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Harden shines in Philadelphia 76ers debut, Heat defeat Knicks

By AFP - Feb 26,2022 - Last updated at Feb 26,2022

D’Angelo Russell of the Minnesota Timberwolves dribbles the ball while James Harden of the Philadelphia 76ers defends during their NBA game in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on Friday (AFP photo by David Berding)

LOS ANGELES — James Harden didn’t disappoint in his highly anticipated debut with the Philadelphia 76ers, scoring 27 points and handing out 12 assists in the Sixers’ dominant 133-102 NBA victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Harden, the 2018 NBA Most Valuable Player, was playing his first game with his new team since arriving in Philadelphia from the Brooklyn Nets in a blockbuster trade for Ben Simmons at the trade deadline on February 10.

He’d been sidelined by a hamstring injury, but made up for lost time with an impressive offensive display that included a trademark step-back three-pointer late in the first half on which he drew a foul from Minnesota’s Jarred Vanderbilt and converted the free throw to complete the four-point play.

He converted another four-point play in the fourth quarter to push the Sixers’ lead to 24 points, getting a hug from new teammate Joel Embiid.

Even before the contest, Embiid had plenty of good things to say about Philadelphia’s prized acquisition.

“He’s a great person, a great personality,” Embiid said. “Always smiling. Fun to be around. His presence — on the team, and on the floor — has really changed us a lot since he got here.”

Embiid led the 76ers with 34 points and 10 rebounds and Tyrese Maxey added 28 points for Philadelphia, who are third in the East and hoping Harden’s arrival can help the challenge for the top spot now shared by the Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls.

The Heat kept pace with the Bulls with a 115-100 victory over the Knicks in New York.

Tyler Herro scored 25 points and Jimmy Butler added 23, as the Heat withstood a career-high 46 points from Knicks forward RJ Barrett at Madison Square Garden.

Kyle Lowry contributed 19 points for Miami, who had 16 points and 16 rebounds from Bam Adebayo.

Barrett, back after missing four games with a sprained left ankle, made six three-pointers and pulled down nine rebounds.

But Julius Randle struggled again, connecting on just two of 15 shots from the floor on the way to 11 points with eight rebounds and eight assists.

The Knicks dropped their fourth straight, the defeat coming after they announced that Derrick Rose’s return from ankle surgery would be delayed after he underwent a follow-up procedure on Friday.

San Antonio guard Dejounte Murray, coming off his first NBA All-Star appearance, produced a triple-double of 31 points, 13 rebounds and 14 assists to help the Spurs hold off the Washington Wizards 157-153 in double overtime.

Murray missed potential game-winning shots in regulation and the first overtime.

But he banked in a shot that put the Spurs up 153-150 with 1:03 left in the second extra session and made two free throws in the waning seconds to clinch the win.

Keldon Johnson added a career-high 32 points and Jakob Poeltl added 28 for the San Antonio Spurs.

Thunder outlast Pacers

In Indianapolis, Oklahoma City’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander returned from a sprained right knee to score a game-high 36 points and convert the game-winning three-point play in the Thunder’s 129-125 overtime victory over the Indiana Pacers.

Indiana’s Lance Stephenson drilled a three-pointer to knot the score at 123-123 with 1.6 seconds left in regulation and force overtime.

Both teams struggled to score in the extra session and it was tied at 125-125 with 20.7 seconds remaining, when Gilgeous-Alexander drove into the paint and rose for a layup, drawing a foul from Stephenson who fouled out.

Gilgeous-Alexander converted the free-throw and Darius Bazley added one more from the foul line, as the Thunder snatched the win.

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