Embiid has 41 points, 20 rebounds as Sixers down Pacers

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Joel Embiid made his closing argument for MVP votes and almost clinched the NBA scoring title, scoring 41 points, grabbing 20 rebounds and dishing out four assists to lead the Philadelphia 76ers to a victory on Saturday 133-120 over the Indiana Pacers.

Embiid shot 14 of 17 from the floor, was 11 of 15 from the free throw line and made both of his 3-point attempts in a game that Philadelphia (50-31) needed to win to stay alive in the hunt for the third seed in the Eastern Conference Playoffs.

James Harden had 22 points and 14 assists for Philadelphia, which also got double-digit scoring performances from Tobias Harris (18), Tyrese Maxey (18) and Danny Green (15).

Oshae Brissett scored 20 points and Tyrese Haliburton had 19 for Indiana (25-56), which lost its ninth straight game. The Pacers trailed by 21 points in the first half, then cut the deficit to five late in the third quarter before Embiid and Harden began to take control of the game.

Embiid is now averaging 30.6 points for the season, which is just ahead of LeBron James’ 30.3 points per game clip for the Los Angeles Lakers and Kevin Durant’s 30.1 average for the Brooklyn Nets.

But neither James nor Durant will play enough games to qualify for the statistical title; in an 82-game season, 58 games played is the minimum. That means the scoring race comes down to Embiid and Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo, who would need a miraculous finish to get the scoring crown.

Embiid has also been considered a top contender for league MVP, along with Antetokounmpo and Denver’s Nikola Jokic. Saturday’s game was Embiid’s 13th scoring 40 or more points.

The Sixers can move up to the third seed in the East and a first-round matchup with Chicago with a win over Detroit on Sunday and a Boston loss at Memphis. Otherwise, Philadelphia will face Toronto in a 4-5 matchup in the first round of the postseason tournament.

TIPS

Pacers: Indiana guard Malcolm Brogdon was ruled out with lower back soreness, while Jalen Smith sat out with left groin soreness. Reserve forward Nate Hinton was ruled out of the final two games due to NBA health and safety protocols. “He’s in a truck on the way home,” trainer Rick Carlisle said.

Philadelphia 76ers’ Joel Embiid, left, reacts to a basket by Danny Green, right, during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Indiana Pacers, Saturday, April 9, 2022, in Philadelphia. .

76ers: For the second straight game, Philadelphia inserted veteran guard Danny Green into the starting lineup in the spot normally filled by defender Matisse Thybulle. Thybulle may not be able to play in a potential upcoming first-round series in Toronto due to his COVID-19 vaccination status; he has not said publicly if he is vaccinated. Canadian regulations prohibit cross-border travel to anyone who is not vaccinated. Thybulle missed Thursday night’s 119-114 road loss to the Raptors and was listed as “ineligible to play.” … Guard Georges Niang missed Saturday’s game with a sore left knee. Coach Doc Rivers said the move was out of an abundance of caution. “If this was a playoff game, he would be there,” Rivers said in his pregame meeting with the media.

UNTIL NEXT TIME

Pacers: Play in Brooklyn on Sunday to end their season.

76ers: Host Detroit on Sunday night in the regular season finale.

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More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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