Joel Embiid is unstoppable. Embiid heard MVP chants Wednesday night from the crowd at the Wells Fargo Center as he posted 39 points on 13-for-29 shooting and 13 rebounds in a 123-117 Philadelphia 76ers win.
Tobias Harris scored 26 points on 11-for-17 shooting for the Sixers. Ben Simmons (17 points, nine assists, three steals) and Shake Milton (15 points on six-for-eight shooting) were other standouts.
Seven Nets were out Wednesday night, including James Harden (right hamstring strain), Kevin Durant (left hamstring injury management), LaMarcus Aldridge (illness) and Blake Griffin (left knee injury management). Kyrie Irving, Brooklyn’s lone available star, had 37 points and nine assists.
With the win, the Sixers have won the regular-season series against the Nets and moved to 38-17, a game ahead of Brooklyn in the Eastern Conference standings.
Here are three takeaways:
DeAndre Jordan started for the Nets and allowed Embiid to take open three-pointers whenever he wanted. Embiid shot six threes, and he made three.
Though Jordan played physical defense and had some solid possessions, Brooklyn obviously does not have an “Embiid stopper” on its roster.
Jeff Green played at center after Embiid drew three fouls on Jordan late in the second quarter. Alize Johnson guarded Embiid down the stretch and did a good job fronting him, helping the Nets cut a 17-point fourth-quarter deficit with 7:18 left as low as three points.
When they’re healthy, Aldridge and Griffin also seem to be among those who defend Embiid.
Mike Scott was the Sixers’ backup center with Dwight Howard out (left knee soreness). Putting shooters around Simmons worked well late in the first quarter, with Milton and Scott each knocking down a corner three-pointer.
Irving shines in Nets loss
Irving was brilliant against the defense by Ben Simmons and Matisse Thybulle. Even against flawless defense, Irving can score.
The Sixers made mistakes defensively, losing track of players besides Irving and conceding a few lobs to Jordan, but sometimes the right response to Irving’s amazing playmaking is appreciating his game and trusting that he can’t beat you by himself.
Interestingly, Irving did not play the final 8:39 as the Nets stuck with the younger lineup that got them back into the game.
This wasn’t a playoff preview
The NBA is a star-centric league. If Durant, Harden, Irving, Simmons, Embiid, or Harris were hurt in the playoffs, it would have a big impact.
This season is being played during a pandemic, and the league is looking to put 72 games in for every team with very little time for rest or practices. Teams should be cautious with their best players under these circumstances, as the Nets have been.
38-17 Sixers play the 38-18 Los Angeles Clippers at home Friday night.