By KEVIN COONEY, Associated Press
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Joel Embiid made his closing pitch for MVP votes and improved his chances of winning the NBA scoring title, scoring 41 points while grabbing 20 rebounds and providing four assists to lead the Philadelphia 76ers to a 133-120 victory Saturday over the Indiana Pacers.
Embiid shot 14 of 17 from the floor, went 11 of 15 from the foul line and made both of his 3-point attempts in a game Philadelphia (50-31) needed to win to stay alive in the chase to the third seed in the Eastern Conference Playoffs.
James Harden had 22 points and 14 assists for Philadelphia, which also got double-digit 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 21 points in the first half, then cut the deficit to five by the end of the third quarter before Embiid and Harden began to take control of the game.
Embiid entered Saturday as the leader of the NBA title race averaging 30.4 points per game, ahead of Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo at 29.9 points per game. He was considered a top contender for the league MVP title, along with Denver’s Antetokounmpo and Nikola Jokic. Saturday’s game was Embiid’s 13th with 40 or more points.
The Sixers can move up to the third seed in the East and a first-round game with Chicago with a win over Detroit on Sunday and a Boston loss at Memphis. Otherwise, Philadelphia will face Toronto in the 4-5 game in the first round of the postseason tournament.
Pacers: Indiana guard Malcolm Brogdon was ruled out with lower back pain while Jalen Smith sat out with left groin pain. Reserve forward Nate Hinton has been ruled out for the past two games due to NBA health and safety protocols. “He’s in a van going home,” coach Rick Carlisle said.
76ers: For the second straight game, Philadelphia has inserted veteran guard Danny Green into the starting lineup in the place normally occupied by top defenseman Matisse Thybulle. Thybulle may not be able to play in a possible upcoming first-round series in Toronto due to his COVID-19 vaccination status; he has not said publicly if he is vaccinated. Canadian rules prohibit cross-border travel for anyone who has not been 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 left knee pain. playoff game, he would be in there,” Rivers said in his pre-game meeting with the media.
Pacers: Play Brooklyn on Sunday to end their season.
76ers: Host Detroit on Sunday night in the regular season finale.
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