Philadelphia 76ers All-Star Joel Embiid vowed to "keep pushing until I can't" in his pursuit of an NBA championship after returning from a knee injury in Sunday's shock loss to the Atlanta Hawks.

After sitting out the series-clinching win over the Washington Wizards due to a meniscus tear in his right knee, Embiid made his comeback in the 128-124 defeat to the fifth-seeded Hawks in the Eastern Conference semi-final opener.

Embiid, who hurt his knee in Game 4 against the Wizards, led all scorers with 39 points but his presence was not enough to help the top-seeded 76ers overturn a 26-point deficit at home to the Hawks.

"Playing on a torn meniscus is not easy," said Embiid, who was 12-for-21 shooting while also collecting nine rebounds, four assists, three blocks and a steal. "All I got to do is keep managing it. Do my best.

"Get as much treatment as I can. Try to manage it to make sure that it doesn't swell up too much. Obviously, the pain is going to be there. That's normal.

"But it's all about managing it, doing whatever it takes to win. Because my goal is to win the championship. I'm going to put my body on the line to make sure that happens. I'm going to give everything I got."

MVP finalist Embiid added: "I can adjust to any style of play. We just played Washington that played fast. This team, they were physical. They play fast. I can adjust to it. It's the playoffs.

"You can't worry about how many minutes someone is supposed to play or is going to play. You got to go with your best guys.

"As long as I'm OK to be out there and I'm going to give my best and I'm going to keep pushing until I can't.

"But as long as I'm out there, I'm going to play hard. I'm going to dive for loose balls. I'm going to do whatever it takes to win."

Embiid played a team-high 38 minutes for the 76ers at Wells Fargo Center, where the hosts were upstaged by Trae Young (35 points and 10 assists) and the Hawks.

Tobias Harris (20 points and 10 rebounds) and Ben Simmons (17 points and 10 assists) both had double-doubles for the 76ers, while Seth Curry added 21 points as Philadelphia's bench struggled.

Sixers head coach Doc Rivers was not happy with Embiid's game time, telling reporters: "I didn't like him in, even though we had to have him in.

"But when we were trapping and running around in that last three minutes and obviously we made a run, I did not like him on the floor at that point because I didn't want him doing those things, if you want to be honest. That's why we told him to just stand back. Because those are the ones that you get injured on."

Kawhi Leonard was the hero again for the Los Angeles Clippers, who completed their comeback against the Dallas Mavericks in Game 7 to progress to the Western Conference semi-finals.

A deciding game was needed in the opening-round series after Leonard erupted for 45 points to help the Clippers avoid elimination in the NBA playoffs on Friday.

In the winner-takes-all showdown at Staples Center, Clippers superstar Leonard stepped up to the plate with a double-double as the Clippers prevailed 126-111 to clinch the series 4-3 on Sunday.

Leonard posted 28 points, 10 rebounds, nine assists and four steals to lead the Clippers to a date with the top-seeded Utah Jazz in the second round, starting on Tuesday.

Luka Doncic carried the load for the visiting Mavericks in Los Angeles, but the All-Star's 46 points and 14 assists were not enough.

The fourth-seeded Clippers were 3-5 in Game 7 in franchise history – losers in each of their last three appearances (2015 Western Conference semi-finals, 2017 first round and 2020 Western Conference semi-finals) and looking to avoid becoming the fifth team in NBA history to lose four consecutive Game 7s.

While the Clippers led by eight points at half-time, the fifth-seeded Mavericks outscored the home team 19-6 to open the third period for an 81-76 advantage.

That sparked the Clippers, who responded with a 24-4 run for a 100-85 lead entering the fourth quarter and while the Mavericks chipped away at the deficit, there was no denying Leonard and the championship hopefuls – who became the first home team to win in this series.

In the earlier game, MVP finalist Joel Embiid made his return but top seeds the Philadelphia 76ers were upstaged 128-124 by the Atlanta Hawks in their Eastern Conference semi-final opener.

Embiid made his way back to the court following a meniscus tear and while he put up 39 points, the Hawks silenced a hostile crowd to draw first blood at Wells Fargo Center.

Trae Young had 25 of his 35 points in the first half as the fifth-seeded Hawks made a blistering start to the contest in Philadelphia.

Atlanta led Philadelphia 75-54 at half-time. According to Stats Perform, that is the highest first-half point total by a road team in a postseason series opener in history.

Young joined Lew Alcindor as the only players in NBA history to score 30-plus points in each of the first four road games of their playoff careers, while he became the first Hawks player in history to have 35-plus points and 10-plus assists in a postseason game.

 

Nuggets at Suns

The Phoenix Suns will host the Denver Nuggets in their Western Conference semi-final opener on Monday. In the east, the Brooklyn Nets can take a 2-0 lead over the Milwaukee Bucks.

Philadelphia 76ers All-Star Joel Embiid was cleared to start Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semi-finals against the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday.

Embiid has been managing a knee injury and missed the final game of the first-round series against the Washington Wizards, having bowed out after just 11 minutes in the previous encounter.

The center's return against a tricky Hawks team represents a big boost for the 76ers, though.

While Embiid has been limited to 24.0 points per game so far in the 2020-21 playoffs due to his knee complaint, he tallied 28.5 points along with 10.6 rebounds in the regular season.

The 27-year-old will be expected to improve on his 19.7 points per game across three meetings with Atlanta this year, although he was limited to 25 minutes or fewer in each clash.

Embiid was selected to start alongside Ben Simmons, Tobias Harris, Seth Curry and Danny Green, the Sixers' most-used starting five this season. They were 27-5 across 32 games.

Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doc Rivers said no decision has been made on Joel Embiid's status for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semi-finals in the NBA playoffs.

The top-seeded 76ers are set to open their second-round series against the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday with doubts over the fitness of All-Star Embiid.

Embiid suffered a lateral meniscus tear in his right knee during Monday's Game 4 loss to the Washington Wizards, forcing him to sit out Wednesday's Game 5 as the 76ers won 129-112 to clinch the opening-round series 4-1.

As the 76ers continue their championship bid against the fifth-seeded Hawks, Rivers was asked about MVP finalist Embiid – who missed 10 regular-season games due to bone bruising in his left leg – on Friday.

"He went through a lot of the stuff today," said Rivers. "He didn't do a lot of live stuff obviously, we're not gonna allow that yet.

"Nothing's changed. He's got to go through his treatment, but as far as when we were doing shooting and stuff like that, he looked great.

"It's too early [to rule him out]. I don't want to say one way or the other. We'll just find that out."

It has been a stellar season for Embiid, who has averaged career highs for points (28.5), field-goal percentage (41.3), three-point percentage (37.7) and free-throw percentage (85.9).

The 27-year-old has also been averaging 10.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists and a career-best 0.98 steals per game to lead the 76ers – eyeing a first NBA title since 1983 – to their first Eastern Conference championship since 2001.

Philadelphia team-mate Dwight Howard, gearing up for a reunion with former team the Hawks, added: "He looked good. His movement looked good and laterally, he was able to move around so he looked good.

"I think he should be ready to go. Now he can make sure he gets his body right and I don't want him to rush back or anything like that because we need him.

"We want to make sure we hold down the fort until he's back, but he looked great."

Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doc Rivers hailed the "absolutely amazing" defensive improvement made by Tyrese Maxey following the rookie guard's starring role in his side's progression to the Eastern Conference semi-finals.

Maxey laid on 13 points, six rebounds, two assists and claimed one steal during his 26 minutes on the court in Wednesday's 129-112 series-closing win against the Washington Wizards.

The 20-year-old has posted double digits in successive playoff games, but Rivers was more impressed by the other aspect of the youngster's performance against the Wizards.

"I think he is a hell of a player," Rivers said. "I think he has found himself. He figures out now how we need him to play. 

"That makes not only him a good player, but everybody else good on the floor when he is on the floor."

With star man Joel Embiid again absent for Game 5 due to a knee problem, Maxey has stepped up for the 76ers when needed after struggling during the regular season on defense.

"He was our worst defender and it wasn't close – the numbers said that to you," Rivers added. 

"The last month he has turned a corner defensively. He made so many little plays defensively – rebounds, digs, getting steals. Obviously, the offensive energy was there but watching him grow defensively for this team has been absolutely amazing."

Seth Curry's playoff career-high 30 points, a triple-double from Ben Simmons and a 28-point showing courtesy of Tobias Harris helped the 76ers past the Wizards.

The Atlanta Hawks await in the Eastern Conference semi-finals and Rivers is hopeful Embiid will be back in contention for Game 1 on Sunday.

"He's a competitor. The fact that he's not playing tonight or whenever he can't play, it bothers him," Rivers said. "He's really not in a great place that way, but he's good. He'll be fine.

"I don't know exactly when he will be back. At least I'm hopeful. I think that's be a better way of putting it. He's going do his treatment, and we're going to assess the day-to-day and see when we can get him."

Donovan Mitchell led the way as number one seeds the Utah Jazz progressed to the Western Conference second round, while the top-ranked Philadelphia 76ers also booked their spot in the Eastern Conference semi-finals.

Mitchell posted 26 of his 30 points in the first half to fuel the Jazz to a 126-110 win over the Memphis Grizzlies, sealing a 4-1 series victory in the NBA playoffs on Wednesday.

The Jazz All-Star tallied 10 assists and six rebounds, joining Deron Williams and John Stockton as the only Utah players with 30-plus points and 10-plus assists in a postseason clash.

With five three-pointers made, Mitchell also became the first jazz player in franchise history to finish with 30 points, 10 assists and five threes in a playoff encounter.

Mitchell was assisted by Jordan Clarkson (24 points) and Rudy Gobert (23 points and 15 rebounds) as the Jazz await the winner of the Los Angeles Clippers-Dallas Mavericks matchup.

Grizzlies sensation Ja Morant impressed again with 27 points and 11 assists as he finished his first playoff series averaging 30.2 points and 8.2 assists while shooting 48.7 per cent from the field – the highest ever points per game average by a Memphis player in a single postseason.

All three teams that had a chance to clinch a series midweek, won by 14-plus points following the success of the Jazz, 76ers and Atlanta Hawks. According to Stats Perform, it is the first time three franchises have claimed a series with double-digit victories on the same day since May 1, 2003.

 

Simmons flexes muscles as 76ers advance without Embiid

Despite the absence of MVP finalist Joel Embiid due to a meniscus tear, the 76ers still reached the second round thanks to a 129-112 rout of the Washington Wizards. Ben Simmons inspired the 76ers in Philadelphia, where he had a triple-double of 19 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds. It was Simmons' third career playoff triple-double, breaking a tie with Hall of Famer Charles Barkley to move into second place on the all-time list in Philadelphia history – behind only Wilt Chamberlain (eight). Seth Curry (playoffs career-high 30 points) and Tobias Harris (28 points) also starred as the 76ers defeated the Wizards 4-1. Wizards pair Bradley Beal (32 points) and Russell Westbrook (24 points and 10 assists) combined for 56 points, however, it was not enough at Wells Fargo Center.

Next up for the 76ers are the fifth-seeded Hawks, who saw off the New York Knicks 4-1 behind a 103-89 success. Trae Young silenced fourth seeds the Knicks with a postseason career-high 36 points in New York. Julius Randle's 23 points and 13 rebounds were not enough for the Knicks.

Luka Doncic put on a show as the Mavericks withstood the Clippers 105-100 for a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference first-round series. Doncic went off for 42 points and a playoff career-high 14 assists to take down the Clippers in Los Angeles. The All-Star became the second player in NBA history to record a game with 42-plus points, eight-plus rebounds and 14-plus assists in the postseason, joining LeBron James (2018).

 

Rose struggles

In the starting five, veteran and former MVP Derrick Rose failed to make an impact. In 27 minutes, Rose was three-for-11 shooting for only six points as the Knicks bowed out.

While Kawhi Leonard had 20 points, it was not an efficient display. The Clippers star finished seven-for-19 shooting – making just one of his seven three-point attempts. He also had five turnovers.

 

Ice Trae!

Young bowed to the Madison Square Garden crowd, happy after putting the icing on the cake with a long-range three as the Hawks sent hosts the Knicks packing.

 

Wednesday's results

Utah Jazz 126-106 Memphis Grizzlies
Philadelphia 76ers 129-112 Washington Wizards
Atlanta Hawks 103-89 New York Knicks
Dallas Mavericks 105-100 Los Angeles Clippers

 

Suns at Lakers

It is make or break for defending champions the Los Angeles Lakers, who will host the Phoenix Suns in Game 6 on Thursday. The Lakers trail the second-seeded Suns 3-2 in the Western Conference first round and face elimination.

Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doc Rivers does not know when Joel Embiid will return after the All-Star was diagnosed with a lateral meniscus tear in his right knee in a huge blow for the NBA championship contenders.

The top-seeded 76ers were eagerly awaiting the results of an MRI following Monday's 122-114 Game 4 loss to the Washington Wizards in the Eastern Conference opening round.

Embiid hobbled off the court midway through the first quarter in Washington after landing awkwardly and the MVP finalist did not return, having grimaced in pain.

Now, Embiid – considered day-to-day – will sit out Wednesday's Game 5 against the Wizards due to a small tear, with the injury to be managed with a physical therapy and a treatment program.

Asked about Embiid as the 76ers, who lead the playoff series 3-1, look to seal a spot in the Eastern Conference semi-finals, Rivers told reporters: "I have no expectation other than I hope for him to be back.

"I can't give you a timeline. I can just tell you he's willing to go through whatever it takes to get back on the floor.

"He's a warrior. And if there's a way for him to get back on the floor, he will find his way."

It is another setback for Embiid and the 76ers after the four-time All-Star missed 10 games in the regular season due to bone bruising in his left leg.

It has been a stellar season for Embiid, who has averaged career highs for points (28.5), field-goal percentage (41.3), three-point percentage (37.7) and free-throw percentage (85.9).

The 27-year-old has also been averaging 10.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists and a career-best 0.98 steals per game to lead the 76ers to their first Eastern Conference championship since 2001.

"He couldn't be in better shape," Rivers added. "For this to happen at this point, going through the whole year, it's really difficult."

"We've talked a couple of times. He is what you think he would be. He's a competitor. The fact that he's not playing tonight or whenever he can't play, it bothers him. He's really not in a great place that way, but he's good. He'll be fine."

The Washington Wizards have shown their confidence in Rui Hachimura from the very beginning, and he rewarded them Monday with one of the best games of his career. 

Hachimura scored 20 points on eight of 12 shooting from the field and grabbed 13 rebounds to play a key role in the Wizards' 122-114 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 4 of their playoff series. 

Though the 23-year-old forward from Japan has started every game he has played for Washington in his two NBA seasons, his performance Monday had his team-mates and head coach Scott Brooks raving. 

"He's growing up right in front of our eyes. Sometimes I want these guys to be 27 right now and four seasons of playoff experience, but you get it by going through it," Brooks told reporters. 

"He was a big, big part of us on both ends of the floor. He's a multi-defender, he can guard many different types of player, and we need his rebounds. We can't just rely on our point guard getting rebounds. 

"He was good on guarding, he was good on making shots. He had a big three and had a big defensive possession not too far from one another."

Hachimura had a pair of key baskets late in the game, capped by a three-pointer off a pass from Bradley Beal that gave Washington a six-point lead over the top-seeded 76ers with 45.8 seconds to play. 

"It was a great pass by Brad. ... He trusted me and he passed to me, so I had to shoot with confidence," Hachimura said. "That was a big three for sure, especially at this moment.

"I was just trying to be aggressive on both ends, defensively and offensively. As a team I think we played together tonight, and that's why we got a win."

Getting contributions from players beyond the star back-court of Beal and Russell Westbrook is critical to the Wizards' chances, and Hachimura was the player who stepped up for Washington's first win in the series. 

After logging 27 and 26 minutes the previous two games, he played 41 Monday, making himself indispensable on both ends of the court. 

"For me, we always just want him to be aggressive and accept his challenges on the defensive end," Beal said. "That's when he has a good game, when he's locked in on defence, he's guarding somebody, he's making it tough on them, he's guarding Ben [Simmons], making it tough on him.

"Then he rebounded the ball really well tonight, too. I think him just being engaged in all facets of the game kind of propelled him on the offensive end and boosted his confidence. Once he seen one [shot] go in, he was making them all night." 

The key going forward is for Hachimura to play this way more consistently, but his coach liked what he saw in Game 4. 

"We're all trying to figure things out, with Rui and with everybody," Brooks said. "This has been a season of figuring it out on the fly at times, but when Rui gets that gear, that's what we need.

"He's had it, it's been choppy at times through some of his unfortunate injuries and safety protocol. He seems to ramp up and then something unfortunate takes place. But he's in a good place."

The Washington Wizards took advantage of Joel Embiid's early departure, beating the Philadelphia 76ers 122-114 to avert a sweep in their NBA playoff series. 

The top-seeded 76ers started strong Monday but faltered when Embiid injured his knee late in the first quarter of Game 4 and saw the Wizards come alive. 

While Bradley Beal led Washington with 27 points and Russell Westbrook recorded another triple-double, it was Rui Hachimura playing a key role at the end to seal victory for the home side. 

The Japan native, playing in his first playoff series, had a dunk and a three-pointer in a 30-second span to give the Wizards a 118-112 lead in the final minute. 

Hachimura finished with 20 points on eight-of-12 shooting from the field and added 13 rebounds. 

Westbrook, meanwhile, had 21 rebounds and 14 assists to go with his 19 points despite making only three of 19 shots from the field. 

Westbrook's triple-double was the 12th of his career in the playoffs, breaking a tie with Jason Kidd and putting the Wizards star third on the all-time list behind Magic Johnson (30) and LeBron James (28).

Game 5 of the series is Wednesday in Philadelphia. 

 

Mitchell, Jazz take 3-1 lead

Donovan Mitchell had 30 points and eight assists to lead the top-seeded Utah Jazz to the brink of the conference semi-finals with a 120-113 win away to the Memphis Grizzlies. 

The Jazz survived another spirited effort by the eighth seeds to take a 3-1 series lead and can advance with a win in Game 5 on Wednesday. 

Ja Morant scored 23 and had 12 assists but made just one of seven three-pointers for Memphis, who were 10 of 35 from distance as a team. 

 

Simmons' free-throw struggles continue

Ben Simmons made his first free throws of this year's playoffs in Monday's loss, but the 76ers guard is now just five-for-20 from the line in the series. 

 

Gafford's emphatic follow

Daniel Gafford was four-of-four from the field in the Wizards' win, thanks in part to high-percentage shots like this.

 

Monday's results

Washington Wizards 122-114 Philadelphia 76ers
Utah Jazz 120-113 Memphis Grizzlies

 

Celtics at Nets

Jayson Tatum and the Boston Celtics need to win to stay alive as their series against the Nets shifts back to Brooklyn. 

Another day brought another worrying incident involving fans at NBA playoff games. 

A man ran onto the court with about four minutes remaining in the third quarter of the Washington Wizards' 122-114 win against the Philadelphia 76ers in D.C. on Monday.

The man jumped and attempted to touch the backboard while players from both teams came down court from the opposite end before a security officer at Capital One Arena tackled him as referees stopped play. 

Monumental Sports and Entertainment, the company that owns the Wizards and the arena, said the fan would be banned from future events and the organisation would pursue charges against him with D.C. police. 

"Monumental Sports & Entertainment has a zero tolerance policy when fans violate our code of conduct at Capital One Arena," the company said. 

The incident came a day after a fan in Boston threw a water bottle at Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving, leading the veteran to deplore players being treated as if they are "in a human zoo."

That followed episodes in which Wizards guard Russell Westbrook was showered in popcorn during a defeat away to Philadelphia in Game 2, while a New York Knicks fan spat on Atlanta Hawks star Trae Young in Game 1.

"Fans got to grow up at some point," Nets star Kevin Durant said Sunday. "I know that being in the house for a year and a half with the pandemic got a lot of people on edge, got a lot of people stressed out, but when you come to these games, you have to realise these men are human.

"We are not animals; we are not in the circus. You coming to the game is not all about you as a fan. So, have some respect for the game. Have some respect for the human beings, and have some respect for yourself. 

Joel Embiid left Game 4 of the Philadelphia 76ers-Washington Wizards NBA playoff series early due to a right knee injury. 

The Philadelphia star landed awkwardly after driving to the basket for a shot attempt with just under five minutes to play in the first quarter Monday.

Embiid remained in the game until 36.5 seconds remained in the period, then walked up the tunnel to the locker room. 

He did not return to the court, and the team announced at the start of the second half that he would miss the rest of the game with right knee soreness. 

Philadelphia led by as many as 11 before Embiid's injury, but their fortunes began to fade when he went out and the Wizards took their first lead of the game just before half-time. 

While Philadelphia has a comfortable 3-0 series edge, they will not want to be without Embiid for an extended period. 

Their star made 14 of 18 shots from the field in scoring 36 points in Game 3. 

He had eight points and six rebounds before departing Monday.

 

One down, plenty more to go. While the opening round of the NBA playoffs has already produced plenty of drama, the Miami Heat's hopes of a repeat run have been extinguished.

The 2020 finalists fell at the first hurdle this time around, swept aside by a Milwaukee Bucks team now waiting to find out who they will face next. As for the defending champions, the Los Angeles Lakers are finding the going tough against the Phoenix Suns, that series one of three in the Western Conference delicately balanced at 2-2 through four games.

In the East, the picture looks somewhat clearer. Still, as the Denver Nuggets demonstrated last year in the NBA's Florida bubble, no 3-1 series lead is safe in the playoffs.

As the contests keep coming thick and fast, Stats Perform takes a brief pause to review those stepping up in the the playoffs, as well as the players who could do with finding some form again.


RUNNING HOT

Ja Morant

Having helped the Memphis Grizzlies come through the play-in tournament, Morant has continued to dazzle in the series against the Utah Jazz. After 26 points in the opener, the second-year point guard has dropped 47 and 28 in the next two meetings, albeit on neither occasion were his efforts enough to secure his team a victory.

Still, he is averaging 33.7 points per game against Utah, a huge upturn from 19.1 in the regular season. So, just how good has he been? Well, in reaching a century of points through his first three playoff games in the NBA, Morant matched a feat previously only achieved by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain and George Mikan.

Derrick Rose

Rose has claimed the starting point guard spot from Elfrid Payton for the New York Knicks as they go up against the Atlanta Hawks, a series the latter now leads 3-1 after a 113-96 triumph on Saturday.

Elevated off the bench, Rose has managed a combined total of 48 points in back-to-back losses on the road, during which he landed five of his nine attempts from deep. Payton, meanwhile, has scored one point in just 13 minutes of court time during the playoffs and did not get off the bench at all the past two games after averaging 10.1 points per game in the regular season.

Kawhi Leonard

"This is playoff basketball, we've just got to figure it out." Those were Leonard's words as the Los Angeles Clippers faced a 2-0 deficit as they headed to Dallas to continue their battle with the Mavericks.

It is safe to say the two-time NBA Finals MVP has done just that on his travels, helping his team fight back to level the series between the fourth and fifth seeds in the West. Across the past week, Leonard has averaged 35.7 points, aided by sinking 21 of his 23 attempts from the free-throw line, as well as contributing 24 rebounds. Playoff Kawhi means business this year.

GOING COLD

Shake Milton

Having averaged 13.0 points per outing in the regular season, Milton has endured a playoff slump for the Philadelphia 76ers as his minutes have been reduced. So far, the 24-year-old has managed nine points in a series that has seen his team hold control throughout.

Milton has managed to land only two of his 12 shot attempts, including missing all six in Game 2. In the following outing, head coach Doc Rivers opted to use Tyrese Maxey ahead of his team-mate off the bench, a move that may become a regular feature as the 76ers look set to move on to round two.

Enes Kanter

For the Portland Trail Blazers in the regular season, Kanter averaged 11.2 points and 11.0 rebounds per game. In the playoffs, however, it has been a different story for the veteran center.

After playing over 32 minutes across the first two games against the Denver Nuggets, Kanter has now figured in a little over nine in the following two. During his limited opportunities, there have been no points, two rebounds and a solitary blocked shot. Up against Nikola Jokic, the Blazers have opted to go with alternative options when starting center Jusuf Nurkic is taking a seat on the bench.

Montrezl Harrell

Make no mistake, the Lakers are locked in a battle with the Suns. Phoenix were impressive in taking Game 4 on the road on Saturday to draw level, during which the 2019-20 Sixth Man of the Year was finally called into action again by head coach Frank Vogel.

However, Harrell's appearance was fleeting. Having averaged 13.5 points during the regular season when playing just under 23 minutes per outing, he has been a non-factor in the playoffs. After not even making it onto the court in the previous two games, his brief cameo at the weekend saw him fail to muster a shot as LA lost at home. Across the past week, he has not scored a single point.

Joel Embiid heard the opposing fans jeering him when he missed a dunk in the second quarter Saturday, so the Philadelphia 76ers star made sure to savour the response that followed. 

Embiid was dominant in a 132-103 Sixers rout of the Washington Wizards that gave Philadelphia a 3-0 series lead. 

His signature play in a 36-point night was an emphatic dunk with 1:10 to play in the first half, after which he cupped his hands to his ears to taunt the Washington crowd that had let him have it after he missed a dunk two possessions earlier. 

"They started booing, they started cheering just because I missed a dunk, and I had another opportunity where I actually made a dunk, so that's why I went over to them," Embiid told reporters afterward.

"I wanted to hear more boos because it gets me going. I like it. 

"I just love playing on the road. I love playing up to the boos or fans talking trash. It gets me going."

Wizards fans did not have much to cheer about when it came to their own team, as Embiid scored 25 in the first half on the way to setting a new career playoff scoring high even though he sat out the fourth quarter.  

After a while, the Philadephia fans in attendance won out, and "MVP!" chants echoed through the arena as the Sixers pushed Washington to the brink of elimination. 

Embiid was 14 of 18 from the field, attempting -- and making -- six more shot than he had in the equally comfortable Game 2 win in Philadelphia. 

He said he feels like the game has slowed down and he does not have to force anything, leaving him comfortable no matter how the Wizards choose to defend him. 

"I always want the ball because I feel like it is hard to stop me, whether you send a double-team or not," he said. 

"And if you do send a double-team I'm going to make the right play."

More often than not Saturday, the right play ended up being Embiid handling matters himself. 

Now the Eastern Conference's top seed is on the verge of advancing, though Embiid was not ready to discuss the possibility. 

"There's nothing to be happy about," he said. "The job's not done.

"We've got to close out the series. We've got to get one more win and then worry about the rest later."

Joel Embiid's career night led the Philadelphia 76ers to a 132-103 rout of the Washington Wizards, pushing the top seed in the Eastern Conference to the brink of a series sweep. 

Embiid established a new playoff career high with 36 points in just 28 minutes, making 14 of 18 shots from the floor and adding eight rebounds. 

Embiid had 25 points and seven rebounds at the interval as Philadelphia built a comfortable lead before pulling away in the second half. 

Embiid's previous playoff career high was 34 against the Boston Celtics last season. 

Tobias Harris added 20 points, 13 rebounds and five assists, while Ben Simmons had 14 points and nine assists for the Sixers. 

Philadelphia made an impressive 58.6 per cent of their shots from the field (51 of 87) while limiting Washington to 38 of 96 shooting (39.6 per cent). 

Russell Westbrook led the Wizards with 26 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists while Bradley Beal scored 25. 

Game 4 is Monday in Washington. 

 

Giannis, Bucks sweep out Heat

The Milwaukee Bucks avenged last season's loss to Miami in the conference semi-finals by completing a four-game sweep of the Heat with a 120-103 victory. Milwaukee outscored Miami 64-39 in the second half to wrap up the series and will next face the winner of the Brooklyn Nets-Boston Celtics series. Giannis Antetokounmpo had his first playoff triple-double for the Bucks with 20 points, 12 rebounds and 15 assists, while Jimmy Butler turned in a quieter triple-double with 12 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists in a losing effort. It was the first playoff series since 2014 in which Butler failed to reach 20 points in at least one game. 

Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley paced the top-seeded Utah Jazz to a 121-111 win over the Memphis Grizzlies, holding off a second-half surge from the underdogs. Mitchell scored 29 points and Conley had 27 points, six rebounds and eight assists for Utah as they took a 2-1 series lead. 

Norman Powell's 29 points led the Portland Trail Blazers past the Denver Nuggets 115-95 to level their series at 2-2. 

 

Nuggets' shooters nowhere to be found

The Nuggets had a rough shooting night all the way around in their loss to Portland. Denver made only 32 of 94 shots from the field (34 per cent), including just 13 of 44 (29.5 per cent) from three-point range, and Nikola Jokic led the scoring with just 16 points on seven of 18 shooting. 

 

Morant spins it in

Ja Morant put on a show in a losing effort for the Memphis Grizzlies, scoring 28 points to give him 101 in the series. Morant is the fourth player in NBA history to score at least 100 points over his first three playoff appearances and the first since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1970. Wilt Chamberlain and George Mikan are the other two. 

 

Saturday's results

Milwaukee Bucks 120-103 Miami Heat
Portland Trail Blazers 115-95 Denver Nuggets
Philadelphia 76ers 132-103 Washington Wizards
Utah Jazz 121-111 Memphis Grizzlies

 

Suns at Lakers

The Los Angeles Lakers look for a commanding 3-1 lead in their series against the Phoenix Suns after winning the last two games. 

Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doc Rivers insisted the team "have accomplished nothing" as they eye the Eastern Conference semi-finals.

The top-seeded 76ers lead the Washington Wizards 2-0 in the opening round of their NBA playoff series following Wednesday's 120-95 rout.

Philadelphia – eyeing their first championship since 1983 – are in a commanding position as they head to Washington for Game 3 on Saturday.

The 76ers have not advanced to the NBA Finals since 2001, with Philadelphia failing to make it beyond the Conference semi-finals in 2003, 2012, 2018 and 2019, while they were swept in the first round by the Boston Celtics last season.

Rivers – a championship winner during his time in charge of the Celtics – is taking nothing for granted, with the 76ers desperate to end their title drought this season.

"We have done nothing," Rivers told reporters after Friday's practice.

"We have won two games, you don't get anything until you win four, so we have accomplished nothing as far as we're concerned."

The 76ers are featuring in the playoffs for the fourth successive season – the franchise's longest streak since making the postseason in five straight campaigns from 1999-2003.

Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid (22 points apiece) combined to guide the 76ers past the Wizards in Philadelphia midweek.

It was Simmons' fourth career 20-plus point playoff game and his first since 2019, while it was Embiid's seventh consecutive 20-plus point playoff performance, dating back to 2019 – the streak tied with Allen Iverson for the 10th longest in Philadelphia postseason history.

Tobias Harris has also been a key contributor for the 76ers against the Wizards after backing up his playoff career-high 37 points in Game 1 with 19 points and nine assists on Wednesday.

"They have grown and that’s key for us," said Rivers. "I think, through the year, you just see so many different coverages on how they're going to defend Ben. Every night, they're going to defend Ben in a different way."

Rivers also attempted to allay fitness concerns over Harris and Seth Curry.

"Tobias, I think he'll be good," added Rivers. "He went through most of the stuff today. Seth didn't go through anything, but we think he'll be good, but we just don't know."

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.