NBA: Embiid dominant as Sixers cruise to seventh straight win

Philadelphia 76ers centre Joel Embiid tries to stop Charlotte Hornets forward Kai Jones from scoring during the second half. PHOTO: USA TODAY SPORTS

CHARLOTTE – Joel Embiid believes that it is no surprise that the Philadelphia 76ers are on a hot streak, as the team are working well together and setting the tone early in games with aggressive play.

The centre maintained his dominant scoring streak on Friday to help the Sixers extend their National Basketball Association (NBA) winning run to seven, with a 121-82 road thrashing of the Charlotte Hornets.

Embiid, one of the front runners for the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award, rattled in another 38 points. He is averaging 35 points a game in March and has not scored fewer than 31 in eight games during the month. His latest tally came on 16-of-21 shooting, with 13 rebounds and five assists.

“Home or road, it doesn’t matter. We know what it takes offensively and defensively, everybody doing their job... tonight we did it as a team,” the Cameroonian said.

“One of our goals was to come in from the start and set the tone and not play in the fourth quarter. I’m glad we did it. We came out aggressive, starting on defence (in the second half). We did a pretty good job in the first half but we knew we had a little more left and we tried to correct the mistakes that we had made.”

James Harden had a rare off-night with only 11 points after shooting four of 15 from the field, but the Sixers still had far too much firepower and defensive savvy for a Charlotte team who are second from the bottom of the Eastern Conference. Tobias Harris added 18 points while Tyrese Maxey chipped in with 13.

Sixers coach Doc Rivers was pleased that his team emerged with a clean bill of health.

“It’s just good to get the game over with and be healthy. It just shows that we are focused, and we are showing up and playing,” said the 61-year-old, who also took satisfaction from the Sixers’ ruthless performance.

“There is no guarantee each night how you’re going to play, but there is a guarantee how you can show up – and we’re showing up every night.”

Philadelphia improved to 47-22 with the win and are third in the East, behind leaders Milwaukee (50-20) and Boston (49-22).

Boston’s revival continued with a 126-112 win on the road over the Portland Trail Blazers. Jayson Tatum led the Celtics with 34 points, while Jaylen Brown added 27. Damian Lillard poured in 41 points for the Trail Blazers.

In other games on Friday, Maxi Kleber nailed a 27-foot buzzer-beater as the Dallas Mavericks put a dent in the Los Angeles Lakers’ post-season charge to snatch a sensational 111-110 road victory.

Kyrie Irving scored 38 points – and provided the late assist for Kleber – to set up a thrilling win for Dallas. The defeat dropped the Lakers to 10th in the Western Conference with a 34-37 record.

Golden State’s poor road form continued with a 127-119 defeat at Atlanta, with Trae Young leading the Hawks’ scoring with 25 points.

With the Warriors missing the defensive presence of the suspended Draymond Green, the NBA champions dropped their 10th straight game on the road.

The Warriors are now 36-35 overall and seventh, behind the Mavericks, in a congested Western Conference table. The Hawks (35-35) are eighth in the East.

“We had our chances and had several shots in the last couple of minutes but just couldn’t get anything to go,” Golden State coach Steve Kerr said.

“These guys are fighting. I believe in them and I believe something good’s going to happen with this group. We’ve just got to keep fighting and keep moving forward.

“We’ve been playing well... but it’s hard to win on the road in this league. And we’re just not getting it done.”

Stephen Curry led the Warriors’ scorers with 31 points, and six Golden State players finished in double figures. AFP

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