in victory – had seen the Springboks fail to take a lead into half-time.

    They had to stay patient again in this encounter, frustrated in front of the posts against 15 men, but two tries with men in the sin bin looked to have kept South Africa just about on course until Bertranou dealt the home crowd a blow shortly before the interval.

    Seven-try repeat a step too far

    South Africa had not scored 39 points, let alone won by that margin, since a 40-9 defeat of Georgia in July 2021.

    The last victory the Springboks celebrated that would have been enough to take the title in these circumstances was a 66-7 success against Canada at the 2019 Rugby World Cup, while the last against Argentina was a 73-13 win in 2013.

    There were seven second-half South Africa tries in that thrashing of the Pumas, but a repeat never appeared likely this time.

  • Pujols not 'chasing numbers' but will cherish 'pretty special' 700th homer Pujols not 'chasing numbers' but will cherish 'pretty special' 700th homer

    Albert Pujols said reaching 700 home runs will be something he looks back on with pride at the end of his career after becoming the fourth man to reach the landmark against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday.

    The St. Louis Cardinals great announced in March the 2022 season would be his last in baseball, but he appears set to go out with a bang after enjoying an incredible second half of the season.

    Pujols entered Friday's game against the Dodgers, his former team, with 698 career homers to his name and brought up number 699 with a crashing 434-foot blast in the third inning. 

    The 42-year-old soon had his milestone, picking out a similar spot in left-field to put the Cardinals 5-0 up.

    Speaking after a big 11-0 win, Pujols said: "It's pretty special. When it's really going to hit me is when I'm done, at the end of the season, when I'm retired, and probably a moment or two after that I can look at the numbers.

    "Look, don't get me wrong, I know what my place is in this game. But since day one, when I made my debut, it was never about numbers, it was never about chasing numbers.

    "It was always about winning championships and trying to get better in this game. And I had so many people that taught me the right way early in my career, and that's how I've carried myself for 22 years that I've been in the big leagues. 

    "That's why I really don't focus on the numbers. I will, one day, but not right now."

    Only Barry Bonds (762), Hank Aaron (755) and Babe Ruth (714) have now hit more MLB homers than Pujols, who felt no desire to try to reclaim the historic ball from the lucky fan who caught it. 

    "Souvenirs are for the fans," Pujols said. "If they want to keep it, they can. At the end of the day, I don't focus on material stuff. I think I have the bat, the uniform, helmet, things that are special to me. 

    "At the end of the day, I think that's why the fans come here – to have a special moment of history. So, if they want to keep that baseball I don't have any problem with that."

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