Oklahoma City’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 37 points, while Josh Giddey’s brilliant second NBA season continued as the Thunder avenged a 19-point New Year’s Eve loss to the Philadelphia 76ers.
The 76ers fell 133-114 to the Oklahoma City Thunder to lose ground to Cleveland in the battle for fourth place in the east.
Coming off a sixth career triple-double in his last start, Giddey finished with 20 points – 11 came in the fourth quarter – from seven-of-14 shooting, as well as eight assists, four rebounds and a steal in 36 minutes.
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It was the sixth time in his past 10 games that Giddey had reached the 20-point mark. He’s now averaged 18.8 points from his past eight matches.
The Thunder’s win improved their record to 19-23, meaning they’re now within reach of a play-offs berth.
“It shows that we belong,” Giddey told reporters post-game.
“You see a lot of teams rest their better players against us, but we‘ve shown that we can compete with the best teams in the league when we’re switched on from the jump.”
For Philadelphia, Joel Embiid scored 30 points – including 10-from-10 at the free throw line – and pulled down 10 rebounds. It was his third straight game with 30 points, 10 rebounds and a free throw percentage of 100.
As per ESPN, Embiid became just the second player in NBA history – after Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1975 – to record 30 points, 10 rebounds and a free throw percentage of 100 in three consecutive matches.
Despite the efforts from Embiid and 76ers teammate James Harden (24 points and 15 assists), the Thunder connected on 51.2 per cent of their shots from the field, including 14 three-pointers, to spring the surprise.
NETS FALL IN FIRST GAME SINCE KD BLOW
The Boston Celtics clawed out a 109-98 victory over Brooklyn on Thursday, pulling away late to boost their NBA-best record and widen the distance over the Nets atop the Eastern Conference.
Celtics star Jayson Tatum endured a tough seven-for-22 shooting night on the way to 20 points and 11 rebounds.
Marcus Smart and Malcolm Brogdon added 16 points apiece for the Celtics, who learned shortly before the contest that Jaylen Brown — coming off a 41-point performance in Boston’s win over New Orleans on Wednesday — would be sidelined with a right adductor muscle strain.
The Nets, meanwhile, were playing their first game since superstar Kevin Durant limped out of a win over Miami with a sprained right knee ligament, which is expected to sideline him for several weeks.
Smith and Barkley fire up over Simmons | 01:04
Brooklyn, led by 24 points from Kyrie Irving, coped admirably through the first three quarters, leading the back-and-forth battle by as many as nine points in the first half and by as many as five in the third quarter before Boston pulled away.
The Celtics connected on 10 of 25 shots from the field in the fourth quarter and clamped down defensively, holding the Nets to 16 points in the period on six-of-19 shooting.
“We get out and run, it’s hard for people to stop it,” Smart said. “We were able to get back in transition on the defensive end and set our defence.”
The Celtics won their fifth straight game to improve to 31-12 and stretched their lead over the Nets atop the East to three games.
Celtics coach Joe Mazulla said before the game he didn’t know how long Brown would be out, but hoped it would be not more than a couple of weeks.
The Nets remained half a game ahead of the Milwaukee Bucks, who fell to the Heat 102-108 in Miami.
BUCKS CLAIM BATTLE OF WALKING WOUNDED
In Miami, the Milwaukee Bucks fell to the Heat 102-108.
Gabe Vincent scored a career-high 28 points, Bam Adebayo added 24 points and 12 rebounds and Jimmy Butler chipped in 17 points and 11 rebounds for the Heat in a clash of injury-depleted teams.
The Bucks, whose multiple absentees included two-time NBA Most Valuable Player Giannis Antetokounmpo, led by 15 in the second quarter, but the Heat had tied it up by halftime.
Miami opened the fourth quarter on a 7-0 run and didn’t trail in the final period.
One night after they set an NBA record by making all 40 of their free-throw attempts, the Heat made 15 of their 16 attempts from the foul line — running their streak of free throws made to 55 before Butler missed one with less than 30 seconds remaining.
– Pascal Siakam had 35 points in Toronto‘s 124-114 win over Charlotte, who had 32 points, seven assists from LaMelo Ball.
— with AFP
LATEST NBA SCORES
Oklahoma City Thunder 133 — Philadelphia 76ers 114
Boston Celtics 109 — Brooklyn Nets 98
Milwaukee Bucks 102 — Miami Heat 108
Charlotte Hornets 114 — Toronto Raptors 124
Dallas Mavericks — Los Angeles Lakers
Cleveland Cavaliers — Portland Trail Blazers