Embiid leads 76ers past Pelicans, Williamson hurts hamstring

Jan 2, 2023, 4:39 AM | Updated: 7:05 pm

Philadelphia 76ers' Joel Embiid, right, argues the foul called against him by referee Natalie Sago,...

Philadelphia 76ers' Joel Embiid, right, argues the foul called against him by referee Natalie Sago, left, during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the New Orleans Pelicans, Monday, Jan. 2, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

(AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Zion Williamson dominated the 76ers to the point that coach Doc Rivers said trying to defend the New Orleans big man was like “guarding a fast Shaq.”

The only thing that could slow down Williamson was a hamstring injury.

Joel Embiid had 42 points and 11 rebounds, James Harden scored 27 and the Philadelphia 76ers beat a New Orleans Pelicans team that lost Williamson to a strained right hamstring, 120-111 on Monday night.

Williamson scored 26 points on 10-of-12 shooting through three quarters before he left for the locker room in the fourth. Williamson pulled up on a fastbreak and handed off the ball late in the third. Williamson, averaging 26 points, gingerly ran to the corner and lingered on the court for a bit before he was lifted from the game. Williamson’s career has been defined by injuries and dominance, notably a career-best 42 points last week against Minnesota.

There was no immediate word if Williamson would miss any time.

“That was extremely difficult,” coach Willie Green said. “It was right at a pivotal moment during the game. We’ll do some imaging and look at him. Hopefully, he’ll be OK.”

Without Williamson, the Pelicans couldn’t keep up with the 76ers.

Embiid pushed the lead in the fourth on a driving, crashing layup and spun around like a top on his rear end for dramatic effect. He sank the free throw for a 106-96 lead. He did walk gingerly to the bench moment later but stayed in the game.

Embiid had his eighth game this season with at least 35 points and 10 rebounds and was serenaded by the fans with “MVP! MVP!” chants.

De’Anthony Melton buried a 3 for the 76ers for a 113-107 lead and Harden came right back and hit another 3 to seal their 10th straight home win.

It’s a shame for NBA fans the teams don’t each other again this season. CJ McCollum hit a franchise-best 11 3s and Williamson added 36 in the Pelicans’ 127-116 home victory on Friday night. It was the second banger in four nights, only this time in Philly.

McCollum scored 26 points.

“We guarded the hell out of him and he still scored 26. We made him work for it,” Rivers said.

Williamson, Harden and Embiid all put on a show through the first three quarters. Even 76ers reserve Georges Niang hit five 3s off the bench to get the home crowd roaring as the public address announcer bellowed “Bang, bang, Niang!”

Embiid, playing with a sore lower back, continued his pursuit of a second straight scoring title with 15-of-24 shooting and he made all 10 free throws. Harden was crafty in the second quarter when he scored 10 points on and-1s. He had a four-point play in that run and two three-point plays, including a layup that saw him scoot past the stanchion and high-five fans.


Pelicans: Green spent the first seven seasons of his playing career with the Sixers. The Sixers weren’t all that good during Green’s tenure but he deeply appreciated playing with Hall of Famer Allen Iverson.

“There’s only one AI. He had a way with people,” Green said. “He had a big heart. Sometimes that could be misunderstood. We all loved him as teammates.”

76ers: G Tyrese Maxey, normally a starter, received a rousing ovation when he checked in late in the first quarter. Maxey had 12 points as the Sixers ease him back in the lineup after he missed almost six weeks with a broken foot.


Pelicans: Host Houston on Wednesday

76ers: On a three-game homestand that includes games Wednesday against Indiana and Friday against Chicago.


More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/nba and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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Embiid leads 76ers past Pelicans, Williamson hurts hamstring