Joel Embiid responds to criticism to lead 76ers past Celtics

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Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid looks for room to shoot against Boston Celtics forward Daniel Theis, left, in the first quarter of an NBA basketball game, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019, in Boston. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid looks for room to shoot against Boston Celtics forward Daniel Theis, left, in the first quarter of an NBA basketball game, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019, in Boston. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

Boston (AP) — Joel Embiid responded to criticism from Shaquille O’Neal and Charles Barkley to score a season-high 38 points and add 13 rebounds in the Philadelphia 76ers’ 115-109 victory over the Boston Celtics on Thursday night.

Embiid scored 16 points in the fourth quarter, hitting five of six free throws in the final 26 seconds to hold off Boston’s last charge. With Philadelphia leading by four in the final 15 seconds, he blocked Daniel Theis’ shot to help clinch it.

Earlier in the week, Barkley said Embiid is the toughest matchup in the league, but he doesn’t take advantage of it. O’Neal said on the TNT broadcast that Embiid shouldn’t settle for 22 points a game, his current average, but should aim for more like 28 or 30.

Tobias Harris had 23 points, eight rebounds and seven assists for the Sixers, who won their fourth straight and eighth in nine games.

Kemba Walker scored 29 points for Boston, which lost at home for the first time all season. Enes Kanter added 20 points and nine rebounds, and Gordon Hayward scored 19 points.

 

Nuggets 114, Trail Blazers 99

Denver (AP) — Nikola Jokic and Jerami Grant scored 20 points apiece and Denver overcame a career-high 33 by Hassan Whiteside to beat Portland.

Gary Harris and Will Barton each added 15 points for the Nuggets, who ended a three-game slide.

Carmelo Anthony, who spent the first 7½ years of his career in Denver, received a warm reception from the crowd during pregame introductions. He had 20 points for the Trail Blazers, and CJ McCollum added 15.

 

Mavericks 122, Pistons 111

Mexico City (AP) — Luka Doncic scored 41 points and had his eighth triple-double of the season, Seth Curry added a season-high 30 points and Dallas beat Detroit Pistons in the opener of the NBA Mexico Games.

Doncic finished with 12 rebounds and 11 assists for the Mavericks. They are 17-7, their best 24-game start since posting the same mark at this point of the 2014-15 season.

Andre Drummond led the Pistons with 23 points and 15 rebounds.

 

Cavaliers 117, Spurs 109, OT

San Antonio (AP) — Kevin Love hit a tying 3-pointer in the final seconds of regulation and finished with 30 points and 17 rebounds as Cleveland beat San Antonio to snap an eight-game losing streak.

Love had 10 points in the fourth quarter and OT to help Cleveland win for the first time since Nov. 23 against Portland.

DeMar DeRozan had 21 points for the Spurs.