Kevin Durant felt as if the Philadelphia 76ers underestimated the Brooklyn Nets due to their COVID-19 outbreak ahead of Thursday's 114-105 victory.

The Nets had just nine players available for selection ahead of the visit of Eastern Conference rivals the 76ers.

Nets coach Steve Nash commented beforehand about being concerned with how much game time Durant was having to play, describing it as "not safe or unsustainable" – though the depleted nature of their squad did not give him much of an option but to play him.

Before Thursday's win, Durant ranked second in minutes per game (36.9) in the NBA this season, and he racked up another 39 against the 76ers.

But it was probably just as well considering he tallied a double-double of 34 points and 11 rebounds – no one on the court bettered him in either respect.

The win improved the Nets to 21-8 and Durant reckoned they caught the 76ers in slack form.

"We played with a great brand of basketball right from the start," he said. "I think they came in too relaxed, they've seen we've only got nine players.

"We came out, hit them early and stuck with it. In the fourth quarter we just had good energy. We fed off that in the first three quarters and then in the fourth we were able to cruise."

On his own personal performance after another gruelling outing, the 33-year-old added: "I just try to do what's required, man.

"I mean, I want to be out there. I want to play. I want to win. So, it starts there. Whatever I've got to do to accomplish those three things, I'm going to do."

"It's basketball at end of the day, it's simple, I've been doing all my life. No matter who's on the floor, opponents or team-mates, I've just got to go out and be me. I'm just grateful I'm available to play."

76ers coach Doc Rivers was not drawn on the idea his team were complacent – instead, he commented on the standard of officiating, convinced Joel Embiid was not being protected enough.

"I thought Joel got fouled the last three post possessions, and-ones, and none was called," said Rivers.

"I don't know how a team can play the fourth quarter of a game where we're driving the ball and posting the ball and they have zero fouls. It's hard to play a quarter in the NBA and commit no fouls. Very surprised by that."

Embiid added: "I mean, they're the home team. I thought we got fouled a few times, especially down there. But, I mean, it's frustrating when they're calling fouls for the other teams down there and you don't get any. I can see what he [Rivers] was talking about."

Kevin Durant was the hero again for the Brooklyn Nets after lifting the shorthanded Eastern Conference leaders past the Philadelphia 76ers 114-105.

The Nets have been ravaged by COVID-19, with superstar James Harden among the absentees after entering the NBA's health and safety protocols.

But Durant carried the Nets on Thursday, scoring 34 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists to help see off the rallying 76ers in Brooklyn.

With the game tied less than two minutes from the end, Durant came up big via a four-point play, having been fouled on a three-point attempt.

Durant was coming off an NBA season-high 51 points, nine assists and seven rebounds, and 34 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists in his previous two games.

Joel Embiid put up 32 points, nine rebounds and six assists but the slumping 76ers still fell to their third consecutive defeat.

 

Suns do their thing

The Phoenix Suns capped a balanced performance with a 118-98 victory at home to the Washington Wizards. All five starters, and eight players in total, had double-digit points. Thanks to the win, the Suns moved level with the Golden State Warriors for the NBA lead at 23-5.

The New York Knicks snapped a four-game losing streak via a 116-103 triumph over the Houston Rockets, behind Immanuel Quickley (24 points), Evan Fournier (23 points) and Julius Randle (21 points).

 

Sorry Pistons lose… again

The less said about the Detroit Pistons right now, the better. Detroit were condemned to a 13th successive loss, the Pistons beaten 122-113 by the Indiana Pacers. Detroit (4-23) own the NBA's worst record.

Brooklyn Nets head coach Steve Nash admitted he is concerned with Kevin Durant's workload, describing it as "not safe or sustainable".

Before Thursday's 114-105 win over Eastern Conference rivals the Philadelphia 76ers, Durant ranked second in minutes per game (36.9) this NBA season.

The shorthanded Nets, who have been hit by a COVID-19 outbreak, have relied heavily on their superstar in 2021-22 – Durant played a season-high 48 minutes in Tuesday's overtime victory against the Toronto Raptors.

Not since 2013-14, during his time with the Oklahoma City Thunder (38.5), has former MVP Durant averaged more minutes per game in his illustrious career.

"It's a really important topic," Nash before the Eastern Conference-leading Nets outlasted the rallying 76ers in Brooklyn, with Durant playing a team-high 39 minutes.

"I don't know we can continue to lean on him the way we have. It doesn't feel right.

"I know he's enjoying it. I know he's enjoying playing at the rate he's playing at and trying to bring his team-mates along with him and all the responsibility that he's accepted and crushed, basically.

"It's just been incredible. But, at the same time, it's not safe or sustainable to lean on him like that. There's gonna be a lot of consideration and we'll have to figure out ways to give him breaks."

Durant was ice-cold against the 76ers, posting 34 points – including a pair of three-pointers, 11 rebounds and eight assists to lift the Nets.

The Nets are top of the Eastern Conference with a 21-8 record, two and a half games clear of defending champions the Milwaukee Bucks.

The Brooklyn Nets might have problems just now, but they sit top of the Eastern Conference and continue their home run on Thursday as they host the Philadelphia 76ers at Barclays Center.

Kevin Durant starred with a triple-double in Brooklyn's overtime win over the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday, dragging the Nets to a 131-129 triumph.

The success came after a whirlwind day for the Nets, who had to place seven players, including James Harden, into the NBA's health and safety protocols due to a COVID-19 outbreak in the camp.

Brooklyn sit on 20 wins from 28 games for the season, with a divisional contest against the Sixers (15-14) next up on Thursday.

Philadelphia went down to the Miami Heat on Wednesday, with Gabe Vincent registering 26 points – including a vital fourth-quarter three-pointer – as Erik Spoelstra's side recorded a 101-96 triumph.

None of Miami's three leading average points-scorers – Jimmy Butler, Tyler Herro or Bam Adebayo – were in the line-up, but the Sixers were also without Georges Niang due to the NBA’s COVID-19 protocols - the fifth 76ers star to miss time this season for that reason.

Defeat against the Heat made it consecutive losses for the Sixers, following a 126-91 reverse against the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday.

Philadelphia (15-14) sit seventh in the Eastern Conference, with a 5-5 record over the last 10 games in what has been a stop-start campaign thus far as they prepare to challenge the Nets.

PIVOTAL PERFORMERS

Philadelphia 76ers – Joel Embiid

Embiid has enjoyed a strong recent record against Brooklyn, winning three of his last five encounters with the Nets and personally scoring at least 33 points in each of those victories.

The four-time All-Star has 496 points, 225 rebounds and 62 assists against the Nets across his career, while only Tyrese Maxey (477) has accumulated more points this season for Philadelphia than Embiid (429).

Brooklyn Nets – Kevin Durant

Durant had a game-leading 34 points against the Raptors, as he completed that triple-double – his second of the season – with 13 rebounds and 11 assists.

The former Golden State Warriors star is averaging 29.6 points from 26 games so far in 2021-22, and if his form continues he seems destined to surpass, or come very close to surpassing, his previous best career average of 32.0 set across 81 games in the 2013-14 season with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

He has a 16-3 career record against the Sixers, averaging 27.3 points per game.

KEY BATTLE – High-scorers could settle the contest

With Durant in such strong form, the Sixers will just be thankful, due to Harden's absence, that they are not facing two players that account for six of the 35 triple-doubles so far this season.

The Los Angeles Lakers (Russell Westbrook – five, LeBron James – two) are the only team with more triple-doubles to their name in 2021-22, and Philadelphia must surely look to keep the Nets on six if they are to clinch victory in Brooklyn.

No Philadelphia player has achieved a triple-double this season, while Embiid has been responsible for eight of the team's 17 double-doubles. Brooklyn are already on 31.

HEAD-TO-HEAD

The 76ers certainly have the edge when it comes to recent meetings between the east coast rivals, having won five of the last seven clashes.

However, the Nets won 114-109 at Wells Fargo Center in October, and also won their last home game against Philadelphia back in January.

The Los Angeles Lakers claimed a remarkable 107-104 overtime win over the Dallas Mavericks with rookie Austin Reaves clinching the game with a late three-pointer.

LeBron James finished with 24 points, three rebounds and five assists but missed a last-gasp three-point attempt in normal time, but the Mavs fumbled the rebound and Wayne Ellington swooped to hit a triple to send the game overtime.

Russell Westbrook (23 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists) came up with a clutch three-pointer in overtime - his only of the game - while Anthony Davis had 20 points and 12 rebounds to lift the Lakers to a 16-13 record with their third straight win.

Both sides had traded triples in overtime but 23-year-old shooting guard Reaves stepped up with scores locked at 104-104 after being found by Westbrook wide open, draining his three-point attempt with 0.9 seconds on the clock.

The Lakers surrendered a good start with a poor second quarter, where the Mavs outscored them 27-14, but defensively were excellent keeping Dallas, who were without Luka Doncic, to 27.3 percent shooting from beyond the arc.

 

Good Holiday with others out

Jrue Holiday stepped up in the absence of Khris Middleton (knee) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (COVID protocols) with 26 points and 14 assists to lead the Milwaukee Bucks past the Indiana Pacers 114-99. Tyrese Maxey had a game-high 27 points for the 76ers.

Reigning MVP Nikola Jokic continued his hot run with another triple-double (27 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists) but the Denver Nuggets lost 124-107 to the Minnesota Timberwolves, as Anthony Edwards scored 10 triples in his 38 points.

The Utah Jazz stretched their winning streak to eight games, beating the Los Angeles Clippers 124-103 with Rudy Gobert (20 points and 17 rebounds) and Donovan Mitchell (27 points and six assists) starring.

Devonte' Graham drained a 65-foot game-winning buzzer beater as the New Orleans Pelicans defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder 113-110, while Gordon Hayward scored 41 points from 29 minutes on court as the Charlotte Hornets beat the San Antonio Spurs 131-115.

 

Embiid loses his touch

Joel Embiid missed a late three-point chance to tie the game and shot five of 13 from the field for his 17 points as the Philadelphia 76ers lost 101-96 to the weakened Miami Heat, who were without Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro. Gabe Vincent landed seven three-pointers in his career-high 26-point haul for the Heat.

Stephen Curry moved within two three-pointers of breaking Ray Allen's all-time NBA record as the Golden State Warriors edged the Indiana Pacers 102-100 on Monday.

Curry finished the game with 26 points including five triples to close in on Allen's record of 2,973 three-point attempts made. The two-time MVP will look to break the mark on Tuesday against the New York Knicks.

Domantas Sabonis scored 30 points with 11 rebounds for the Pacers, who led late before Curry, who shot at 33 percent from beyond the arc, hit his fifth three-point attempt to narrow the margin.

Curry had another attempt from beyond the arc rim out, with Kevin Looney's putback giving Golden State the lead with 13.4 seconds left.

Gary Payton II's defense on Caris LeVert forced a late turnover to seal the win for the Warriors who improve to 22-5, ahead of Curry's next attempt at breaking the record in New York.

 

Tatum downs depleted Bucks

Jayson Tatum hit seven three-pointers as he finished with 42 points in the Boston Celtics' 117-103 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks. The reigning champions lost Khris Middleton to a left knee hyper-extension in the third quarter, while Giannis Antetokounmpo was kept relatively quiet with 20 points, eight rebounds and three assists.

The Philadelphia 76ers missed Joel Embiid who was out with rib soreness, going down 126-91 to the Memphis Grizzlies, while reigning MVP Nikola Jokic led the Denver Nuggets past the Washington Wizards 113-107 with 28 points, 19 rebounds and nine assists.

Trae Young scored 41 points with nine assists but it could not prevent the Atlanta Hawks from losing 132-126 to the resurgent Houston Rockets. Eric Gordon netted 32 points for Houston who came from 19 points down with a 38-21 fourth quarter.

 

CP3 struggles as Suns stumble

Chris Paul could not find his stride against his former franchise, struggling for nine points shooting at under 30 percent with eight assists in the Phoenix Suns' 111-95 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. The Suns, who are 21-5, were without Deandre Ayton and Devin Booker.

Stephen Curry says the lure of breaking Ray Allen's all-time three-pointers record did not play a part in his poor shooting night in the Golden State Warriors 102-93 loss the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday.

Curry shot six of 20 from the field, finishing with 18 points and making only three of 14 attempts from beyond the arc.

The two-time MVP's three triples moved him within seven three-pointers of breaking Allen's all-time NBA record of 2,973 three-point attempts made.

"If you take away the context of these last couple of games, I've played the exact same way," Curry said at the post-game news conference. "You’ve got to make shots and understand the opposition is not going to want that [breaking the record] to happen on their home floor.

"They defend accordingly. For the most part [I am] trying to keep it out of my head and just play basketball and take the shots I normally take and play the game I normally do.

"There was obviously a lot of attention on it which is well deserved as it's an all-time NBA record and one that been around for 10-11 years.

"I appreciate the attention on it. It'll happen when it happens. I'll continue to keep winning NBA games in the process."

Curry has made 24 three-pointers in his past five games as he closes in on the NBA record with attention swirling about the milestone held by Allen since 2011 when he surpassed Reggie Miller's mark of 2,560.

The point guard attributed his 30 percent field goal percentage to pressure from the 76ers and Matisse Thybulle, who marked him closely, rather than the impending record.

"They pressured all night long. Thybulle is a pretty hard defender," Curry said. "They were trying to force us into the paint and make the extra pass and we did that early.

"We didn't shoot as effectively as we wanted. We made that third quarter run but then got cold. They slowly walked us down."

Curry's next chance at breaking Allen's record occurs on Monday when the Warriors face the Indiana Pacers.

Stephen Curry says the lure of breaking Ray Allen's all-time three-pointers record did not play a part in his poor shooting night in the Golden State Warriors 102-93 loss the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday.

Curry shot six of 20 from the field, finishing with 18 points and making only three of 14 attempts from beyond the arc.

The two-time MVP's three triples moved him within seven three-pointers of breaking Allen's all-time NBA record of 2,973 three-point attempts made.

"If you take away the context of these last couple of games, I've played the exact same way," Curry said at the post-game news conference. "You’ve got to make shots and understand the opposition is not going to want that [breaking the record] to happen on their home floor.

"They defend accordingly. For the most part [I am] trying to keep it out of my head and just play basketball and take the shots I normally take and play the game I normally do.

"There was obviously a lot of attention on it which is well deserved as it's an all-time NBA record and one that been around for 10-11 years.

"I appreciate the attention on it. It'll happen when it happens. I'll continue to keep winning NBA games in the process."

Curry has made 24 three-pointers in his past five games as he closes in on the NBA record with attention swirling about the milestone held by Allen since 2011 when he surpassed Reggie Miller's mark of 2,560.

The point guard attributed his 30 percent field goal percentage to pressure from the 76ers and Matisse Thybulle, who marked him closely, rather than the impending record.

"They pressured all night long. Thybulle is a pretty hard defender," Curry said. "They were trying to force us into the paint and make the extra pass and we did that early.

"We didn’t shoot as effectively as we wanted. We made that third quarter run but then got cold. They slowly walked us down."

Curry's next chance at breaking Allen's record occurs on Monday when the Warriors face the Indiana Pacers.

Stephen Curry had a wayward shooting game but moved closer to Ray Allen's all-time record as the Golden State Warriors were humbled 102-93 by the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday.

Joel Embiid scored a game-high 26 points along with nine rebounds and four assists for the 76ers, who ended the game with a 41-20 run to improve their record to 15-12.

Curry, who started the game 10 triples away from Allen's all-time NBA record for most three-point attempts made, finished with 18 points including three triples.

As a result, two-time MVP Curry is seven three-pointers away from breaking Allen's mark of 2,973 career triples.

Curry drained two three-pointers late in the second quarter but did not add to his tally until the fourth quarter, shooting a disappointing three-of-14 from beyond the arc. The guard finished the game shooting 30 percent from the field.

 

Jokic stars but triple-double run ends

Reigning MVP Nikola Jokic's run of three straight triple-doubles ended but he still managed a double-double with 35 points and 17 rebounds in the Denver Nuggets' 127-112 win over the San Antonio Spurs.

Reggie Jackson hit a late two-pointer with 2.2 seconds left to lead the Los Angeles Clippers past the Orlando Magic 106-104, finishing the game with 25 points in Paul George's absence.

The Utah Jazz extended their winning streak to seven games as Donovan Mitchell had 28 points with Ruby Gobert grabbing another double-double with 20 points and 11 rebounds in their 123-98 win over the Washington Wizards.

 

Turnovers cost Bulls vs Heat

Point guard Lonzo Ball committed five turnovers and only managed 15 points as the Chicago Bulls lost 118-92 to the Miami Heat. Zach LaVine was also guilty of four turnovers, although he finished with 33 points including seven three-pointers.

The Los Angeles Lakers have been beaten again going down 108-95 to the impressive Memphis Grizzlies despite LeBron James' 100th career triple-double.

James finished with 20 points along with 10 rebounds and 11 assists, bringing up his 100th career triple-double, but the Lakers could not stop the Grizzlies, still missing the injured Ja Morant, from scoring offensively.

Jaren Jackson Jr had 25 points for Memphis, while guard Desmond Bane finished with 23 points including five three-pointers.

Anthony Davis top scored with 22 points for the Lakers, who led at quarter-time, but Russell Westbrook struggled for impact, finishing with nine points, six rebounds and seven assists.

The result leaves the Lakers with a 13-13 record while the Grizzlies are 15-11.

Nikola Jokic showed why he is the reigning NBA MVP after leading the Denver Nuggets to a 120-114 overtime win against the New Orleans Pelicans.

Jokic posted back-to-back triple-doubles as the Nuggets outlasted the Pelicans in NBA action on Wednesday.

After putting up a triple-double on Monday, Jokic was at it again midweek with a season-high 39 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds.

Jokic scored 11 of his points in OT to help the Nuggets take down the Pelicans – the Serb star posting his ninth career 30-point triple-double, the most in NBA history by a center not named Wilt Chamberlain.

Overall, it is Jokic's 61st career triple-double, one behind Brooklyn Nets superstar James Harden, who ranks seventh all-time.

 

Red-hot Rockets win again

The Houston Rockets capitalised on Kevin Durant's absence in a 114-104 win over the shorthanded and Eastern Conference-leading Brooklyn Nets. Durant was rested and the Rockets extended their winning streak to seven games. According to Stats Perform, the Rockets are the first NBA/NBA/NHL team to have a losing streak of 15-plus games and then a winning streak of at least seven games later that same season (at any point) since the Louisville Colonels in 1895.

Joel Embiid was the source of inspiration again for the Philadelphia 76ers, who prevailed 110-106 against the Charlotte Hornets. Embiid had 32 points to lead the 76ers. It is the ninth time in Embiid's career he has tallied at least 75 points and 20 rebounds in a two-game span. The only other 76ers to do so at least nine times are Hall of Famers Chamberlain and Charles Barkley.

The NBA-leading Golden State Warriors were too good for Western Conference rivals the Portland Trail Blazers 104-94.

 

Giannis struggles as champs fall

Defending champions the Milwaukee Bucks lost 113-104 at the Miami Heat after superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo finished with just 15 points on four-of-13 shooting in 33 minutes.

Joel Embiid is "not even close" to feeling fully fit despite producing his best performance of the season to inspire the Philadelphia 76ers past the Charlotte Hornets on Monday.

Last season's MVP runner-up posted a season-high 43 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists in his fifth game back following a three-week spell on the sidelines with COVID-19.

Embiid scored six of Philadelphia's eight points in the 127-124 overtime win as he recorded his 10th career 40-point, 15-rebound game for the 76ers – only Hall of Famer Wilt Chamberlain (30) has more in franchise history.

He took 20 shots in total from the field and missed just five of them, while also knocking down 12 of his 14 attempts from the foul line, but the 27-year-old feels he still has more to give once fully over his recent bout with coronavirus.

"I'm not even close," he said in his post-game interview when asked if he is now feeling 100 per cent. "I'm still feeling it. I get tired easily, feel pretty weak, but every single day I'm slowly getting better. 

"I've just got to keep pushing myself. My teammates, they push me. They want me to be making all the plays offensively and defensively, so as long as I got that trust I'm still going to keep pushing."

The returning Tobias Harris had 21 points and 11 rebounds as the 76ers moved to 13-11 for the season with their first back-to-back wins in a month.

Harris was particularly impressed by the performance of team-mate Embiid, who is averaging 23.9 point per game in 2020-21, down on the 28.5 across 51 games last time out.

"He's so dominant out there, especially when he is able to get his position on the floor," Harris said. "He's able to punish a team.

"They threw different guys at him, but he's so much bigger and stronger."

Joel Embiid produced a monster double-double to lift the Philadelphia 76ers past the Charlotte Hornets 127-124 in overtime.

Embiid carried the 76ers (13-11) to victory away to the Hornets on Monday, posting a season-high 43 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists.

Last season's MVP runner-up, Embiid – scorer of six of Philadelphia's eight points in OT – was 15-of-20 shooting as he recorded his 10th career 40-point, 15-rebound game for the 76ers – only Hall of Famer Wilt Chamberlain (30) has more in franchise history.

Tobias Harris added 21 points and 11 rebounds for the 76ers, who claimed back-to-back victories while extending their winning streak against the Hornets to 15 games, dating back to 2017.

Kelly Oubre Jr.'s 35 points, which included six three-pointers, was not enough for the Hornets (14-12).

 

Curry up to his old tricks

Stephen Curry nailed a stunning half-court buzzer-beater at the end of the first quarter in the Golden State Warriors' 126-95 rout of the lowly Orlando Magic. Curry finished with 31 points and eight assists, while Andrew Wiggins (28 points) nailed a career-high eight three-pointers.

Birthday boy Giannis Antetokounmpo had 27 and 12 rebounds to inspire defending champions the Milwaukee Bucks to a 112-104 victory against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Milwaukee won for the 10th time in 11 games on Antetokounmpo's 27th birthday.

Despite a triple-double from reigning MVP Nikola Jokic (17 points, 12 rebounds and a season-high 15 assists), the Denver Nuggets were beaten 109-97 by the high-flying Chicago Bulls.

 

Portland's skid continues

The Portland Trail Blazers tasted defeat for the third consecutive game after going down 102-90 to the Los Angeles Clippers. The shorthanded Blazers – playing without All-Star Damian Lillard – have lost six of their last seven games and have the worst defence this season.

The Golden State Warriors ended the Phoenix Suns' franchise-record 18-game winning streak with a 118-96 victory to re-claim top spot in the Western Conference on Friday.

Stephen Curry top scored for the Warriors with 23 points including six of 11 from three-point range, after managing only 12 points in the defeat to the Suns on Tuesday.

The defeat was Phoenix's first since October 27 against the Sacramento Kings, although they were without All-Star guard Devin Booker with a hamstring injury.

Curry had 15 points by half-time for the Warriors, who led by 27 points at one stage. Gary Payton II scored 19 points off the bench.

The Suns had few winners, with Deandre Ayton scoring 23 points with six assists, while veteran Chris Paul had 12 points with eight assists.

 

LeBron returns but Lakers lose

LeBron James returned after briefly entering COVID-19 protocols but was held to only seven points in the first half before finishing with 23 points, 11 rebounds and six assists in the Los Angeles Lakers' 119-115 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. The Lakers are now 12-12 for the season.

Kevin Durant also managed a double-double with 30 points, 10 rebounds and six assists as the Brooklyn Nets made it six victories in seven games as they won 110-105 over the Minnesota Timberwolves, while Donovan Mitchell scored 34 points as the Utah Jazz defeated the Boston Celtics 137-130.

Joel Embiid had a double-double as the Philadelphia 76ers shut down the Atlanta Hawks late to win 98-96. Embiid had 28 points, 12 rebounds and four assists as the 76ers won the fourth quarter 20-9 to claim a come-from-behind victory.

Kyle Lowry scored 26 points including six three-pointers with nine assists as the Miami Heat beat the Indiana Pacers 113-104, while Darius Garland starred with 32 points, eight rebounds and 10 assists as the Cleveland Cavaliers won 116-101 over the Washington Wizards.

 

Doncic and George's shooting radar off

Luka Doncic's Dallas Mavericks were soundly beaten 107-91 by the New Orleans Pelicans with the Slovenian shooting none of six from beyond the arc, finishing 21 points and seven turnovers.

The Clippers may have won against the Lakers but Paul George's shooting was off, making zero of seven from three-point range, finishing the game with 19 points.

Joel Embiid admitted his shooting was way off where it should be as the Philadelphia 76ers star warned his COVID-19 road to recovery could be a long one.

Coach Doc Rivers is braced for the possibility there could be more tough nights to come for Embiid after he struggled in an 88-87 defeat to the Boston Celtics.

MVP runner-up Embiid had a double-double of 13 points and 18 rebounds, but he was just three-of-17 shooting.

His points tally was his lowest in a game this season, and Embiid's average of 22.0 points is way down on last term, when he averaged 28.5 over 51 games.

He has plenty of time to get that figure up, but Embiid is working his way back from a nine-game coronavirus lay-off, and despite scoring 42 points against the Minnesota Timberwolves in his comeback game, he has followed 16 against the Orlando Magic with another disappointing performance.

"I would never use it as an excuse, but obviously I think it's going to take me a while to get back, especially legs and cardio and all that stuff," said Embiid.

"But every single day I've got to keep working hard, and keep getting better. I can't be playing the way I've played in these last two games, especially when it comes to shot-making.

"If teams are going to double me and I'm not going to get easy baskets, I have to create for myself and my team-mates, and I've got to make those shots."

The Sixers (11-11) head to the Atlanta Hawks on Friday and then travel to tackle the Charlotte Hornets in two games early next week.

Rivers can see Embiid is not quite himself on the court, but the coach sees no other way through the situation that continuing to play and support his Cameroonian star.

"We've got to get Joel going – number one," Rivers said. "We get him going, the whole team gets going. That's the number one thing.

"But that's two games in a row I thought the offense was lacklustre. Execution is really bad right now. But, again, I'm not concerned by it. We're going to get through it. It's just that we're dropping games while we're getting through it."

The Sixers shot just 8-of-31 from three-point range and were 33-for-89 overall, Seth Curry leading scorers with 17 points.

Rivers appreciates Embiid is lacking rhythm, but the coach cannot put a finger on quite why it is the case.

"Everybody with COVID, I just don't know those answers," Rivers said. "Some guys come back quickly and play pretty well, a lot of guys have played the one great game when they're back and then they've gone into a little fog.

"You could tell he's definitely struggling getting going. We've just got to keep playing him and let him play through it."

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