Clippers routed by 76ers’ James Harden, Joel Embiid

LOS ANGELES — The team with two healthy superstars and certain standings-inspired motivation walloped the Clippers, 122-97, on Friday night, as the Philadelphia 76ers avenged L.A.’s 24-point comeback victory in Philadelphia in January.

Doc Rivers’ new team entered play Friday at Arena engaged in a four-team dogfight atop the Eastern Conference, as the 76ers (46-27) jockey for position with Milwaukee and Boston, all three of them chasing the first-place Miami Heat hard.

The Clippers, meanwhile, are flailing. Nevertheless maintaining a grip on the eighth seed in the Western Conference, on Friday they lost their fifth consecutive game and eighth in their past 10 to fall to 36-39.

Tyronn Lue’s team fell behind by as many as 28 as Philadelphia’s big two of James Harden and Joel Embiid combined for 56 points and 25 rebounds before a sold-out crowd of 19,068, a large swath of them enthusiastic 76ers supporters.

Harden, in his first game against the Clippers as a member of 76ers, torched the hosts with 29 points on 7-for-15 shooting, including going 11 for 11 at the free-throw line.

Before he walked off the court to MVP chants, Embiid finished with 27 on 9-for-19 shooting, including going 7 for 8 at the line.

The Clippers didn’t have the firepower to keep up with the Sixers’ stars, playing again without injured All-Stars Kawhi Leonard (ACL) and Paul George (elbow), as well as Norman Powell (foot), the latter two of whom watched the game attentively on the Clippers’ bench.

George returned to practice Thursday for the first time since late December, giving the Clippers some optimism in the midst of a brutal late-season stretch against a series of playoff foes. As Clippers coach Tyronn Lue put it: “We could use an extra little bump right now, especially in these dog days, going down the stretch of the season.”

As it was, Amir Coffey scored 21 points on 9-for-15 shooting to lead the Clippers on Friday, when they once again tumbled into an early hole as deep as 21 points in the first period, in line with the team’s nine-game trend coming in, when they’ve been getting outscored by an average of 5.4 points per opening frame.

Only three other Clippers scored in double figures: Off the bench, Isaiah Hartenstein had 16 and Terance Mann added 12. Reggie Jackson was the only other starter to score more than 10 points, but he shot just 4 for 13.

Starting wing Nicolas Batum helped defend Harden and scored nine points on 4-for-8 shooting but Ivica Zubac finished with just seven points and seven rebounds and Marcus Morris Sr. had just two points on 1-for-9 shooting.

The Clippers did show some flashes, fleetingly.

The first minute and a half of the game, say, when they struck first, scored the first five points and Ivica Zubac drew a foul on Embiid just 34 seconds into the contest.

But then the 76ers outscored the Clippers 21-2 after that and 35-19 in the opening quarter.

After Tyrese Maxey made a technical free throw before the second quarter even started, the Clippers’ reserves had a quick 7-0 spurt to start to cut the lead to 36-26.

But then Philadelphia outscored its hosts 28-17 the rest of the period, taking a 64-43 lead into halftime – January’s 24-point comeback in Philadelphia proving a distant memory.

Coffey got hot in the third period, when he shot 5 for 7 from the field, including knocking down a pair of 3-pointers, for 12 points in the period.

But the Sixers still won the third quarter, 29-28, denying the Clippers any hope of a fourth 20-plus-point comeback this season.

More to come on this story.

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