LONDON — When the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers play Thursday in London, they’ll both be looking to leave a mark on the league’s global stage.

For the teams, that’s the obvious payoff.

It also will provide a reminder of the league’s future.

A number of the players – including Kyrie Irving and Joel Embiid – set to take the court at the O2 Arena are also likely to appear in February’s All-Star Game, some surely going to be bolstered by votes they get from those fans in London and watching worldwide. And the amount of young talent on display makes this the most hotly anticipated matchup of the eight regular-season games that have taken place in England.

“I’m appreciative of all fan votes. I’m just a fan of basketball, a fan of sport,” said Irving, who is averaging 24.1 points per game to lead the Celtics to a 33-10 start and the top spot in the Eastern Conference standings. “I can’t wait for that experience, and to have the opportunity to come here to Europe and especially London, and to grow the game of basketball for the NBA.”

While the Celtics have exceeded expectations after losing free-agency acquisition Gordon Hayward to a horrific ankle injury on the opening night of the season, the 76ers have struggled to maintain consistency.

Still, Philadelphia (19-19) is very much in contention for a playoff berth, a marked improvement on recent years.

A healthy Embiid is the main reasony.

Drafted in 2014, Embiid missed his first two NBA seasons with foot injuries and managed just 31 games last season. Thursday will be his 30th appearance this season and he’s averaging 23.8 points per game.

SUSPENSIONS: The NBA suspended Miami forward James Johnson and Toronto forward Serge Ibaka one game apiece for throwing punches at each other.

The fight began in the third quarter of the Heat’s 90-89 victory over the Raptors on Tuesday night in Toronto. Ibaka and Johnson started shoving each other while waiting for the ball to be inbounded under the Miami basket. Both received technical fouls and ejections.

CAVALIERS: Guard Isaiah Thomas was fined $20,000 by the NBA for striking Minnesota forward Andrew Wiggins in the throat.

BUCKS: Forward Jabari Parker is on target to return from a left knee injury the week before the All-Star break next month.


PISTONS 114, NETS 80: Andre Drummond scored 22 points and grabbed 20 rebounds, Tobias Harris had 22 points and Detroit won at New York.

MAVERICKS 115, HORNETS 111: Harrison Barnes had 25 points and 11 rebounds, Yogi Ferrell made seven 3-pointers and scored 22 points and Dallas held on at Charlotte, North Carolina.

JAZZ 107, WIZARDS 104: Ricky Rubio scored 21 points, Donovan Mitchell had 16 and Utah won at Washington to complete a season sweep.

HEAT 114, PACERS 106: Goran Dragic scored 20 points and Wayne Ellington made a decisive 3-pointer with 23.2 seconds left, helping Miami win at Indianapolis.

BULLS 122, KNICKS 119: Rookie Lauri Markkanen scored a season-high 33 points, Kris Dunn shook off a nightmarish shooting night – missing 14 of his first 17 shots – to make the tiebreaking basket in the second overtime, and Chicago won at New York.

Dunn banked in a runner with just under a minute left and Markkanen finished it off by making two free throws with 6.8 seconds remaining.

TIMBERWOLVES 104, THUNDER 88: Jimmy Butler scored 26 points, grabbed seven rebounds and had eight assists for Minnesota at Minneapolis.

BUCKS 110, MAGIC 103: Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 26 points, Khris Middleton added 22 and Milwaukee won at home.

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