LOS ANGELES: Joel Embiid starred again with 38 points as the Philadelphia 76ers picked up a sixth straight win with a 118-109 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday (Thursday in Manila).
The 76ers, third in the East just a place ahead of the Cavs, were in a close contest until the end when Tyrese Maxey sank a three-pointer and Philadelphia put away five free throws in the final 51 seconds to secure the win.
That all came after Embiid was initially ejected after being called for his sixth foul for pushing off on Evan Mobley with four minutes 12 seconds left on the clock.
But 76ers coach Doc Rivers challenged the call successfully and while he had to be careful for the remainder, Embiid helped steer his side to a significant victory.
Embiid, who also had 18 rebounds and four blocks, said he had been given the benefit of the doubt by the officials.
The six-times All Star is a contender for this season's MVP award but said his focus was elsewhere.
“I am just trying to win, to get as many wins as we can and to kind of get the group together, doing our job. My team-mates are making my job easy. We are doing it as a team,” he said.
“I am excited about the postseason but we have a lot of games coming up in the regular season, we have to take them one at a time and try to get better every day,” he added.
Embiid was supported by James Harden, who had 28 points, and Maxey, who put up 23.
Philadelphia are now just half a game behind the second-placed Boston Celtics and own the tie-breaker over Cleveland.
The Celtics had their work cut out in Minneapolis against the Timberwolves, finally emerging with a 104-102 win.
Jaylen Brown put up 35 points and Jayson Tatum scored 22 with the latter making sure of the win with two free throws at the end.
The Celtics struggled with their shooting — they were 40.5 percent from the field and 12 of 40 from three-pointers, but their defense delivered enough to grind out the win.
Elsewhere, Steph Curry erupted for 50 points but could not prevent the Golden State Warriors falling 134-126 to the Los Angeles Clippers.
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