76ers

Best of NBA: Celtics fall further behind Cavaliers after loss to Hawks

Best of NBA: Celtics fall further behind Cavaliers after loss to Hawks

ATLANTA -- Paul Millsap scored 26 points, Tim Hardaway Jr. added 23 and the Atlanta Hawks snapped a two-game skid with a 123-116 victory over the Boston Celtics on Thursday night.

Isaiah Thomas scored 35 points, Jae Crowder had 24 and Marcus Smart 18 for the Celtics. They have dropped two in a row after winning five of seven.

Rookie Taurean Prince finished with a career-high 20 points, and Dennis Schroder added 18 for Atlanta. The Hawks had lost nine of 11.

Schroder hit a straightaway 3 to make it 116-107 with 2:07 remaining before Thomas' corner 3 with 55.3 seconds to go cut the lead to five. The Celtics didn't get any closer the rest of the way.

Boston fell 1 1/2 games behind Cleveland for the East lead, but is still two games ahead of third-place Toronto. Fifth-place Atlanta, which led by 20 in the third, moved one game ahead of Milwaukee. The regular season ends next week (see full recap).

Beal drains late trey to sink Knicks
NEW YORK -- Bradley Beal scored 25 points and made the tiebreaking 3-pointer with 49 seconds left as the Washington Wizards beat the New York Knicks 106-103 on Thursday night.

John Wall added 24 points and eight assists for the Wizards, who blew a 12-point lead in the fourth quarter but recovered to improve to 48-31, tying Toronto for third place in the Eastern Conference. Washington is trying for its first 50-win season since 1978-79.

Marcin Gortat was 7 for 7 from the field and scored 16 points for the Wizards. They have won seven straight at Madison Square Garden.

Carmelo Anthony scored 23 points for the Knicks, who are a loss away from their third consecutive 50-loss season (see full recap).

Payton leads Magic past Nets
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Elfrid Payton had 22 points, 11 assists and five rebounds to help the Orlando Magic beat the Brooklyn Nets 115-107 on Thursday night.

Aaron Gordon added 21 points, Jodie Meeks had 20, and Nikola Vucevic finished with 18 points and 12 rebounds. The Magic had lost five straight.

Jeremy Lin led Brooklyn with 32 points, and Caris LeVert had 20. The Nets had won a season-high three games in a row (see full recap).  

Pacers top Bucks to keep playoff hopes afloat
INDIANAPOLIS -- Paul George had 23 points and 10 rebounds and the Indiana Pacers beat the Milwaukee Bucks 104-89 on Thursday night to keep their playoff hopes alive.

Point guard Jeff Teague added 15 points and seven assists for the Pacers, Thaddeus Young had 12 points. and Lance Stephenson nine in his third game back with Indiana.

Giannis Antetokounmpo led Milwaukee with 25 points, seven rebounds and six assists. He scored 16 points in the first half to help the Bucks keep pace, but Indiana kept him in check in the second half and pulled away. Mirza Teletovic added 15 points for the Bucks.

Milwaukee has lost three straight after winning seven of previous eight (see full recap).

Back-to-backs still not part of the plan for Joel Embiid … just yet

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Back-to-backs still not part of the plan for Joel Embiid … just yet

Joel Embiid does not expect to play in the Sixers’ first back-to-back Saturday. 

“I’m not playing tomorrow. No back-to-backs yet,” he said before Friday’s game. “I don’t think so. I’ve got to check on that again. But there’s a plan in place and that’s what I’m going to follow.”

The Sixers faced the Celtics on Friday in their home opener and then will travel to Toronto Saturday night to take on the Raptors. It is their first of 14 pairs of back-to-back matchups this season. He projects he will eventually be cleared for them. 

“This year, there’s not a lot of back-to-backs,” Embiid said. “I feel like I’ll miss some but I’m not sure when. But I’ll definitely play some back-to-backs this year.”

Embiid has yet to be cleared for consecutive games in his injury-hampered career. It is important for him for reach that checkmark.

“I just want to feel like an NBA player,” Embiid said. 

Sitting out Saturday will not bump up his minutes Friday, Embiid said. He played 26:57 in the season opener Wednesday and is eyeing somewhere around 20 against the Celtics. Brett Brown is managing his playing time within a range, not a specific restriction like last season. 

The key to being cleared for more minutes and back-to-backs? Staying away from injuries. 

“I’ve got to balance it out because I’m ultra-competitive so I want to get out there, jump in the stands, dive for every loose ball,” Embiid said. “But at the same time, I’ve to find a balance in between staying healthy and doing all that.”