Sixers advance after Nets sweep, Suns on brink as Clippers downed
The Philadelphia 76ers shrugged off the absence of Joel Embiid to complete a 4-0 sweep of the Brooklyn Nets in the NBA playoffs on Saturday as the Phoenix Suns edged closer to a second round berth with victory over the Los Angeles Clippers.
The Sixers advanced to an Eastern Conference semi-final showdown against either Boston or Atlanta with a dominant second-half display to seal a 96-88 victory in Brooklyn.
The Sixers trailed by 11 points early in the third quarter but transformed the contest with an 18-4 run to take the lead before closing out victory with a fourth-quarter rally.
The Sixers’ win was all the more impressive given the absence of star center Embiid, who suffered a right knee sprain in Thursday’s 102-97 victory in game three.
Embiid led the NBA with 33.1 points a game and is a finalist for the NBA Most Valuable Player (MVP) award.
With Embiid out, Paul Reed stepped in to fill the void and finished with 10 points and 15 rebounds.
Tobias Harris led the scoring for Philadelphia with 25 points and 12 rebounds, while De’Anthony Melton came off the bench to produce 15 points and lead the fourth-quarter rally.
Harris said the Sixers had been determined to use Embiid’s absence as a motivator.
“He’s the MVP. And when we heard he wasn’t playing, I think it was an opportunity for everybody else to really step up and understand that we’ve got to get a win without the big fella,”
“For us to come out here and get this victory, it feels great for the whole group.
“The whole group came together today. It’s a great win for us and a great way to sweep the series.”Harris told the TNT television network after the win.
Asked what his message to the injured Embiid would be, Harris replied: “Hurry up and get your ass back out here.”
The 4-0 series victory was Philadelphia’s first playoff sweep since 1991.
Spencer Dinwiddie led Brooklyn’s scoring with 20 points while Nic Claxton had 19 points with 12 rebounds.
Suns on the brink
In Los Angeles, Kevin Durant finished with 31 points, 11 rebounds and six assists to help Phoenix take a 3-1 series lead over the Clippers with a 112-100 victory.
Devin Booker plundered 30 points and veteran Chris Paul added 19 in a late burst of scoring as Phoenix bagged their second straight win in Los Angeles in the best-of-seven series.
It means the Suns need just one more win to book their place in the Western Conference semi-finals, with game five set for Phoenix on Tuesday.
The Clippers’ hopes of squaring the series had been dealt a blow by the absence of Kawhi Leonard, who joined Paul George on the injured list.
In their absence Russell Westbrook produced one of his best performances for the Clippers with a 37-point display but ultimately it was not enough as the greater depth of the Suns line-up proved too much.
“I’m in a good place and I’m enjoying playing ball,”
“I’ve been out a few months this season, and I’m just happy I’m out here where the ball is.”Durant said after the win.
In later playoff games on Saturday, the Milwaukee Bucks travel to Miami looking for a win on the road over the Heat with the best-of-seven series finely balanced at 1-1.
Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo, who sat out game two after suffering a back injury in game one, was listed as questionable for Milwaukee.
In the late game, the Memphis Grizzlies travel to Los Angeles to face the Lakers with their series knotted at one game apiece.