Monday's NBA: Embiid leads 76ers to 2-0 lead on Raptors, Jazz-Mavs tied 1-1

Tom Withers
AP Sports Writer

Philadelphia – Joel Embiid took a stiff arm moments after tipoff and the 7-footer pushed back. Trying to keep his composure, Embiid absorbed a few more deliberate blows from a Raptors defense clearly trying to bully the big guy.

Coach Doc Rivers gave Embiid a quick message: “No, Jo, you be the dominant guy.”

The NBA MVP finalist quit deferring and started dominating.

Philadelphia 76ers' Joel Embiid (21) is fouled by Toronto Raptors' Pascal Siakam (43) during the first half of Game 2 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, Monday, April 18, 2022, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Embiid took his lumps and powered his way to 31 points and 11 rebounds, Tyrese Maxey showed he was no one-game postseason wonder and the Philadelphia 76ers beat the Toronto Raptors 112-97 on Monday night for a 2-0 lead in the first-round series.

Maxey had 23 points, nine rebounds and eight assists. Tobias Harris had 20 points and 10 rebounds. James Harden scored 14.

Game 3 in the Eastern Conference series is Wednesday in Toronto.

The Raptors trailed by 27 points but showed some life in the fourth cutting it to 11 until Maxey, the Game 1 star, buried a 3 that got the Sixers rolling again.

OG Anunoby led the Raptors with 26 points. Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet each had 20.

The Raptors came ready to rumble after coach Nick Nurse accused the officials of letting the Sixers get away with hard fouls in Game 1. Not even 2 minutes into the game, Anunoby shoved Embiid, Embiid shoved back and both teams had to be separated as the crowd erupted. Anunoby and Embiid were both whistled for technical fouls.

The Raptors raced to an 11-2 lead and had the first six fouls to none for the 76ers.

“They wanted to muck the game up and play physical, Rivers said. ”I just told our guys to just play through it.”

Embiid, the NBA scoring champion who had only 19 points in Game 1, was fouled hard by Siakam and made a free throw – one of the 11 he made in the quarter on 12 attempts. He matched his Game 1 total with 19 points in the quarter.

Embiid made 12 of 14 free throws and 9 of 16 shots from the floor for the game.

“That’s what we need from the Big Fella,” Maxey said.

Embiid told Nurse in the waning moments of the game that he was going to keep making all the free throws if Toronto continued to foul him.

Nurse’s retort? “You might have to.”

VanVleet scored 17 points in the half and tried to keep the Raptors in the game. Maxey, who had 38 points in Game 1, didn’t score until he hit a floater in the lane with 8:03 left in the second. He followed with an acrobatic layup for a 50-42 lead and suddenly the Sixers had some juice. Harden hit a 3 for an 11-point lead.

The half ended with a tense moment.

Harden tried to split two defenders on a drive down the lane in the final seconds of the half and his knee crashed into Embiid’s left knee. Embiid’s left ankle seemed to buckle and both players went down in a heap. Both stars were sprawled on the backs for several moments: Harden rubbed his neck and head. Embiid limped down the court on the next possession.

Sixers fans held their breath at the half.

Philly’s first bucket of the third quarter? How about Harden-to-Embiid on an alley-oop that settled nerves and rattled the rim.

Embiid scored nine more points in the third and Maxey had seven for a 95-73 lead at the end of the third. Embiid had 28 points and 11 rebounds before he picked up his first foul midway through the fourth.

Mavs 110, Jazz 104

Dallas – Jalen Brunson scored a career-high 41 points, Maxi Kleber had 25 with eight of Dallas’ playoff-record 22 made 3-points and the Mavericks, without superstar Luka Doncic, evened up their first-round series with a 110-104 win over the Utah Jazz in Game 2 on Monday night.

The Mavericks, in danger of dropping the first two games after opening the playoffs with home-court advantage for the first time since their NBA title 11 years ago, overcame a 10-point deficit after halftime.

Dallas Mavericks guard Jalen Brunson (13) and Spencer Dinwiddie, right, celebrate a 3-point basket made by Brunson in the first half of Game 2 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series against the Utah Jazz, Monday, April 18, 2022, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

Kleber, who had made only 19% of his 3-point attempts since the All-Star break, was 8-of-11 from beyond the arc when the Mavs needed them the most. His 3-pointer with 4:21 put Dallas ahead to stay at 99-98, and he then added another on the next possession.

Game 3 is Thursday night in Utah, where Dallas has lost its last 11 games.

Brunson, the starting point guard with Doncic out, became the fifth Dallas player to score 40 points in a playoff game. Doncic was one of the previous four to do that.

Donovan Mitchell had 34 points for Utah, while Bojan Bogdanovic had 25 and Jordan Clarkson 21. Rudy Gobert had eight points and 17 rebounds.

A 3-pointer by Clarkson put the Jazz up 60-50 early in the third quarter, and the only time Dallas led in that quarter was when Kleber hit a 3 with two minutes left for a 74-73 lead. But Bogdanovic then hit a 3, and the Jazz led 81-74 at the end of the third after a basket by Mitchell.

Dallas didn’t lead again until a 3 by Dorian Finney-Smith with 6:12 left.

Warriors 126, Nuggets 106

San Francisco — Stephen Curry came off the bench for a second straight game and showed he's healthy at last, scoring 34 points to lead the Golden State Warriors past the Denver Nuggets 126-106 on Monday night for a 2-0 lead in their best-of-seven playoff series.

Nikola Jokic had 26 points and 11 rebounds before being ejected with 7 minutes left following a second technical and was held back from a referee, after his first technical came with 2:31 to go in the third. The MVP candidate's emotions ran high all night. In the first quarter, Golden State guard Gary Payton II patted Jokic on the backside and the big man turned and came toward Payton when Curry stepped in and held the 7-footer back and Poole came in to help.

Jordan Poole started for Curry again and contributed 29 points — just missing a chance to become the first Warriors player ever to score 30 in his first two playoff games.

Klay Thompson added 21 points, while Curry shot 12 for 17 with five 3s as Denver again had no answer defensively for all of the Warriors' dangerous perimeter threats.

The series shifts to Denver for Game 3 on Thursday night.

The Warriors are rolling with the backing of a raucous home crowd, winning their seventh in a row overall after a five-game winning streak to close the regular season.

Golden State used runs of 16-0 and 23-4 late in the second quarter to erase a 43-31 deficit and take a 57-51 lead at the break. On one particularly dazzling sequence, Draymond Green bounced a pass to Poole who threw it behind his back to Thompson for a layup that made it 54-47. Green's defense flustered Jokic again.

Austin Rivers grabbed at his left hip and went down hard after getting hurt on a drive then Thompson hit a jumper on the other end in the 5-on-4 advantage before Rivers exited with 10:04 left in the second quarter. He returned with 46.7 seconds to go in the half.

The Nuggets went ahead 43-31 on Monte Morris’ layup at the 7:25 mark of the second quarter and the Warriors answered with 16 straight points. The Chase Center crowd went crazy on Poole's 3 with 3:38 remaining.

Curry entered for the first time at the 6:32 mark of the first to a roaring ovation and immediately hit a jumper. With 16 first-half points he became the 27th player in NBA history to score 3,000 career postseason points.

He showed a full range of moves including driving to the basket with a fervor and making a 3-pointer while falling to the ground.

Denver took a 7-0 lead 90 seconds into the game as Jokic made four quick free throws. But the teams combined to start 6 for 21 with three field goals apiece — and the Warriors were 1 for 7 on 3s.