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Philadelphia 76ers’ Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons both ruled out Thursday due to COVID-19 contact tracing

The Philadelphia 76ers stated Tuesday that All-Stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons would both miss Thursday’s game versus the Chicago Bulls — and that Simmons will miss Friday’s game versus the Washington Wizards — due to the same contact tracing that kept both of them from participating in Sunday’s All-Star Game in Atlanta.

Presuming both continue to test negative for COVID-19 — as they have so far — Embiid will be eligible to return for Friday night’s game versus Washington, while Simmons will be able to return Sunday at home against the San Antonio Spurs.

Both players were pulled out of Sunday’s All-Star Game after having come in contact with a barber in Philadelphia who later tested positive for COVID-19.

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The NBA had strict quarantines for everyone involved with the league’s midseason showcase, however, and the two players were able to depart from Atlanta later in the day and return to Philadelphia.

They were the only two people involved with the game who had any issues with either a positive test or contact tracing over the weekend.

The Sixers ended the first half of the campaign with the best record in the Eastern Conference, a half-game ahead of the Brooklyn Nets. They will practice Wednesday night ahead of returning to the court in Chicago on Thursday.

Embiid is in the midst of the best season of his career, averaging more than 30 points and 11 rebounds per match, and as a result is a leading contender for the NBA’s MVP award.

Simmons is averaging 16.1 points, 7.9 rebounds and 7.6 assists per game, and has coupled his always impressive defensive abilities with a recent burst of aggression offensively — including scoring a career-high 42 points in Utah last month in a game Embiid sat out due to injury.

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Durant’s 32 points lead Nets past Young, Hawks 132-128 in OT

Kevin Durant scored 32 points and James Harden had 31 to lead a productive night for Brooklyn’s big three scorers and the Nets defeated the Atlanta Hawks 132-128 in overtime on Wednesday night.

Harden added 15 assists and eight rebounds. Kyrie Irving scored 26 points for Brooklyn.

Trae Young had 28 points and 14 assists for Atlanta. Cam Reddish scored a season-high 24 points while John Collins and De’Andre Hunter each had 21 points.

Durant’s dunk gave the Nets a 127-121 lead in the extra period. After Young made one of two free throws to trim Brooklyn’s lead to 129-126, Durant’s turnover with 40 seconds left gave Atlanta an opening. Hunter missed a long jumper that would have tied the game.

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Harden stretched the lead by sinking two free throws with 4.6 seconds remaining.

Durant’s 3-pointer tied the match at 106 in regulation before Kevin Huerter quickly answered with a 3 for Atlanta.

Following a foul by Young, Harden’s two free throws with 2:41 remaining gave Brooklyn a 112-111 lead. Collins’ three-point play gave Atlanta the lead before Irving’s short jumper tied the game at 114-all.

Following a missed jumper by Reddish, Jeff Green’s layup gave the Nets a 116-114 lead. A layup by Reddish tied the game again before Harden missed a 3-foot shot with less than a second remaining.

After scoring only two points in the opening period, Harden passed up a scoring opportunity on the Nets’ first possession of the second quarter. He then looked toward the Nets bench, gestured in a shooting motion and then nodded as if to confirm he should have taken the shot.

Harden made a 3-pointer to spark his scoring spree. He scored 16 points in the second period. The Hawks called a timeout about three minutes into the period after Harden’s step-back 3 over Huerter.

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