James Harden

Joel Embiid doesn't want Sixers to end up like OKC

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Joel Embiid doesn't want Sixers to end up like OKC

Joel Embiid doesn't want the Sixers to end up like the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Not the 2017-18 Thunder, but OKC circa 2011-12.

Embiid is convinced that at some point soon, the media will turn on him and the Sixers. 

Speaking specifically about the core trio of Embiid, Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz, Embiid told ESPN's Ramona Shelburne:

"I think with everything, the main thing we have to do is just stay together because I feel like there's going to be some type of situation where people say who is better between us three. And that's how it splits."

Shelburne, who wrote a long and interesting feature on Embiid this week, told more of the story Wednesday on Zach Lowe's podcast.

She recalled talking to Embiid about his social media presence at All-Star weekend in 2016, when he told her, "I'm just trying to have as much fun before everybody turns on me."

Shelburne pointed out the uniqueness of a then-22-year-old — who had been in the United States just seven years — understanding the "fame cycle" well enough to know that things could soon turn.

"I saw what happened in Oklahoma City with (James) Harden, (Russell) Westbrook and (Kevin) Durant and I don't want that to happen here," Shelburne recalled Embiid saying.

If the Sixers get to that point ... it'll probably be a good problem to have. Just prior to the 2012-13 season, the Thunder traded Harden to Houston in one of the worst trades in recent NBA history. OKC did it for several reasons — salary cap, personalities, only having enough shots to go around. And really, who knows if Harden would have been able to grow into this superstar had he been sharing the ball the next handful of seasons with two other alphas?

Embiid and Fultz have already grown close, and it's important to Embiid that the three young Sixers don't get caught up in the "Who takes the last shot?" conversations or "Who should be the All-Star" questions that inevitably come up. 

Luckily for the Sixers, Embiid, Simmons and Fultz have different enough skill sets that they should be able to coexist. It's not directly analogous to the OKC situation where all three players needed the ball in their hands. The Sixers were built this way for a reason. 

Right now, it's clear Embiid is the alpha of the group. He's the go-to guy in crunch time and again has a top-five usage rate. When Simmons eventually becomes more comfortable with his jump shot and Fultz finally makes his impact on the court, we'll see whether or not Embiid was prescient.

Best of NBA: James Harden triple-double powers Rockets to win

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Best of NBA: James Harden triple-double powers Rockets to win

HOUSTON -- James Harden had a triple-double of 35 points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists to help the Houston Rockets beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 117-113 on Thursday night.

Harden also had five steals and a block as Houston extended its winning streak to four games.

LeBron James had 33 points for the Cavaliers, and Jeff Green added 27.

Houston led by seven after a layup by James with about 10 minutes left. The Rockets scored the next six points, capped by a 3-pointer by P.J. Tucker to make it 111-98. The Cavaliers used a 13-1 run, with five points from James, to cut the lead to 112-111 with 90 seconds left.

Harden missed a layup after that, but grabbed a rebound and threw an alley-oop to Clint Capela, who finished for Houston's first basket since Tucker's 3. He was fouled on the play and made the free throw to make it 115-11 with just over a minute remaining.

James made a layup on the other end, but Capela made another basket after a grabbing the rebound on a miss by Harden to put Houston back up by 4 with 10.7 seconds left.

Capela, who finished with 19 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks, blocked a shot by James in the final seconds to secure the win (see full recap).

Nuggets top struggling Thunder
DENVER -- Emmanuel Mudiay scored 10 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter, including the go-ahead 3-pointer midway through the period, and the Denver Nuggets beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 102-94 on Thursday night.

Paul Milsap added 17 points and Nikola Jokic had 15 points to go with 11 rebounds for Denver. The Nuggets snapped a five-game losing streak at home to the Thunder, including a 106-105 setback April 9 on a last-second 3-pointer by Russell Westbrook that eliminated Denver from playoff contention.

Carmelo Anthony, who spent his first 7 1-2 years in the league in Denver before being traded to the New York Knicks in 2011, had 28 points to lead the Thunder, who acquired Anthony in a pre-season trade. Paul George and Westbrook each added 13 points for the Thunder, who lost their fourth in a row.

Neither the Thunder nor the Nuggets were able to gain separation on the other in a tightly contested third quarter and the teams went into the final period tied at 75.

The game was tied at 82 when Mudiay connected on a 3-pointer with 7:35 remaining, triggering a 7-0 burst by Denver.

Oklahoma City fought back to within 93-90 but Milsap answered by converting a three-point play with 2:09 left to rebuild Denver's lead to six.

The Thunder got no closer than four points the rest of the way (see full recap).

Wall, Beal help Wizards drop Lakers
WASHINGTON -- John Wall's Wizards managed to make a double-digit edge hold up against the Lakers this time, with the All-Star point guard scoring 23 points and Bradley Beal 22 as Washington beat Los Angeles and cold-shooting Lonzo Ball 111-95 on Thursday night.

Ball had 10 points, eight rebounds and eight assists. But the No. 2 overall draft pick out of UCLA came in making just 29.5 percent of his field-goal attempts for the Lakers and he was worse against the Wizards, going 3 for 12 -- 25 percent.

Washington's Otto Porter Jr. finished with 20 points and 11 rebounds, while Markieff Morris scored 16 points on 6-of-7 shooting, including a pair of 3s to open the third quarter.

Coming off a home loss in which they never held a lead against the NBA-worst Dallas Mavericks, the Wizards went up by as many as 21 against the Lakers, at 91-70 on Porter's turnaround fadeaway jumper with about 75 seconds remaining in the third quarter.

The Lakers pulled to 93-84 on Julius Randle's two-handed slam with about 8 minutes left in the game. But a 3 by Beal soon built the hosts' advantage back up to 15 and the outcome was never in doubt the rest of the way (see full recap).

Best of NBA: Harden's career-high 56 points lead Rockets past Jazz

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Best of NBA: Harden's career-high 56 points lead Rockets past Jazz

HOUSTON — James Harden scored a career-high 56 points and added 13 assists in just 35 minutes to lead the Houston Rockets to a 137-110 victory over the Utah Jazz on Sunday night.

Harden finished 19 of 25 from the field after missing his last three attempts. The MVP runner-up was a perfect 7 for 7 from beyond the arc until he missed a step-back 3-pointer midway through the fourth quarter as the shot clock was about to expire.

Even when the Jazz could deny Harden his shot, he dished it off for someone else to score. Eric Gordon scored 20 points, Trevor Ariza had 14 and Nene scored 13 off the bench.

Harden received a standing ovation from the Toyota Center crowd, which rained down "MVP! MVP!" chants at multiple points during the game. He had 22 points in both the first and third quarters, 30 at halftime and sat for the final 7:32 of the blowout.

Porzingis pours in 40, Knicks come from 19 down to beat Pacers
NEW YORK — Kristaps Porzingis scored a career-high 40 points, carrying the New York Knicks back from a 19-point deficit to a 108-101 victory over the Indiana Pacers on Sunday night.

Porzingis added eight rebounds and six blocked shots in his seventh 30-point performance in nine games this season.

Rookie Frank Ntilikina made the tiebreaking 3-pointer with 1:34 remaining as the Knicks won for the fifth time in six games after an 0-3 start. He had 10 points and seven assists off the bench. Tim Hardaway Jr. had 16 points.

Thaddeus Young scored 18 points and Victor Oladipo had 17 for the Pacers, who led 84-65 with under 2 minutes remaining in the third quarter (see full recap).

Beal scores 38 as Wizards beat Raptors without Wall
TORONTO — Bradley Beal scored 38 points, Otto Porter Jr. had 19 and the Washington Wizards overcame the absence of All-Star point guard John Wall to beat Toronto 107-96 on Sunday night, winning for the second time in 11 meetings with the Raptors.

Marcin Gortat had 11 points and 12 rebounds, and Markieff Morris and Kelly Oubre Jr. each scored 10 points for the Wizards, who had lost four of their previous five.

Wall sat out because of a sprained left shoulder sustained in Friday's 130-122 loss to Cleveland. He is expected to return for Tuesday's home game against Dallas.

Toronto lost its starting point guard when Kyle Lowry was ejected with 8:08 remaining in the second quarter after picking up two technical fouls in quick succession for arguing. Lowry finished with two points in 12 minutes (see full recap.) 

Schroeder, Hawks end 8-game skid, beat Cavaliers 
CLEVELAND —Coming off LeBron James' 57-point performance, it appeared the Cavaliers had finally gained some momentum.

A team that hadn't won since its season opener proved otherwise.

Dennis Schroeder scored 28 points and the injury-riddled Atlanta Hawks ended an eight-game losing streak, beating skidding Cleveland 117-115 on Sunday.

The Hawks hadn't won since beating Dallas on Oct. 18 and were missing five players, but the Cavaliers went down to yet another puzzling loss.

James, who had 26 points and 13 rebounds, was soaking his feet in a tub of ice water and had ice wraps on both knees and his right elbow following the game. He didn't have an explanation for why there was no carry-over from Friday's 130-122 win over Washington (see full recap).