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Sixers and Suns meet in battle for playoff position

TWO TEAMS looking to avoid their conferences’ play-in tournaments meet when the Philadelphia 76ers visit the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday.

Teams in seventh through 10th place in compete in the tournament. Philadelphia (38-30) holds the sixth seed in the East, while Phoenix (39-29) sits in eighth place in the West.

The Sixers are beginning a four-game West Coast trip after posting a 98-91 home win over the Miami Heat on Monday. Tyrese Maxey had 30 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds for Philadelphia, while Kelly Oubre, Jr. added 22 points, 11 rebounds and five blocks.

Philadelphia has received a spark from center Mo Bamba, who has started nine of the last 10 games. The 7-footer had eight points, four rebounds and three assists in 19 minutes against Miami.

“Mo, I think, is getting better,” Sixers coach Nick Nurse said. “I think that he’s getting a little bit more in shape. He’s been able to go a lot longer stints than I think he was even a month ago.”

Mr. Bamba is seeing more playing time in place of star Joel Embiid, who has missed the past 22 games while recovering from a torn meniscus in his left knee. The Sixers remain hopeful that Mr. Embiid could return before the end of the regular season.

“I think he kind of rounds back into shape and rhythm pretty quickly,” Mr. Nurse said. “I think obviously the more games we have him, the better. I also think we want to get to a point where he’s as healthy as he can be at playoff or play-in time.”

Philadelphia is expecting to have forward Tobias Harris back in the lineup on Wednesday after he missed the last two games with a sprained right ankle.

The Sixers are looking to complete a sweep of the season series against Phoenix after winning 112-100 in Philadelphia on Nov. 4.

Phoenix has dropped three of its last five games, including a 140-129 loss at Milwaukee on Sunday. The Suns allowed a season-high 82 points in the first half to the Bucks, who played without injured star Giannis Antetokounmpo.

“We were trying to fly around, but we were just getting our ass kicked,” Suns coach Frank Vogel said. “Sometimes that happens.”

Bradley Beal scored 28 points in the loss, while Grayson Allen added 25. Kevin Durant was held to 11 points on 4-of-10 shooting.

Mr. Durant has averaged 12 points over the past two games while shooting 36 percent from the field and 2 of 9 (22.2 percent) from 3-point range.

Mr. Durant is unconcerned about his mini shooting slump, but he knows the Suns need to make dramatic improvement on the defensive end. Milwaukee shot 54.3 percent from the field and 24 of 41 (58.5 percent) from beyond the arc on Sunday.

“Defensively, we lost this game,” Mr. Durant said. “They made more 3s than us. They got hot in the first half. My shot attempts, my points. I know that’s a talking point, but we scored enough points in my opinion.”

Mr. Durant (28,588 points) enters Wednesday’s contest nine points away from passing Shaquille O’Neal (28,596) for eighth on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. — Reuters

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