Los Angeles—Joel Embiid scored 40 points and 15 rebounds as the Philadelphia 76ers overcame Giannis Antetokounmpo’s career-high 52 points to beat the Milwaukee Bucks 130-125 and clinch a playoff berth on Sunday.
It was Embiid’s 52nd career double-double and the 25th time he has scored at least 30 points and seized 10 rebounds in a NBA game.
Embiid’s best quarter was the fourth when he tallied 18 points as the visiting Sixers earned a spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs by beating the top-ranked team in front of a crowd of 17,300 at the Fiserv Forum.
“They are the best team in the NBA right now, as far as record goes,” Embiid said. “No. 1 in our conference. I felt like we had to make a statement. We had to get this win.”
“I thought we all did a pretty good job in the first half. In the second half, he (Antetokounmpo) kind of got going. He is tough to guard.”
Jimmy Butler had 27 points and JJ Redick 19 for the Sixers, who won their fourth in a row.
Antetokounmpo carried the Bucks on his back with one of the best games of his career. He also had 16 rebounds and seven assists, and Khris Middleton added 19 points.
The Bucks played without guard Malcolm Brogdon, who will be sidelined for at least six weeks with a plantar fascia tear in right foot.
Embiid made two free throws in the final seconds of the fourth to help seal the win.
“He’s (Embiid) a tough guy,” Antetokounmpo said. “He’s a great defender, strong. It was kind of hard going at him.”
Elsewhere, LeBron James scored 33 points but it was not enough to prevent the Los Angeles Lakers sliding to an embarrassing 124-123 defeat to the league-worst New York Knicks.
The Lakers, who are all but out of contention for the playoffs, blew a 122-111 lead late in the fourth quarter as the Knicks ended a run of eight consecutive defeats with an upset win at Madison Square Garden.
It marked another grim milestone in the Lakers’ rocky season, which has nosedived dramatically since the turn of the year.
The Knicks are rooted to the bottom of the Eastern Conference with the worst record in the NBA, with Sunday’s win seeing them improve to 14 wins against 56 defeats.
The Lakers meanwhile are stuck in 11th spot in the Western Conference with 31 wins and 39 defeats, nine wins fewer than the Los Angeles Clippers, who occupy the last remaining playoff berth.
Dejected Lakers coach Luke Walton, whose job is reportedly in peril, praised the Knicks for digging out an improbable win.
In Houston, Chris Paul scored 25 points, tied a career-high with six three-pointers as the Houston Rockets used a third-quarter run to beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 117-102.
Also, Nikola Vucevic had 27 points and 20 rebounds to lead the Orlando Magic to a 101-91 win over the Atlanta Hawks.
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