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James Harden, Joel Embiid lead 76ers to 117-110 win over Raptors

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PHILADELPHIA(AP) — James Harden sat at his locker inside the 76ers’ new lockerroom — complete with oversized team logo in the center — and gothis left ankle taped.

The conditionof The Beard’s Achilles is the No. 1 worry these days for theSixers as they chase a championship. And if Harden hurt afteranother double-double, he wasn’t letting on.

“I feelgood,” Harden said.

Asked how hemanaged the ups and downs of the often-painful injury, Hardensimply said again, “I feel good.”

Good might begood enough for the Sixers.

Joel Embiidhad 25 points and 12 rebounds, Harden had 23 points and 11 assistsand the Philadelphia 76ers beat the Toronto Raptors 117-110 onFriday night.

The Sixersmade 30 of 39 shots (77%) in the first half and raced to a 24-pointlead that nearly evaporated. Fred VanVleet, who scored 16 points,buried a 3-pointer late in the fourth quarter that pulled theRaptors to 103-101 and silenced the sellout crowd.

Embiid,though, steadied the 76ers with a jumper and PJ Tucker buried a 3that gave them some breathing room. Harden drove to the hoop for abucket and a 110-101 edge that forced the Raptors to calltimeout.

The Raptorsdidn’t have another run in them. Scottie Barnes scored 29 pointsand OG Anunoby had 19.

Harden andEmbiid combined to make 12 of 16 shots and Harden made all three3-pointers in the first half. Embiid and Harden showed no illeffects of injuries that hampered them of late.

Embiid isplaying through a nagging right calf injury that cost him a game —and maybe some MVP votes — Monday at Denver. He said the injury is“good enough” and is trying to survive the remaining games withoutincident. With Embiid, though, there’s always a small scare for the76ers. The NBA scoring leader stepped on Anunoby’s foot in thefirst half and was briefly on his back. He gingerly got up andmissed a free throw.

“He lookednormal tonight,” coach Doc Rivers said. “He didn’t look like he hadany problems and let’s just hope that continues.”

Harden hasbeen dealing with a sore left Achilles for the last few months. The33-year-old Harden said the pain has spiked at times during games.Rivers said Harden’s injury has “been managed but it’s always aconcern.”

The Sixershit the 50-win mark this season in the fewest amount of games since2001. The 76ers reached the NBA Finals that season and improbablyhaven’t gone past the second round since. They’ve lost in thesecond round each of the last two seasons but remain contenders toat least win the Eastern Conference. That is, if Embiid and Hardenare healthy.

“They’replaying more solid,” coach Nick Nurse said. “I think they know whatreally each one of them is going to do. They just kind of have avery similar output. It just didn’t seem that solidified last year.But it does now.”

Philadelphia’s best shot at a deep postseason run since Embiid wasdrafted in 2014 came in 2019 when they lost the East semis in sevengames to the Raptors. Under Nurse, the Raptors won the NBAchampionship that season. Now, Nurse admits he’ll need time in theoffseason to “reflect”on his coaching future, even if it’s not in Toronto.

The Raptorsplay hard under Nurse and whittled the first-half deficit to threein the fourth quarter. But they fell to 38-39 and are in ninthplace in the Eastern Conference. They would need to get to sixthplace over the final six games to avoid the play-in tournament.

TIP-INS

Raptors:Missed 12 of 14 3s in the first half. ... Barnes appeared to hurthis left wrist late in the third quarter but stayed in thegame.

76ers: TobiasHarris sat out with a non-COVID illness. De’Anthony Melton got thestart. ... Embiid and Rivers both picked up technical fouls in thefirst half.

UPNEXT

Raptors: Playa back-to-back set Sunday and Tuesday at Charlotte.

76ers: PlaySunday at Milwaukee.

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