CLEVELAND – Joel Embiid had 35 points and 17 rebounds, James Harden scored 21 points and added 11 assists and the Philadelphia 76ers edged the Cleveland Cavaliers 118-114 on Wednesday night.
Embiid was a game-time decision with a sore back, but showed no signs of the injury on his 28th birthday. The All-Star center and MVP candidate shot 13 of 19 from the field, including 1 of 3 from 3-point range, and was 8 of 10 from the foul line while adding five assists in 35 minutes.
Darius Garland had 22 points and seven assists for the Cavaliers, who lead Toronto by a half-game in the race for sixth place in the Eastern Conference. All-Star center Jarrett Allen missed his fifth consecutive game with a broken left finger.
Cleveland, which trailed by 17 in the second quarter, took a 104-103 lead on a 3-pointer by Lauri Markkanen with 3:47 remaining. Harden answered with a pair of free throws 27 seconds later to put the 76ers in front for good.
Tyrese Maxey’s 3-pointer extended Philadelphia’s lead to 110-106 with 1:19 left, and Harden and Maxey combined to make 6 of 6 free throws in the final 20 seconds to lock up the win. There were seven lead changes and four ties in the fourth quarter.
Maxey scored eight of his 25 points in the fourth. Isaac Okoro had 17 points and Evan Mobley added 13 points and nine rebounds for Cleveland.
The Cavaliers went ahead for the first time at 87-85 on a 3-pointer by Brandon Goodwin late in the third. Kevin Love’s 3 extended the advantage to 90-85 at the end of the period, completing a 12-0 run over 4:42.
The 76ers built a 52-35 lead midway through the second, then carried a 72-59 advantage into the break behind 20 points, 11 boards and four assists from Embiid. Harris scored 16 points and Harden had 10 points and five assists.
Philadelphia took command from the start, jumping ahead 19-4 and 26-10 as Embiid racked up 13 points and eight rebounds in the first. Cleveland missed its first 10 3-pointers.
The 76ers and Cavaliers are lined up to meet in the first round of the playoffs, but Cleveland coach J.B. Bickerstaff said it's “way too early to look at that with (13 regular-season games) left.” Philadelphia coach Doc Rivers praised the job Bickerstaff has done in cultivating chemistry. ”The Cavs play together and they like each other, which is rare for a young team," Rivers said. “That jumps right out when you watch them.”
76ers: Harden dished out 84 assists in his first eight games after being acquired from Brooklyn on Feb. 10. “James knows when to be aggressive and when to pass,” Rivers said, chuckling. “You ingratiate yourself really quickly to new teammates when you pass to them.” ... Two-way G Myles Powell, C Charles Bassey and G Jaden Springer are on G League assignments with the Delaware Blue Coats.
Cavaliers: F Dean Wade (right knee soreness), who has started 28 games, missed his second straight contest. Bickerstaff said Wade was able to manage the injury until it became too painful to play. ... G Rajon Rondo (right ankle sprain) was inactive and has sat out 13 games with various right leg issues since being traded by the Lakers on Jan. 3. ... Cleveland plays eight of its final 13 games at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.
76ers: Host the Dallas Mavericks on Friday night.
Cavaliers: Host the Denver Nuggets on Friday night.
More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports