PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Joel Embiid had 25 points and nine rebounds, James Harden added 15 points and 12 assists and the Philadelphia 76ers beat the Dallas Mavericks 116-108 on Wednesday night.
Embiid flashed his MVP credentials when he powered the Sixers back in the fourth against Luka Doncic and the Mavs. Embiid hit a 3-pointer to tie it at 103 and followed with a 16-footer the next time down for what ended up the winning basket.
Doncic had 24 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists. Kyrie Irving scored 23 points for the Mavericks.
Tyrese Maxey added 22 points to help the 76ers snap a three-game losing streak. They returned from a 1-3 trip with both Embiid and Harden healthy. Harden (Achilles) missed the last four games.
Embiid returned from a hotly debated one-game absence against Denver and fellow MVP candidate Nikola Jokic because of a balky right calf. Embiid played in both games of a back-to-back set against Golden State and Phoenix. After a day off, Embiid couldn’t go in the anticipated showdown of MVP frontrunners, leaving the team and the All-Star center open for criticism.
Why not rest Embiid against Phoenix?
Coach Doc Rivers said the issue wasn’t simple. The plan was always to play Embiid on the entire trip but the NBA’s reigning scoring champion simply couldn’t go against the Nuggets.
That scuttled the highly anticipated showdown between MVP candidates that many felt could have decided whether Embiid, the runner-up the last two years, denied Jokic a third consecutive award.
The 76ers are not only coming off a four-game trip, they wrapped a stretch where they played 12 of 15 games this month on the road.
“Let’s get through this game and I then I think we can take a deep breath,” Rivers said. “I think the first game is hard. Then you can get your legs back.”
The Sixers are off Thursday and play another home game on Friday before the season starts to wind down. Embiid and Harden are banged up but can get some time off once the play-in tournament starts.
“I’m not worried about rest as much anymore,” Rivers said. “That the one great thing about the play-in. You do get a little bit of time to practice and rest. We are probably way more focused on conditioning than we are rest.”
Mavericks: Led by 12 points in the first half.
76ers: The start of the second half was briefly delayed because one of the nets needed to be replaced.
Mavericks: At Miami on Saturday night.
76ers: Host Toronto on Friday night.
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Dan Gelston, The Associated Press