LOS ANGELES: Joel Embiid scored 41 points in a dazzling return from injury on Monday (Jan 15) as the Philadelphia 76ers romped past the Houston Rockets 124-115.
Kicking off a packed slate of NBA fixtures as the US marked the Martin Luther King Jr public holiday, the Sixers were always in control as they cruised to victory.
Embiid missed the Sixers’ past three games after twisting his left knee in a Jan 5 defeat to the New York Knicks.
But the NBA’s reigning Most Valuable Player showed no sign of rustiness as he posted his seventh 40-point game of the season, adding 10 rebounds and three assists.
Embiid shot 12-of-21 from the field and was near-perfect from the foul line, making 16 of 17 free throws in a comfortable win for the Sixers, who improved to 25-13 to remain in third place in the Eastern Conference.
Embiid’s performance also extended a remarkable scoring streak.
The 29-year-old has now gone 16 consecutive games with at least 30 points and 10 rebounds, tying Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the second-longest streak of its kind in NBA history. Only Wilt Chamberlain is ahead of Embiid and Abdul-Jabbar.
Embiid received scoring support in Monday’s rout from Tyrese Maxey with 27 points while Patrick Beverley added 11 from the bench and Tobias Harris 10.
Jalen Green led Houston’s scoring with 20 points while Alperen Sengun finished with 19.
While Embiid made a successful return from injury, there was less to celebrate for Golden State Warriors star Draymond Green in his first game back since missing 16 games through suspension.
Green, who was given an indefinite ban by the NBA last month after striking Phoenix Suns player Jusuf Nurkic, played 23 minutes off the bench in the Warriors’ 116-107 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies.
CELTICS ROLL ON
A close game was settled by a late fourth quarter rally by Memphis, who compiled a 10-1 run to open up a 12-point lead with four minutes remaining.
“Draymond played well, played hard – it’s good to have him back,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said after the loss. “Obviously as a team we didn’t play well, but Draymond competed and it’s good to get him back in the fold.”
In other games on Monday, Anthony Davis finished with 27 points, 15 rebounds and five assists while LeBron James added 25 points as the Los Angeles Lakers ended Oklahoma City Thunder’s four-game winning streak with a 112-105 win at the Crypto.com Arena.
A game that saw 17 lead changes swung the Lakers’ way in the third quarter as Los Angeles outscored the Thunder 34-26 to take the lead for the final time.
In Dallas, Kyrie Irving scored 42 points and Tim Hardaway Jr 41 as the Dallas Mavericks staged a fourth quarter rally to defeat the New Orleans Pelicans 125-120.
Irving and Hardaway scored 20 points between them in the fourth quarter as the Mavericks fought back from a double-digit deficit late in the third to snatch victory.
Only one other Dallas player – Josh Green, with 13 points – cracked double figures.
Dallas coach Jason Kidd meanwhile singled out Hardaway for praise after the 31-year-old slipped seamlessly into the starting line-up due to Luka Doncic’s absence through injury.
“He’s the substitute teacher in the starting line-up and he’s being a pro about it,” Kidd said after the win.
“He’s just a pro. This afternoon was a perfect example of that – he took his shots and was aggressive, and we need that no matter if he’s starting or coming off the bench.”
Zion Williamson led the Pels scoring with 30 points while CJ McCollum added 23.
In Toronto, the Eastern Conference-leading Boston Celtics rolled on with a 105-96 defeat of the Raptors, with Derrick White and Jrue Holiday leading the scoring for the visitors with 22 points apiece.
The Celtics lead the Eastern standings with 31 wins against nine defeats, three games clear of the second-placed Milwaukee Bucks (28-12).
In Atlanta, Trae Young’s 36 points helped the Hawks hold off the San Antonio Spurs for a 109-99 victory.
San Antonio’s No.1 draft pick Victor Wembanyama produced another eye-catching performance in defeat for the Spurs, finishing with 26 points – 18 of them in the fourth quarter.