James Harden cannot be expected to consistently dominate NBA games but could have shown more aggression as the Philadelphia 76ers were knocked out of the playoffs, team-mate Joel Embiid said.

According to Embiid, a team-wide lack of aggression cost the 76ers as a 99-90 loss to the Miami Heat spelled the end for their season.

After being bounced out of the Eastern Conference semi-finals, much of the attention turned to Harden's quiet game.

He had just nine shots and scored only 11 points in almost 43 minutes on court, taking a mere two shots in the second half.

Embiid, who had a double-double with 20 points and 12 rebounds, said the 32-year-old Harden cannot be compared to the player who averaged above 30 points for three consecutive seasons with the Houston Rockets from 2017-18 to 2019-20.

Harden was the NBA MVP in 2018, but his points on the board have begun to tail off in the past two seasons.

Since joining Philadelphia in February 2022, after a stint with the Brooklyn Nets, Harden has averaged 21.0 points over 21 regular season games, and just 18.6 points per game in the postseason.

Harden's field-goal shooting record of 40.5 per cent over the Sixers' 12 playoff games was his lowest in the postseason since the 2013-14 season.

"Since we got him, everybody expected the Houston James Harden," said Embiid. "But that's not who he is anymore. He's more of a playmaker. I thought, at times, he could have been, as all of us could have been, more aggressive. All of us, whether it was Tyrese [Maxey] or Tobias [Harris] or guys coming off the bench.

"And I'm not just talking about offensively. I'm talking about as a whole, offensively and defensively. I didn't think we were good defensively as a team.

"They took advantage of a lot of stuff that we tried to do defensively. And then offensively just really everybody being on the same page, obviously, only having probably three or four months to all work together and try to figure it out. Maybe it wasn't a lot of time. I don't think we played our best basketball."

Lakers legend Magic Johnson was among those to question Harden's display, saying such a player "can't have a performance like that".

The 76ers won the last of their three NBA titles in 1983 and have not landed a conference title since 2001.

Asked how he and Harden could forge a stronger understanding, Embiid told a news conference: "Everybody's got to get better. It's not just about me and him."

Questions will be asked of Doc Rivers and the 76ers coaching staff, but Embiid said the players must look at themselves.

"I believe that we have the right people, but at some point you have to stop looking at coaching and you have to look at the players. Maybe you are just not good enough," Embiid said.

"I'm not trying to blame anybody, but the players have also got to do their jobs. It doesn't matter how much a coach or a GM talks to you or tries to motivate you, if you still go out there and don't do your job and the other team is more physical than you, that's on the players."

James Harden insisted he intends to stay with the Philadelphia 76ers next season after delivering a flat performance in the defeat that killed off the team's playoffs dream.

After posting just 11 points on four-of-nine shooting, NBA veteran Harden said he hoped the 76ers could realise their ambition to win a championship, and stressed he wanted to be a part of that.

Harden did not put any points on the board in the second half on a 99-90 defeat at home to the Miami Heat, who advanced 4-2 to the Eastern Conference Finals.

The 32-year-old guard spoke about his lack of impact, saying: "I feel like the ball moved, it just didn't get back to me."

The Heat dominated the third quarter 25-15 to open up an 11-point lead, including a 16-2 run, and Harden said: "We didn't score. They got some easy buckets in transition, and hit some big shots, and kind of broke the game open."

Acquired from the Brooklyn Nets in a February trade, Harden was asked whether he saw his future in Philadelphia.

"I'll be here," he said. "Whatever allows this team to continue to grow and get better, and do the things necessary to win and compete at the highest level."

He explained: "For me, it's been a long year, but since I've been here it's been great. We tried to build something so fast – tried to build a championship-contending team so fast – which I still think we are, but we're just missing a few pieces. Other than that, we tried to go for it right away, and we just came up a little short. It doesn't stop, we've still got to put work in and keep going.

"We're trying to win a championship, man. That's the goal. We'll continue to build, us individually, and continue to get better, us as a unit, and continue to get to know each other. We'll find out what works, what doesn't work, and things like that."

Harden has battled hamstring trouble in recent times, and he believes there is a pathway back to full fitness, where he would not feel impeded at all next season.

"I'm finally starting to feel okay again, so it will be a great summer for me to get my body right and get ready to go for next year. This last two years have been a whirlwind though," he said.

"I've been trying to get right throughout the course of a basketball season for two years straight, and that's not it. All last summer I was rehabbing, and it was a little frustrating because I'm not used to going through something like that. It is what it is, and I'm just happy to be healthy now, and I have a full summer to be straight and do the things necessary to come back even better next year."

Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doc Rivers criticised his side for their toughness and playing too slow in Tuesday's blowout 120-85 loss to the Miami Heat in Game 5.

The defeat leaves the 76ers down 3-2 in the Conference semi-finals series with games in both Philadelphia and, if required, Miami to come.

The 76ers were never a threat in Game 5, trailing by 12 points at quarter time, with Miami eventually winning by 35 points; the equal biggest margin in the 2021-22 playoffs so far.

"They were just more physical. We didn't run our stuff very well," Rivers told reporters after the game.

"We played at a snail's pace. We had 85 shots, turned the ball over, everything they did tonight was harder and better.

"Their stuff was better than what we ran, their energy was better, their toughness was better, I haven't said that very often about us, and that's on all of us.

"That's on me to make sure they're ready and that's on them to be ready. Tonight, we were not."

The 76ers had squared up the series after being down 2-0 but Rivers was left bemused by their lack of effort in Game 5.

"Obviously, they just were so much more engaged, more physical, took us out of stuff, there was a lot of disappointment from all of us tonight," Rivers said.

Embiid had played in both Games 3 and 4 after a concussion and a fractured orbital bone, but struggled for impact in Game 5, managing only 17 points, five rebounds and two assists.

"We didn’t play defense," Embiid said. "We weren’t physical enough, we weren't locked in from the beginning, and they took advantage of it."

James Harden was kept to 14 points, six rebounds and four assists for Philadelphia.

"They got off to a good start," Harden said. "Being down 12 in the first quarter on the road against a really good team is difficult.

"We cannot allow that to happen. Especially, Game 5 and the two games where we just came off our home court playing well. It is difficult to come back and fight your way back and we just never got our pop."

The Dallas Mavericks tied up their playoff series in spite of a poor shooting night from Luka Doncic on Sunday, winning Game 4 against the Phoenix Suns 111-101.

The Slovenian went one-of-10 from beyond the arc and converted on a total of nine-of-25 from the floor, but the Mavs were otherwise automatic from long-range and Doncic was the facilitator in that regard.

He ended up with 11 assists while the rest of the Dallas team went 19-of-34 from deep, with Dorian Finney-Smith scoring a career playoff-high with 24 points on eight-of-12 from the perimeter.

While Devin Booker scored 35 points, Phoenix lacked a reference point late in the game with Chris Paul fouled out early.

The first-seeded Suns went three-of-nine from the perimeter in the fourth quarter, while Booker critically turned the ball over three times.

Sixers tie it up on home court

In the Eastern Conference, the first-seeded Miami Heat find themselves in a series, with the Philadelphia 76ers claiming a 116-108 win in Game 4.

Joel Embiid's second game back from injury gave the Sixers a boost to tie up the series, finishing with 24 points on seven-of-13 shooting and 11 rebounds.

James Harden was the star of the show, however, coming up with 31 points, nine assists and seven rebounds, including some big buckets down the stretch.

The Heat were able to generate open looks, and at timely moments in the game, but were simply not able to capitalise, going seven-of-35 from the perimeter.

Victor Oladipo and Tyler Herro were particularly unable to provide Miami with a scoring boost off the bench, combining for 26 points but off two-of-10 shooting from beyond the arc.

Ben Simmons will have surgery to help treat the pain caused by a herniated disc, with the Brooklyn Nets expecting his recovery to take at least three months.

Simmons, the 2020-21 Defensive Player of the Year runner-up, did not play a game in the 2021-22 season, encountering more back pain as he tried to ramp up to a return in the playoffs.

A statement released by the Nets highlighted that the surgery he will receive is called a microdiscectomy. 

It was a disappointing season for the Nets, who began the year as the favourites to win the Eastern Conference, but struggled throughout as Kyrie Irving was absent for the first portion of the season, and James Harden was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers for a package around Simmons.

In the playoffs, the Nets were swept in the first round by the Boston Celtics, who are now the Eastern Conference favourites.

While Kyrie Irving highlighted in his last post-game press conference of the playoffs that there will be plenty of roster turnover as he and Kevin Durant "co-manage" the offseason along with the front office, he indicated Simmons was seen as a core building block.

On a night where star Jimmy Butler did not have his best showing, Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra was full of praise for his supporting cast in their 106-92 Game 1 win against the Philadelphia 76ers.

Butler finished five-of-16 from the field for his 15 points, and did not play at all in the fourth quarter as the Heat extended their lead without him.

Young duo Bam Adebayo (24 points, 12 rebounds and four assists) and Tyler Herro (25 points and seven assists) picked up the slack, while P.J. Tucker grinded out 29 tough minutes for 10 points and seven rebounds while spending long stretches on Philadelphia's James Harden.

Speaking with post-game media, Spoelstra said he was not shaken by the 76ers leading at half-time, and he knew Herro's next big performance was just around the corner.

"First of all, 48-minute games are long, and they're a very good team, even without Embiid," he said. "You get a double-digit lead in this league, and in the playoffs, they can disappear like that.

"I think it was just a matter of time before [Herro] was going to get into his rhythm. He's a great player, and he's so skilled. 

"It is just a matter of time, and sometimes you miss shots, [but] I thought in the Atlanta series he was playing good basketball. He just wasn't making some of the shots we're used to seeing him make, then everyone jumps to conclusions about that – but he was playing winning basketball.

"The plays in between – they weren't necessarily play-calls – but it was the plays in between that he was able to be super efficient in. He's a big-time 'X-factor' for us offensively when he's in that rhythm."

Spoelstra then shifted his attention to his starting big-men.

"Those inspiring offensive rebounds, and extra possessions, and extra efforts kind of ignited the whole team," he said. "That was P.J. [Tucker] and Bam [Adebayo] – both of those guys were terrific.

"Defensively we really picked up the intensity, but we did it with a bit more thought and discipline. 

"On both ends of the court, [Adebayo] was so critical. In that second half, whether it was zone or man [defence], he was able to find those open gaps in the paint.

"It wasn't as if we were running specific plays for him, it was just his activity, and his relentlessness, and his assertiveness. Our guys were finding him in the paint, and when the ball was up there he was going after it.

"You can't put an analytic to it – I literally don't know what [Tucker's] stats were – but he has those momentum-shifting plays. These timely, winning plays – and he has a way of doing things that just inspires your whole team. 

"[Tucker] was tremendous on both ends of the court, and that's what winning basketball is meant to look like. He's our best communicator… and he's such an underrated, high-IQ offensive player."

The Heat looked to figure out their opponents in the second half, outscoring the 76ers 56-41 over the last two quarters, but Spoelstra said he knows there is a long series ahead, with plenty of adjustments coming from both sides.

"Doc [Rivers] is a great coach, a brilliant mind," he said. "He'll come up with something, and we'll try to make our adjustments. 

"Even without Embiid, they have some great firepower. Harden creates a lot of things you have to be ultra on-edge about, Maxey has just continued to improve, and Harris was killing us tonight."

Jalen Brunson scored a career-high 41 points to carry the Dallas Mavericks to a 110-104 home victory, tying their series against the Utah Jazz at 1-1.

With the Mavs missing Luka Doncic for the second straight game due to injury, Brunson scored 15 of their first 18 points as the two sides went into quarter-time tied at 24. It stayed neck-and-neck until a 7-0 run late in the second quarter gave Utah a seven-point lead at the long break.

Dallas' Maxi Kleber hit one three-pointer in each of the first two quarters, but caught fire in the second half, going three-for-four from long range in the third term and repeating that effort in the fourth quarter to finish with 25 points off the bench.

Kleber's biggest shots were back-to-back bombs to turn a 98-96 deficit into a 102-98 lead, which Dallas never relinquished, on the way to finishing eight-of-11 from three, while not attempting a single a two-point field goal.

Brunson finished an incredible 15-of-25 from the field and six-of-10 from three, and added eight rebounds, five assists and two turnovers.

For Utah, Donovan Mitchell top-scored with 34 points on 13-of-30 shooting, while Rudy Gobert grabbed 17 rebounds and blocked two shots.

The series heads to Utah next for Game 3 and Game 4.

 

76ers too much for Toronto

Despite strong first and fourth quarters for the Toronto Raptors, they went down 112-97 against the Philadelphia 76ers to fall down 2-0 in the series.

In an up-tempo first quarter where both sides were making shots, Fred VanVleet was the early standout, hitting four of his seven three-point attempts to head into quarter time with 14 points and his Raptors leading 33-32.

For the next two quarters, it would be all Philadelphia, out-scoring the Raptors 63-38 over the second and third frames to take full command of the contest, peaking at a 95-66 lead with 30 seconds remaining in the third.

The 76ers' intensity dropped in the last as the game was essentially won, which allowed Toronto to pull the margin back to 11 points with 6:30 to play, but that would be as close as things got as a Tyrese Maxey three and a string of free throws kept Philly's lead in the teens as the clock winded down.

Joel Embiid was the best player on the floor, scoring 31 points on nine-of-16 shooting (12-of-14 free throws) with 11 rebounds, while Maxey was unstoppable for the second game in a row, scoring an efficient 23 points on eight-of-11 shooting and adding nine rebounds with eight assists.

Tobias Harris also earned a mention with his 20 points and 10 rebounds, while O.G. Anunoby was the lone bright spot for the Raptors, scoring 26 points on 10-of-14 shooting and flashing some intriguing ability as a primary scoring option.

Toronto will host Game 3 and Game 4 of the series, with unvaccinated players unable to enter Canada, which means Matisse Thybulle will not travel with the 76ers.

 

Poole party for the Splash Brothers

After scoring a team-high 30 points in Game 1 against the Denver Nuggets, Jordan Poole was at it again in the Golden State Warriors' 126-106 win in Game 2.

While he did not top-score this time around, Poole was arguably the Warriors' best player through the first three quarters, racking up 27 of his 29 points up to three-quarter time as his side led 101-81 heading into the last.

Poole has emerged as the third 'Splash Brother' this postseason, with the original two also enjoying big games on Monday, as Stephen Curry scored a game-high 34 points in 23 minutes off the bench, while Klay Thompson chipped in with 21.

For Denver, MVP favourite Nikola Jokic was ejected in the fourth quarter for his second technical foul after accumulating 26 points, 11 rebounds and four assists in 28 minutes.

So here it is. That time of year again where we separate the wheat from the chaff, the men from the boys, the champions from the... rest.

The NBA playoffs get underway on Saturday with plenty of stories to be written and legacies to be cemented.

Can the Phoenix Suns turn their dominance in the regular season into a championship? Will the Milwaukee Bucks be able to retain their crown? Could someone from the play-in tournament sneak in the back door and go all the way?

These questions and plenty more will keep us glued to our screens as we watch the action unfold over the next two months.

But what of the individual stories? There are plenty of players who have made names for themselves in the business end of the season down the years, with lots of big names who will particularly want to make an impression this time around as well.

Stats Perform has selected five such players to focus on, explaining why they may just have a bit more to prove over the next few weeks than others.

James Harden – Philadelphia 76ers

It may feel slightly like shooting fish in a barrel to start with a player who is known for not being able to get over the line in the postseason, but we are not above easy wins here.

Harden has been to the NBA Finals just once in 12 postseason appearances, and that came 10 years ago with Oklahoma City Thunder.

Strictly speaking, his playoff averages have been impressive. While with the Houston Rockets, he averaged at least 26.3 points per game (PPG) in the playoffs, including an impressive 31.6 in the 2018-19 season.

However, it has more been one-off performances, invariably at crucial moments, that have let him down. This was summarised perfectly last year in Game 7 for the Brooklyn Nets against the Bucks, when he sank only five of 17 field goal attempts.

Now at the Sixers after a huge trade earlier in the season, and with the league's top scorer Joel Embiid on his side, Harden will surely be determined to silence his doubters and reach the second NBA Finals of his career. 

Chris Paul – Phoenix Suns

This is likely the best chance the Suns will ever have to win an NBA championship, and ditto Paul.

An incredible regular season record of 64-18 saw them finish atop the Western Conference with a win percentage of 78.0, almost 10 per cent more than the second-place Memphis Grizzlies (68.3 per cent).

For Paul, this, therefore, is almost certainly his strongest chance to finally win a championship ring, especially having come so close last year.

The 12-time All-Star has the most assists per game in the league this season (10.8), and only Trae Young (737) has more overall assists than his 702, though the Atlanta Hawks star has played 11 more games.

At 36 years of age, Paul will not have many more opportunities, and will want to make this one count.

 

Luka Doncic – Dallas Mavericks

It has been another memorable season for the young Slovenian, averaging 28.4 PPG as well as 8.7 assists and 9.1 rebounds.

In his two previous playoff campaigns, Doncic has stepped his game up even more, averaging 31.0 PPG in 2019-20 and a remarkable 35.7 PPG last year. However, on both occasions, the Mavericks still could not make it past the first round.

Dallas ended the regular season with a record of 52-30, winning seven of their last eight games, and will go up against the Utah Jazz in the first round, a team they have beaten twice in the last six weeks.

It is not so much that Doncic himself has a point to prove, but he will be looking for more help from his team-mates as he looks to get to the latter stages, where a player of his talent surely belongs.

Tyler Herro – Miami Heat

Another young player who has already put in some strong postseason showings in his short career so far.

Herro impressed in the 2020 playoffs, but last year the Heat were whitewashed by the Bucks in the first round. As the number one seeds in the East this year, all eyes will be on them to do much better.

While Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo will of course be important, Herro could well be the difference-maker.

The 22-year-old point guard has comfortably produced his best regular season so far, averaging 20.7 PPG, as well as 4.0 assists and 5.0 rebounds.

Many expect it to be Miami v Phoenix in a battle of two number one seeds in the Finals this year, in which case Herro will be looking to repeat his second-best scoring performance of the season when he came away with 33 points in the Footprint Center in January's 123-100 win against the Suns.

Ben Simmons – Brooklyn Nets

It has been a nervous wait for Simmons, not just to return to fitness, but to see if he would even have the chance to turn out for the Nets this season.

While it has not been suggested the 25-year-old will return from back problems imminently, it has been reported the Nets are looking to use the player they traded Harden for in February sparingly towards the end of the first round.

Thankfully for him, his team-mates made it through their play-in game against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday and so take their place in the playoffs, where they will start off in a fascinating encounter against the Boston Celtics.

Simmons has not played a single minute of basketball this season, not since his notorious performances in last year's postseason with the Sixers that saw him draw the ire of Joel Embiid and coach Doc Rivers.

Although Embiid accused Simmons of wanting to be a star more than wanting to win, that he won't necessarily need to fire from the off could help him, with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in excellent form for Brooklyn.

Simmons will want to discover the sort of form he showed in the 2018-19 campaign, when he averaged 16.9 PPG, as well as 7.7 assists and 8.8 rebounds.

Joel Embiid made his closing statement for the MVP award and all but wrapped up the NBA scoring title in the Philadelphia 76ers' 133-120 win over the Indiana Pacers on Saturday.

Embiid put up monster numbers of 41 points, 20 rebounds and four assists, while going 14-of-17 from the floor and 11-of-15 from the free-throw line. It was the first time this NBA season that a player scored 40 points or more and had 20 or more rebounds in a game.

The 28-year-old is currently the league's scoring leader, averaging an astounding 30.6 points per game, just ahead of LeBron James' 30.3 and Kevin Durant's 30.1 points per game.

James Harden had 22 points and 14 assists for Philadelphia, who had a healthy spread of scorers with Tobias Harris and Tyrese Maxey both scoring 18 points, and Danny Green adding 15.

The Sixers remain in the hunt for the Eastern Conference's third seed with the win, moving to the same record as the Boston Celtics at 50-31, while the Milwaukee Bucks are second at 51-30.

A win over the Detroit Pistons on Sunday combined with a Boston loss to the Memphis Grizzlies would move the Sixers into the third seed.

Morant makes timely return for Grizzlies

Ja Morant returned to action after a nine-game absence on Saturday night, as the Memphis Grizzlies secured a comfortable 141-114 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans.

Morant finished with 21 points off seven-of-14 shooting, along with nine assists and four rebounds, while Jaren Jackson Jr. contributed a solid 12 points, nine rebounds and four blocks.

The Grizzlies are set to finish second in the Western Conference, to face the winner of the 7-8 matchup in the play-in between the Minnesota Timberwolves and Los Angeles Clippers.

Warriors continue winning run

The Golden State Warriors claimed their fourth consecutive victory despite an off shooting night from Jordan Poole, defeating the San Antonio Spurs on the road 100-94.

With Stephen Curry yet to return from injury and Klay Thompson rested, Poole had to take on more offensive responsibility and went three-of-19 from the floor in win.

A combined 30 points at nine-of-14 shooting off the bench from Jonathan Kuminga and Nemanja Bjelica was able to counteract it, along with 12 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists from Draymond Green.

Kevin Durant believes his knee injury near the midway point of the NBA season "derailed" the Brooklyn Nets' campaign.

The Nets are sitting 10th in the Eastern Conference, occupying the last of the Play-In Tournament spots.

Durant did not play a game between January 17 and March 3 as a result of his injury, with the Nets going 3-10 in February.

If the season were to end now, the Nets would need to win on the road against the Charlotte Hornets, and then triumph again on their travels against the winner of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Atlanta Hawks' matchup in their clash for the seventh seed.

Brooklyn have a winning percentage of .513 (40-38) for the season, but that jumps to .627 in games Durant has played (32-19), and plummets to .296 (8-19) when he has been absent.

"So I'm not looking at it like we're just not a good basketball team. There wasn't a lot of continuity with me and Kyrie [Irving] out of the line-up, that's just what it is. 

"When we're all on the floor together, I like what we got."

Reflecting on what has been a hectic season off the court, the two-time Finals MVP made it clear what it takes to be in the upper echelon of such a competitive league.

"You can talk about expectations and what you see this team on paper – I always said this, but everyday matters," he said. 

"You want to be a champion every second that you step on the floor, not just when we play a good team or the playoffs coming up. 

"I think being a champion is in the habits and the work ethic, the care that you have for the game. [There's] a lot of champions out here that never won a ring, but they approach their work that way.

"So that's how I felt our team needed to approach this season – and guys have – but some stuff that's out of individuals' control is the reason why we're in certain positions. 

"That doesn't stop you from having the championship mentality every day as an individual."

Durant was emphatic when asked if he spends time thinking about all the different scenarios the Nets could be faced with due to playoff seeding.

"Who cares?" he asked reporters.

"Whoever we play, we play. I don't care who we play. I don't care that we're in the play-in. 

"Just tip the ball up, see what happens. That's all you can control. 

"It's too stressful thinking about trying to dodge a team, just play the game. We'll see what happens."

Despite Durant's knee injury, he has still played in 51 games, while Irving has played in just 25 as New York previously had a mandate preventing players unvaccinated against COVID-19 featuring in matches in the city.

The Philadelphia 76ers tied a franchise record of 21 three-pointers in their 144-114 rout of the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday.

Tobias Harris scored 23 points and had a season high of five triples, with the Sixers getting seven players in double figures and able to play their bench for the majority of the fourth quarter.

MVP candidate Joel Embiid was as dependable as ever with 29 points on 12-of-16 shooting, 14 rebounds and six assists. Despite an off-shooting night, James Harden was still able to fill up the stats sheet with 12 points, 13 assists and eight rebounds.

The Sixers moved the ball exceptionally throughout to generate clean looks, coming up with 38 assists for the night and shooting 49 per cent from the perimeter.

Philadelphia are still yet to clinch a playoff berth in a tight Eastern Conference, but moved a step closer at 47-30, 4.5 games ahead of the Cleveland Cavaliers in seventh.

The Hornets had already wrapped up the final play-in spot in the East but were dominated on the boards, coming up with 15 less rebounds.

Durant and Irving light up but Nets go cold

Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving combined for 86 points, but the Brooklyn Nets still came up short against the Atlanta Hawks in a 122-115 defeat.

Durant put up a season-high 55 points at an efficient 19-of-28 shooting, including eight-of-10 from beyond the arc. Aside from Irving though, not a single Nets player went into double figures, with Patty Mills and Cam Thomas particularly going a combined one-of-14 from the floor.

In what could be a potential play-in matchup in the Eastern Conference, Trae Young notched up 36 points, 10 assists and six rebounds.

Dubs down Jazz with second-half fightback

The Golden State Warriors overturned a double-digit deficit at the main interval to claim a big 111-107 win at home over the Utah Jazz.

Still without the injured Stephen Curry and down by 13 at the half, the Dubs put the defensive clamps on and kept the Jazz to just 20 points in the fourth quarter.

Jordan Poole and Klay Thompson eventually combined for 67 points, but Golden State forcing four misses out of Utah's final five field goal attempts was definitive. 

Giannis Antetokounmpo saved some veiled censure for James Harden, as he surpassed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to become the Milwaukee Bucks' all-time leading scorer on Thursday.

With 44 points, 14 rebounds and six assists, Antetokounmpo led the Bucks to a big 120-119 overtime win against Kevin Durant and the Brooklyn Nets.

Drilling a step-back three to tie the game at the end of regulation, the 27-year-old broke the Bucks franchise record in the process.

Responding to prior criticism from James Harden that he only "runs and dunks" as a consequence of his height and mobility, the Greek forward was evidently pleased to have broken the record with elite skill on the step-back triple.

"I did not know about it, but it's good," he said post-game. "It's good because I'm changing the narrative. You know, I don't want to be the guy that only dunks and runs. I can make a three," Antetokounmpo said.

For the two-time MVP, his priorities remain based in team success.

"It doesn't really matter, because at the end of the day, if you don't have a successful season and if you don't try to keep getting better, and staying humble, and staying hungry to play all the way until May and June, nobody is going to remember this," Antetokounmpo added.

"So I just want to stay humble, I want us to stay humble. I feel like the more humble I get, and the more hungry I stay, the more things I can accomplish, the more art I can create... I just gotta keep staying humble, make my teammates great, win games, and good things like tonight are going to happen."

Giannis Antetokounmpo came up with a game-winning block on Joel Embiid after scoring 40 points in the Milwaukee Bucks' crucial 118-116 win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday.

Antetokounmpo rose to block Embiid's attempt to level the scores with less than two seconds left on the clock, with head coach Mike Budenholzer labelling it "special".

The Greek superstar finished with 40 points on 66 per cent shooting with 14 rebounds, six assists and three blocks.

The Bucks win is significant in the race for Eastern Conference seeds, moving Milwaukee (47-28) into second behind the Miami Heat (48-28), while the 76ers (46-29) slip to fourth.

Khris Middleton added 22 points, nine rebounds and seven assists and Jrue Holiday contributed 18 points, eight rebounds and 10 assists.

Embiid finished with 29 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists, while James Harden had 32 points making four-of-10 from beyond the arc, with five rebounds and nine assists.

 

George returns in Clippers comeback win

Paul George marked his first game since December 22 with 34 points including six three-pointers as the Los Angeles Clippers fought back from 25 points down to win 121-115 over the Utah Jazz who have lost five in a row. The Clippers finished the game on a 34-12 run.

Kevin Durant scored 41 points with 11 rebounds, five assists and three blocks while Kyrie Irving managed 24 points in his second home appearance as the Brooklyn Nets won 130-123 over the Detroit Pistons.

The Chicago Bulls found some form after winning only four of their past 15 games with an important 107-94 win over the Washington Wizards led by DeMar DeRozan with 32 points, seven rebounds and two steals.

 

Lakers slide continues

The Los Angeles Lakers' struggles continued with a heavy 128-110 loss to the Dallas Mavericks as Luka Doncic recorded a triple-double with 34 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists. The Mavs led by as much as 37 points. The Lakers, who were without LeBron James and Anthony Davis, are 31-44 and slip to 11th out of the west's play-in spots.

MVP contender Joel Embiid insists the Philadelphia 76ers are not focusing on the race for top seed in the east after Friday's 122-97 win over the Los Angeles Clippers moved them within one game of top spot.

Embiid scored 27 points with 10 rebounds, with team-mate James Harden adding 29 points with four three-pointers along with a season-high 15 rebounds and seven assists.

The victory improved the 76ers to a 46-27 record and second in the east, moving within one game of Eastern Conference-leading Miami Heat (47-27) who lost 111-103 to the New York Knicks.

Reigning champions, the Milwaukee Bucks, are third in the Eastern Conference with a 46-27 record, with the Boston Celtics in fourth with a 46-28 record.

"Our focus is just on getting better every single day," Embiid told reporters after the win. "Whether it's offensively or defensively, we're not worried about the standings.

"We just want to get to the point where we know what we're doing at all the times on the court, especially on the offensive side.

"That's what we've been working on. That's what coach has been on to us about focusing on the details, so we can get there."

Harden joined the 76ers last month in a blockbuster trade that saw Ben Simmons headed the other way to the Brooklyn Nets.

Friday's win marked the first time since the move that the pair had both recorded double-doubles in the same game together.

The 76ers have improved with Harden playing alongside Embiid, but the duo's synergy remains a work in progress.

"We're getting better. The one-two has to be there first. It is. The rest will follow," Sixers head coach Doc Rivers said.

Harden, who is averaging 23 points and 7.6 rebounds since moving to the 76ers, added: "Things are headed in the right direction, but every single day we are focusing on execution and details.

"There are going to be different ways we are going to have to win in the playoffs, and we have to be prepared for that."

The 76ers' next two games are against last season's NBA Finals sides, the Phoenix Suns and the Bucks.

James Harden scored 29 points with a season-high 15 rebounds as the Philadelphia 76ers improved to 46-27 with a 122-97 road victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday.

Harden had four three-pointers in his 29 points, while he also dished off seven assists, with Joel Embiid adding 27 points with 10 rebounds as the 76ers flexed their muscle.

The 76ers set the tone with a 35-19 first quarter with Tobias Harris (12 points, two rebounds and two assists) hitting a buzzer-beating three-pointer.

Harden's 15 rebounds are the most the 2018 MVP has had in a game since December 2020 with the Houston Rockets.

The win helps the 76ers close on the Miami Heat (47-27) and Milwaukee Bucks (46-27) at the top of the Eastern Conference in the jostle for top seed ahead of the playoffs.

 

Curry-less Warriors beaten again

The Golden State Warriors lost for the fourth time in their past five games since Stephen Curry's foot injury, going down 121-110 to the Atlanta Hawks despite Klay Thompson's 37 points including nine triples. Hawks guard Trae Young starred with 33 points and 15 assists.

The Minnesota Timberwolves clinched their 11th win from their past 14 games as they got the Dallas Mavericks 116-95 led by Karl-Anthony Towns' 20 points and nine rebounds. Luka Doncic had 24 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists for the Mavs.

The Charlotte Hornets responded after their shock defeat to the New York Knicks with an impressive 107-101 win over the Utah Jazz, with Miles Bridges scoring 26 points and 11 rebounds, while Terry Rozier added 25 points.

 

Knicks' remarkable run downs Heat

The Miami Heat looked set to gain some breathing space on top of the Eastern Conference before the New York Knicks closed on a remarkable 38-13 run to claim a stunning 111-103 victory. Immanuel Quickley scored 20 of his 23 points in the last quarter.

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