Rob Issa, FISM News
Joel Embiid strengthened his bid for NBA Most Valuable Player with a spectacular performance last night.
Embiid scored 52 points, grabbed 13 rebounds, and led the Philadelphia 76ers to a 103-101 win over the Boston Celtics on Tuesday night in a matchup between two of the top three teams in the Eastern Conference.
“The man just scored half our points in an NBA game. I’m biased but the MVP race is over,” 76ers coach Doc Rivers declared after Embiid dominated the Celtics.
The NBA’s scoring leader made 20 of 25 shots to help the 76ers hold off Boston. Celtics star Jayson Tatum missed a jumper at the buzzer that would’ve sent the game to overtime.
Embiid has finished second behind Denver’s Nikola Jokic for MVP in each of the last two seasons. The six-time All-Star center is more focused on team goals than individual awards.
“They’re probably right,” Embiid said when he was told Rivers and his teammates said he’s the MVP. “But we got bigger things in mind. We understand we got a chance (to win a championship).”
The Sixers have reached the playoffs five straight seasons but haven’t advanced beyond the second round. They haven’t won an NBA title since Moses Malone, “Doctor J” Julius Erving, and Maurice Cheeks led them over Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, and the Los Angeles Lakers in 1983.
Boston still has a two-game lead over Philadelphia for the No. 2 seed with three games remaining. The Sixers had lost all three previous games against the Celtics this season.
“If they end up the No. 2 seed, we might see them in the second round, if we make it there,” Embiid said. “You got to be ready for every scenario. I just wanted to see where I’m at and where we’re at as a team, I think if we could correct a lot of the mistakes that we made, we got a pretty good chance.”
LAKERS TOP JAZZ
While Embiid notched his third 50-point game of the season, LeBron James scored 37 points, including the game-winning basket, to lead the Los Angeles Lakers to a 135-133 victory over the Utah Jazz.
Anthony Davis scored 21 points and grabbed 14 rebounds and Austin Reaves added 28 points for the Lakers, who have won seven of eight to improve their playoff hopes.
The Lakers are tied with the LA Clippers for sixth place in the Western Conference, only a half-game behind the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors for fifth. The top six teams gain automatic playoff berths. The seventh through 10 place teams enter a play-in tournament.
James drove to the basket and scored over Damian Jones to win the game for his 40th career go-ahead shot inside the final 30 seconds of the fourth quarter and overtime, counting playoff games.
“I saw a nice clear lane to the right side,” James said. “I definitely had to make up for blowing that layup at the end of regulation. I had a really good look. We set up a good play and I just left it a little short.”
The Lakers and Clippers face off Wednesday and each has two more games. The Warriors play two more times.
DURANT LEADS SUNS PAST SPURS
In Phoenix, Kevin Durant scored 18 points and the Suns beat the San Antonio Spurs 115-94 for their sixth straight victory. Phoenix is one win away from securing the No. 4 seed.
Devin Booker had 27 points and Chris Paul added 22 for the Suns, who are 7-0 with Durant in their lineup, including four consecutive wins after he returned from an injured ankle.
“I never thought I’d have to tell a Hall of Fame player to shoot the ball,” Suns coach Monty Williams said of Paul, who had been passing off more since Durant’s arrival. “Kevin and Book are going nuts because they all want him to shoot.”