NBA

76ers secure top seed in east, Mavericks avoid play-in tournament

By Sports Desk May 14, 2021

The Philadelphia 76ers secured the top seed in the NBA's Eastern Conference after a crushing 122-97 victory over the Orlando Magic that saw their key players take an early seat on the bench. 

Seth Curry led the 76ers with 20 points in just 23 minutes of court time on Friday, while Joel Embiid had 13 points and 11 rebounds in 23 minutes and Ben Simmons added 13 points and nine assists in 26 minutes. 

Philadelphia (48-23) – Eastern Conference champions for the first time since 2000-01 – will open the playoffs against the number eight seed that emerges from next week's play-in tournament. 

Two teams will emerge from the Eastern Conference side, which will include the Boston Celtics, Charlotte Hornets, Indiana Pacers and the Washington Wizards.

The Wizards clinched their play-in spot with a 120-105 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers as Russell Westbrook recorded yet another triple-double following 21 points, 17 assists and 12 rebounds. 

Westbrook's triple-double was his 37th in 63 appearances this season, and he had at least 15 assists for the seventh consecutive game. Only John Stockton and Isiah Thomas have had seven such games in a row, with Stockton doing it three times.

 

Mavericks avoid play-in with win over Raptors

Luka Doncic tallied 20 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds and Kristaps Porzingis added 21 points and 10 rebounds as the Dallas Mavericks (42-29) held off the Toronto Raptors for a 114-110 win that clinched a spot in the Western Conference's top six.

The Denver Nuggets beat the Detroit Pistons 104-91 to draw even with the Los Angeles Clippers, who fell 122-115 to the lowly Houston Rockets. Denver (47-24) got 20 points, 15 rebounds and 11 assists from MVP candidate Nikola Jokic in the win, the Nuggets' third in a row. The Clippers' loss gave the idle Phoenix Suns (49-21) the Pacific Division title. 

The NBA-leading Utah Jazz won 109-93 at the Oklahoma City Thunder behind 22 points from Bojan Bogdanovic. Utah (51-20) can clinch the top seed in the west with a win against the Sacramento Kings on Sunday or a Suns loss against the San Antonio Spurs on Saturday or Sunday. 

The Golden State Warriors downed the New Orleans Pelicans 125-122 behind Jordan Poole's 38 points for their fifth consecutive victory. The Memphis Grizzlies also won their fifth straight game, 107-106 over the Kings, while resting most of their key players. Golden State and Memphis share 38-33 records and will meet on Sunday with the number eight seed on the line as they head into the play-in tournament. 

 

Bulls miss out again

The Wizards' win ended the idle Chicago Bulls' hopes of making the play-in tournament, marking the fourth consecutive season the storied franchise will miss the playoffs. 

 

Hometown kid Harris posts career night

The Raptors played without their top seven scorers in Friday's loss to the Mavericks, but Dallas native Jalen Harris did his part in a losing effort with a career-high 31 points. 

 

Friday's results

Washington Wizards 120-105 Cleveland Cavaliers
Denver Nuggets 104-91 Detroit Pistons
Philadelphia 76ers 122-97 Orlando Magic
Utah Jazz 109-93 Oklahoma City Thunder
Dallas Mavericks 114-110 Toronto Raptors
Houston Rockets 122-115 Los Angeles Clippers
Memphis Grizzlies 107-106 Sacramento Kings
Golden State Warriors 125-122 New Orleans Pelicans

 

Lakers at Pacers

The Los Angeles Lakers need a win to pull even with the Portland Trail Blazers for the sixth spot in the Western Conference, and the reigning champions are hoping to have LeBron James back in the line-up as they face the Pacers. 

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    Diego Simeone said Atletico Madrid always find new ways to excite him as the Colchoneros boss savoured the team's dramatic progress to the Champions League last 16.

    Atletico prevailed in Tuesday's do-or-die battle away to Porto on matchday six, defeating the Portuguese hosts 3-1 to book their spot in the knockout phase.

    Simeone's Atletico required a victory and hoped Milan failed to beat Liverpool elsewhere in Group B, and the stars aligned for the stuttering LaLiga champions.

    Antoine Griezmann, Angel Correa and Rodrigo de Paul scored to earn Atletico victory in a match that saw three players sent off – Yannick Carrasco received his marching orders, while Porto duo Wendell and Marchesin were also dismissed amid chaotic scenes as three goals were scored after the 90th minute.

    Simeone, who has guided Atletico to two LaLiga titles and a pair of Champions League runners-up appearances during his decade-long tenure in the Spanish capital, could not contain his emotions.

    "I've been at this club for 10 years and the team always ends up exciting me in new ways," Atletico head coach Simeone said.

    "The difficulties, the fact that we didn't have three of our four centre-backs, but there are players with few minutes who are still so important to us. Today it was [Sime] Vrsaljko’s turn, we knew he could do his job. [Geoffrey] Kondogbia is the same.

    "The whole team got involved in the game, gave everything, put their hearts into it. We have a goalkeeper who delivered in moments of difficulty. In the second half, if they had scored from that chance, they win.

    "Today was a beautiful day, a great day. The boys from the youth team made it through and I wanted to as well. They gave us the ambition of wanting to make it through. We are going to remember this as one of the classic Champions League matches of our lifetime, against a great team in a tough game. We're similar.

    "The game had everything – sendings off, chances. Football, how beautiful."

    Porto against Atletico was the first ever Champions League game to see as many as three goals scored in the 90th minute (including stoppage time), while the fixture was the first in the premier club competition to have as many as three red cards since 2013.

    Atletico goalkeeper Jan Oblak said: "It's been an incredible night. I'm very happy with the victory, for the team and the fans. I'm sure many people didn't believe in us but it's in matches like these where we show what a team we really are and that we are such a strong group.

    "You have to keep your head up when you lose and, when things don't go your way, you have to keep playing as if your life depends on it. We can't be at our best throughout the season but you have to keep on going.

    "There's no limit to what we can do and when we have to dig our heels in we do it. I wish we didn't have to suffer so much but this is football: it's not always easy."

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    Inter were denied top spot in Group D after going down 2-0 to Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu on Tuesday.

    Though already guaranteed a place in the knockout phase, goals from Toni Kroos and Marco Asensio ensured Inter will be drawn to play a group winner in the last 16.

    Inter were on top of large periods of the first half; with 13 shots, 14 open-play crosses and 54.9 per cent of the possession.

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    Despite a 10th defeat in 12 European matches against Spanish opposition, Inzaghi insisted the experience will stand his side in good stead heading into the knockout stages.

    Inter have lost each of their last four European meetings with Madrid, and have now lost each of their last seven away games against the LaLiga giants.

    "Clearly, we wanted to get a different result, but it will be very useful for our future," the head coach said. 

    "There are a lot of regrets with the first half because, in my opinion, we played very well and with personality. 

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    Antoine Griezmann, Angel Correa and Rodrigo de Paul scored and three players were sent off as Atletico Madrid earned a place in the last 16 of the Champions League after a riotous 3-1 victory over Porto.

    Following a goalless first half, Griezmann arrived at the far post after the break to divert in a corner and give Atletico the edge in a tight contest.

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    Three goals were then scored from the 90th minute onwards, with Correa racing away to slot into the bottom corner and De Paul hammering in before Sergio Oliveira netted a consolation from the spot.

    The first big chance of the game fell Atletico's way in the 22nd minute as Carrasco's low ball across the face of goal found Thomas Lemar, but Costa made the save at point-blank range and Griezmann could not connect with the loose ball with the goal gaping. The Porto goalkeeper then denied Marcos Llorente from a tight angle.

    The visitors broke the deadlock in the 56th minute as Lemar's corner was flicked on by Geoffrey Kondogbia and turned in at the back post by Griezmann to give Diego Simeone's men a vital advantage.

    Carrasco refused to give the ball back for a Porto throw-in before lashing out at Otavio as the Porto midfielder attempted to grab it from him, the Belgian earning himself a straight red card.

    Ugly scenes ensued as both camps clashed, and Porto substitute Wendell suffered the same fate as Carrasco shortly after as he elbowed Angel Correa in the throat. Marchesin appeared to be red-carded for speaking out of turn from the sidelines.

    Correa broke away in the 90th minute to double Atletico's advantage with a low finish into the bottom-left corner before De Paul smashed in the rebound after Griezmann's shot was saved two minutes later.

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