Joel Embiid scores 52 to help 76ers beat Celtics, strengthen MVP case
Joel Embiid strengthened his MVP bid with 52 points and 13 rebounds, and the NBA scoring leader carried the Philadelphia 76ers to a 103-101 win over the Boston Celtics on Tuesday night.
In a game with a playoff vibe, this one came down to the end, as Jayson Tatum’s tying jumper fell short at the horn.
P.J. Tucker gave Embiid and the Sixers the help they needed when he made three late 3-pointers that turned a one-point deficit into a 101-95 lead. Derrick White buried a 3 with 2 seconds left that pulled Boston to 103-101 and hushed a crowd that had just bellowed “MVP! MVP!” chants. Embiid was whistled for an offensive foul, but the Celtics couldn’t capitalize.
The 76ers avoided a season sweep against the Celtics and won for the first time in four games. They can thank the All-Star center that punctuated the victory with a vicious two-handed slam late in the game that sent the crowd into a frenzy.
Embiid made 20 of 25 shots from the floor and 12 of 13 free throws en route to his ninth game of the season with at least 40 points and 10 rebounds. Embiid scored 50 points for the third time this season.
James Harden had 20 points and 10 assists.
White scored 26 points for the Celtics and Tatum had 19. The Celtics fell to 9-4 this season without Jaylen Brown, the team’s second-leading scorer who got the night off with a back injury.
Embiid responded to the chants that rained down on him by playing early like a one-person show. Embiid got the 50-point effort going from the jump and made 6-of-7 from the floor and 6-of-7 from the free throw line for 18 points in the first quarter. The rest of the team missed 8-of-12 shots and did not attempt a free throw.
As the season winds down, the same questions loom for the Sixers just as they did at the start of the season: Can Embiid and Harden stay healthy in the playoffs? Both are battling nagging injuries; Embiid, his right calf, and Harden, a sore left Achilles tendon. The second, perhaps more pressing one: Who will step up and join Embiid and Harden as consistent playoff performers?
Without the help needed from Tyrese Maxey, Tobias Harris and some production off the bench, the Sixers could be doomed to yet another 50-win, second-round exit this season. The Sixers haven’t advanced to the Eastern Conference finals since 2001 and another early flameout this season could lead to an offseason of upheaval in Philly.
Not if Embiid can help it.
The Celtics are trying to wrest the No. 1 seed in the East from Milwaukee while the 76ers are pretty much locked in for the third seed.
Reporting by The Associated Press.
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