Pick a position, Joel Embiid got to the basket at will and continued to stir early-season MVP hype. Dakota Mathias needed only one open look to squeeze his way into Embiid’s personal highlight reel.
Embiid had 45 points and 16 rebounds, Mathias’ only basket of the game was a go-ahead 3-pointer with 26.1 seconds left and the Philadelphia 76ers hung on to beat the undermanned Miami Heat 137-134 in overtime on Tuesday night.
Embiid had some of the great moments of his career and carried the Sixers with a perfect third quarter and clutch buckets in OT to put them on the brink of victory.
It was little-known Mathias with the stunner that won it. Mathias, who went undrafted in 2018 and signed this season with the Sixers as a two-day G League player, got the ball from the top of the arc and buried it for the 134-132 lead.
With Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo and Goran Dragic among the Heat sitting out for COVID-related reasons, they pushed the Sixers into OT with a mad-dash end to the fourth. Tyler Herro helped the Heat overcome Embiid’s dominant effort when his 3-pointer tied the game 115-all with 2:25 left. Precious Achiuwa scored two straight baskets — the first off Philly’s shot clock violation, then off a turnover — for a 119-115 lead.
Embiid buried the pull-up jumper just inside the 3-point arc with 3.3 seconds left that tied it 120-120 and sent the game into overtime. It was his only bucket of the fourth after he made all eight shots in the third.
Embiid’s go-ahead three-point play with 2:37 left in OT put the Sixers up 126-124, and Herro matched his regulation theatrics with another tying 3 for 129-all.
Danny Green matched the 76ers’ record with nine 3-pointers and scored 29 points and Mike Scott had 16 points.
Herro finished with 34 points, Duncan Robinson had 26 and Gabe Vincent 24.
Embiid finished plays in bunches and took over the third quarter when scored 20 points and in OT when he scored 11 points.
Embiid was all over the court in the third.
He smacked the ball away under the basket to break up a Miami possession, then hustled down to hit Isiah Joe for a 3 and cut the hole to four. Embiid followed that by shaking off a double team and tossing an underhand shot for the basket. He made the free throw and Sixers were down one. Embiid made it back-to-back three-point plays when he got the Heat to bite on a pump-fake from the free-throw line.
The big man even handled the rock with ease and went the length of the floor to hit a little fadeaway and extend the lead.
Embiid was 16 of 23 from the floor and made all 13 free throws. Embiid had five steals and a blocked shot.
Achiuwa had 17 points and 13 rebounds and the Heat made 19 of 56 3-pointers.
Nets 122, Nuggets 116: Kevin Durant had 34 points, 13 assists and nine rebounds, Bruce Brown made a huge contribution while starting for the absent Kyrie Irving, and the Brooklyn Nets rallied from 18 down to beat the Denver Nuggets 122-116.
Brown scored 16 points, including the tying and go-ahead baskets down the stretch. Durant followed with Brooklyn’s next six points, including a 3-pointer that essentially put it away at 120-113 with 27 seconds to play.
Nikola Jokic had 23 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds for the Nuggets, who were trying to sweep a three-game road trip. But they were outscored 68-46 in the second half and squandered their chance to climb above .500 for the first time this season.
Caris LeVert added 20 points for the Nets, who had dropped two in a row during Irving’s four-game absence for personal reasons and seemed well on their way to a third when they trailed 79-61 early in the third quarter. But they got hot from 3-point range and Durant from just about everywhere.
They blew past the Nuggets with a 29-4 run that gave them a 90-83 lead, and when Jokic checked out after the next possession he kicked over a chair in the last row of Denver’s bench in frustration.
Will Barton scored 22 points for the Nuggets, making six 3-pointers. Jamal Murray scored 20.
Jokic scored 13 points in the first quarter and Denver already led by double digits barely a minute into the second. The lead was eight with about four minutes left before Murray finally got going with three baskets, including a 3-pointer that made it 70-54 at the break.
Jazz 117, Cavaliers 87: Donovan Mitchell and the Utah Jazz are headed home with a victory, albeit a little earlier than expected.
Mitchell scored 27 points and the Jazz rolled to a 117-87 win over the injury-depleted Cleveland Cavaliers, wrapping up their six-game road trip.
Utah was scheduled to play Wednesday at Washington, but the NBA postponed the game because the Wizards do not have the minimum eight available players.
Jordan Clarkson had 21 points and eight rebounds off the bench and Bojan Bogdanovic added 20 points for the Jazz, whose largest lead was 114-80 on a 3-pointer by Miye Oni. Utah went 4-2 on its 10-day journey.
Mitchell, who scored 17 points in the third, and Clarkson each made five 3s as Utah went 24 of 45 beyond the arc. The Jazz nailed a franchise-record 25 triples at Milwaukee on Jan. 8.
Cedi Osman paced Cleveland with 17 points and six assists. Rookie forward Isaac Okoro and Damyean Dotson had 11 points apiece for the Cavaliers, who failed to score 100 for the ninth straight game and have lost three in a row.
Cleveland center Andre Drummond (right Achilles bruise), averaging an NBA-high 15.1 rebounds, was a late scratch after being stepped on Monday against Memphis.
The Cavaliers also were without shooting guard Collin Sexton (left ankle sprain) for the fourth straight game, along with power forward Kevin Love (right calf strain), point guard Darius Garland (right shoulder sprain) and four other rotation players.
Clarkson scored 14 points in the first half and Utah carried a 49-36 lead into the break. The teams combined for two free throw attempts, 31 3-point tries and five airballs on uncontested shots in the first half.
Spurs 112, Thunder 102: Lonnie Walker IV scored 24 points and San Antonio beat the Oklahoma City Thunder, allowing the Spurs to finish a five-game trip with four wins.
Keldon Johnson added 18 points for the Spurs, who won their 2,200th game since joining the NBA in 1976.
The Spurs committed a season-low four turnovers.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander led Oklahoma City with 20 points while Hamidou Diallo scored 16. The Thunder are 0-4 this season at Chesapeake Energy Arena but 5-1 on the road. Oklahoma City’s next three games are at home.
The Spurs led 51-43 at halftime before Oklahoma City started the third quarter on an 11-3 run to tie the game. Walker and Trey Lyles each hit a 3-pointer to rebuild the Spurs’ lead to 62-55 and they never trailed again.
A 3-pointer by Patty Mills, who scored 17 points, gave San Antonio its largest lead at 85-75 with 10:49 left. The Thunder closed within four points several times after that, the last at 104-100 with 2:25 left, but missed a chance to draw closer when Al Horford missed a 3-point attempt. The Spurs hit all six of their free throws in the final minute.
Lakers 117, Rockets 100: LeBron James scored 26 points in just more than three quarters and the Los Angeles Lakers never trailed in a rout of the Houston Rockets.
Anthony Davis added 19 points and 10 rebounds in three quarters to help the Lakers to their second straight blowout over the Rockets after a 120-102 victory Sunday night.
Los Angeles led by 20 or more for most of the game on a night James Harden made just 5 of 16 shots and the Rockets were outrebounded 55-42.
The Rockets scored the first five points of the fourth quarter, but a three-point play by James ended the modest run and made it 100-76 with about 10 ½ minutes to go. He went to the bench for good after that.
Christian Wood had 18 points and eight rebounds and Harden had 16 points, seven rebounds and six assists in a game where none of Houston’s starters played in the fourth quarter.
The Lakers were up by six in the first quarter before scoring the next 12 points, with five from James, to make it 28-10 with five minutes left in the quarter. They were up 35-14 after the first quarter and had a 71-48 lead at halftime.
LA had a 25-point lead in the third quarter before scoring the next five points, with a 3-pointer and a block by Davis, to make it 95-65 with about two minutes to go in the quarter.