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Embiid, Sixers hold off LeBron-less Lakers, 126-121

LOS ANGELES (AP) – Joel Embiid had 30 points and 10 rebounds, James Harden added 24 points and the Philadelphia 76ers hung on for a 126-121 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers without LeBron James early yesterday.

After the Sixers surprisingly beat Eastern Conference-leading Miami despite playing without Embiid and Harden, both stars returned for a win over the Lakers. Tyrese Maxey scored 21 points for Philadelphia, which has won five of seven overall.

James sat out to rest his sore knees, scuttling the potential showdown between the NBA’s leading scorer and Embiid, who was a fraction of a point behind him.

Philadelphia coach Doc Rivers saw his team’s second-half play behind its stars as an encouraging sign for the process of building teamwork between Embiid and newcomer Harden before the playoffs.

Dwight Howard scored a season-high 24 points and Malik Monk had 23 for Los Angeles in a spirited effort from the supporting cast, but the Lakers lost for the 11th time in 15 games to fall 11 games below .500 again (31-42).

The ninth-place Lakers are still in the expanded playoff picture, but they are now guaranteed to finish with their seventh losing record in nine years.

Philadelphia led by 14 in the second half, but the Lakers got within 93-91 heading to the fourth quarter. Los Angeles focussed its defence on Embiid, but Maxey and Tobias Harris hit big shots down the stretch as Philly hung on.

Russell Westbrook finished with 24 points, and he got a steal and a layup with 32 seconds left to trim Philadelphia’s lead to four points before the Sixers hit their free throws to ice it. Harris scored nine of his 20 points in the fourth quarter.

Carmelo Anthony scored 20 points for LA.

Philadelphia 76ers’ Joel Embiid defends against Los Angeles Lakers’ DJ Augustin. PHOTO: AP