WASHINGTON: Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers reacts after getting injured in the second half against the Washington Wizards at Capital One Arena on Friday in Washington, DC. – AFP

LOS ANGELES: NBA MVP candidate Joel Embiid emerged from quarantine Friday only to exit in the third quarter with a left knee injury as the Philadelphia 76ers beat the Washington Wizards 127-101 in Washington. Embiid, who missed Sunday’s All-Star Game because of COVID-19 restrictions, threw down a dunk and landed awkwardly on his left knee before falling to the floor halfway through the third quarter. He was attended to by Sixers trainer Kevin Johnson before getting up and walking to the dressing room on his own. The team said he had a hyperextended left knee and would not return.

Philadelphia coach Doc Rivers spoke to Embiid after the game and said the all-star was upbeat. Rivers said team doctors would examine Embiid further on Saturday once the swelling went down. “He fell off balance. I am not going to speculate,” Rivers said of Embiid, who finished with a team high 23 points. “He was in the locker room. He is in pretty good spirits. Let’s hope for the best.”

The victory kept Philadelphia atop the Eastern Conference, moving them a full game ahead of the second-place Brooklyn Nets. Embiid shot eight-of-11 from the floor and had seven rebounds and three assists in 20 minutes of playing time. The Sixers led the Wizards 80-60 when Embiid was hurt. He had surgery on the same knee in 2017 causing him to miss part of the season. “It looked like a hyper-extension. That’s what we all hope it is,” said teammate Tobias Harris. “We’re just praying that he’ll be OK and be healthy tomorrow.”

Embiid, who turns 27 on Tuesday, was playing in his first game after receiving a negative test for COVID-19 earlier Friday. Teammate Ben Simmons, who also missed the All-Star Game last weekend, has not yet been cleared to play, needing another negative test to be green lighted after he and Embiid were exposed to a Philadelphia barber who tested positive for the coronavirus last Sunday.

Embiid entered Friday averaging 30.2 points and 11.6 rebounds in 30 games this season. Simmons is averaging 16.1 points, 7.9 rebounds and 7.6 assists in 31 games. Despite missing Embiid for almost half the game and Simmons for the whole game, the Sixers still managed to win their fourth straight. Shooting guard Shake Milton came off the bench to score 18 points and Tobias Harris tallied 14 points and eight assists in the win. Russell Westbrook led the Wizards with 25 points, eight assists and five rebounds while Bradley Beal added 19 points.

Lakers rally
Elsewhere, Kyle Kuzma finished with a team high 24 points and 13 rebounds while Kentavious Caldwell-Pope made a clutch steal with 10 seconds left as the Los Angeles Lakers clawed their way back in the final quarter to beat the Indiana Pacers 105-100. LeBron James finished with 18 points and 10 assists and Montrezl Harrell had 17 points for the Lakers, who were playing their first game since the all-star break. The time off seemed to help the Lakers who had lost two straight heading into the break and are now 4-7 over the team’s last 11 games. “The break did exactly what I expected it to do,” said Caldwell-Pope. “I recovered. I caught up on rest and I’m mentally prepared.”

The Pacers led for most of the game and had an opportunity to send it into overtime. But with Los Angeles ahead 103-100, Caldwell-Pope stole a pass from Indiana with 10 seconds left. He then sunk a pair of free throws to seal the win. Also the Lakers learned Friday that Anthony Davis is still bothered by a sore calf muscle and is going to be out for at least two more weeks. Davis missed his 10th straight start.

In Memphis, Nikola Jokic finished with 28 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists and defended a Ja Morant layup attempt with three seconds left as the Denver Nuggets defeated the host Memphis Grizzlies 103-102. In Salt Lake City, Donovan Mitchell scored 28 points as the Utah Jazz handed the hapless Houston Rockets their 15th straight defeat with a 114-99 victory.

Mykhailiuk to OKC
The NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder are poised to acquire Ukrainian forward Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk in a trade with Detroit that will send Hamidou Diallo to the Pistons, US media reported on Friday. The Thunder are giving up third-year guard Diallo to get Mykhailiuk and a future second-round draft pick, sports broadcaster ESPN said.

Mykhailiuk, 23, is averaging 6.9 points, 2.1 rebounds and 1.6 assists in 36 games this season. Mykhailiuk was chosen 47th overall by the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2018 draft. Diallo, whose parents are both from Guinea, has played 32 games this season, tallying 11.9 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game for the Thunder. He was drafted by Brooklyn in the second round (45th overall) in 2018. The Nets traded him to Charlotte, who then dealt him to Oklahoma City. Diallo did not play in the Thunder’s last five games because of a sore groin. – AFP