Jazz Eclipse Suns; Sixers triumph
Utah Jazz center Hassan Whiteside dunks on Phoenix Suns center JaVale McGee during the first half of an NBA basketball game Sunday Feb. 27, 2022 (Feb. 28 Manila) in Phoenix. AP PHOTO
LOS ANGELES: The NBA-leading Phoenix Suns and Western Conference rivals Golden State fell on Sunday (Monday in Manila) as Joel Embiid and James Harden signaled that the Philadelphia 76ers are a force to play with. must be counted in the East.
The surging Utah Jazz, fueled by 26 points from Donovan Mitchell, beat the Suns 118-114 to claim their eighth victory in nine games.
Utah’s Rudy Gobert returned after missing six games with right knee pain and non-Covid illness, scoring 16 points and pulling 14 rebounds. That included a season-high eight offensive rebounds.
The Suns, who still hold the NBA’s best record at 49-12, lost consecutive games for the first time since losing two on Dec. 25 and 27.
Devin Booker led the Suns with 30 points. Cameron Johnson and Deandre Ayton added 23 each, but Phoenix is clearly still finding their way into their third game since losing All-Star point guard Chris Paul to a broken thumb that could put him out. away for the rest of the regular season.
The Golden State Warriors, chasing the Suns for first place in the West, couldn’t capitalize, giving up a 21-point third-quarter lead in a 107-101 loss to the Dallas Mavericks in San Francisco.
On the eve of his 23rd birthday, Luka Doncic scored 34 points and pulled out 11 rebounds for Dallas, connecting on a pair of key baskets on the stretch and draining decisive free throws in the final seconds.
Spencer Dinwiddie scored 24 points with four rebounds and five assists for Dallas, playing a key role in the fourth quarter push that overwhelmed the Warriors.
Dallas beat Golden State 33-13 in the final period as the Warriors made just four of 18 field attempts.
Stephen Curry finished with 27 points and 10 assists for the Warriors, but without Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, Golden State fell short of the Mavs’ late charge.
In New York, Harden posted his first triple-double as a 76er and clicked again with star teammate Joel Embiid in their 125-109 victory over the Knicks.
Former Most Valuable Player Harden, playing his second game for the Sixers since joining in a blockbuster trade from Brooklyn, notched the 68th triple-double of his career with 29 points, 16 assists and 10 rebounds.
He also had five steals and was the perfect complement to Cameroonian center Embiid, who scored 37 points, grabbed nine rebounds and blocked four shots.
Tyrese Maxey entered the offensive display, scoring 21 points and grabbing seven rebounds.
Embiid said that so far the addition of Harden — a two-time NBA champion as well as a proven point guard — is working exactly as Philadelphia had hoped.
“Unstoppable,” Embiid said of the Sixers’ offense with Harden in the mix. “What are you really going to do? He’s a great passer and obviously I have someone who gets a lot of attention too.
“So you have to make a decision: do you stay on me or do you stay on him? And if you want to keep both of us, with the other guys, now you have Matisse (Thybulle) driving to the rim or the shooters to grand opening.”
Philadelphia’s second straight win saw them improve to 37-23. They are third in the Eastern Conference and just 2½ games behind conference leaders Miami.