Saturday's NBA playoffs: MVP finalist Embiid, 76ers rout Wizards to 3-0 series lead
Washington — Joel Embiid shook off the jeers from a missed dunk and made sure he did not miss his next attempt. After throwing the ball down through the rim, he cupped his hands to his ears to encourage the crowd.
“I had the opportunity where I actually made a dunk, so that’s why I went over to them and I wanted to hear more boos,” Embiid said.
Some booed. Many 76ers fans chanted “M-V-P! M-V-P!” in Embiid's direction. After another valuable performance, Philadelphia is one victory away from a first-round sweep.
Embiid set a career playoff high with 36 points, and the Sixers routed the Washington Wizards 132-103 on Saturday night to take a 3-0 series lead. Embiid scored 25 points in the first half and finished 14 of 18 from the floor in 28 minutes before resting the entire fourth quarter.
That's the second-fewest minutes by a player who scored 35-plus points since the NBA's shot-clock era began in 1954.
“I can’t imagine anybody playing better than him,” Wizards coach Scott Brooks said. “That was MVP-level tonight. He’s definitely a handful.”
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Embiid missing only three shots apart from the botched dunk made it almost impossible to guard the Sixers' other stars. Ben Simmons scored 14 and had nine assists, Tobias Harris had 20 points, 13 rebounds and five assists, and Danny Green made five 3-pointers to finish with 15.
The 76ers shot 58.6% from the field, including 51.5% from 3-point range.
“When you shoot the ball that well, you’re going to win a lot of games,” coach Doc Rivers said. “We had one of those nights where everything fell for us.”
That brought mixed reactions from the crowd of 10,000, which was the largest to attend an indoor sporting event in the nation's capital in 14 months. Wizards fans didn't have much to cheer about because the game was never closer than four points beyond seven minutes in, and Philadelphia led by as many as 31 on the way to the franchise's first 3-0 series lead since 1985.
The top-seeded 76ers will go for the sweep in Game 4 on Monday.
“That would be incredible,” Simmons said. “We want to do that. Obviously we want to get the sweep so we can get some rest, but they're a tough team.”
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In Game 3, the 76ers took advantage of the Wizards' biggest stars nursing injuries, though they still produced. Russell Westbrook had 26 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists for the triple-double after being a game-time decision with a sprained right ankle, and Beal had 25 as he continues to get back to full health from a strained left hamstring.
Westbrook said he felt “so-so. Just trying to go out and do what I can. That's pretty much it.”
More NBA playoffs
Trail Blazers 115, Nuggets 95: Norman Powell matched his career playoff high with 29 points and the Portland Trail Blazers beat the Denver Nuggets 115-95 on Saturday in Game 4 to even the first-round series.
Powell made four 3-points and was 11 of 15 from the floor, and CJ McCollum added 21 points for the sixth-seeded Trail Blazers.
Game 5 is Tuesday night in Denver.
Nikola Jokic finished with 16 points and nine rebounds for third-seeded Denver before sitting out the final quarter. He was the Nuggets' top scorer.
Jazz 121, Grizzlies 111: Donovan Mitchell scored 10 of his 29 points in the fourth quarter and the top-seeded Utah Jazz beat the Memphis Grizzlies 121-111 on Saturday night to take a 2-1 lead in the first-round series.
Mike Conley, in Memphis where he started his career, matched his regular-season and playoff career highs with seven 3-pointers and finished with 27 points.
Rudy Gobert had 15 points and 14 rebounds, Bojan Bogdanovic and Jordan Clarkson added 15 apiece, and Royce O'Neale had 12.
Game 4 is Monday night in Memphis.
Bucks 120, Heat 103: Turns out, there was a reason the Milwaukee Bucks weren’t worried about a playoff rematch with the Miami Heat in Round 1 this year.
The last four games proved why.
Brook Lopez scored 25 points, Giannis Antetokounmpo had a triple-double — 20 points, 12 rebounds and 15 assists — and the Bucks became the first team to advance in this year’s playoffs, beating the Heat 120-103 on Saturday and finishing off a first-round sweep over last season’s Eastern Conference champions.
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Bryn Forbes scored 22 points, Khris Middleton had 20, Bobby Portis 13 and Jrue Holiday 11 for Milwaukee. The third-seeded Bucks will face the Brooklyn-Boston winner.
Bam Adebayo had 20 points and 14 rebounds for Miami. The Heat became the second team in this playoff format to go from sweeping in the first round one year to being swept in the first round the next. The only other team to endure that was then-New Jersey Nets, who swept New York in 2004 and lost 4-0 to Miami in 2005.