Joel Embiid scored 24 points on his 24th birthday, and the 76ers defeated the Brooklyn Nets Friday evening for their second win in as many nights.
After consecutive games of efficiency, it was a rare poor shooting night for Embiid, who needed 23 shot attempts from the field and 11 made free throws to find his game-high 24 points. The Philadelphia center did, however, put in effective work on both ends of the glass, recording a career-high 19 rebounds, seven of which were offensive.
For the second straight night, it would be the 76ers trying to play catch up after one quarter of play against an Atlantic Division foe with a less than stellar record. The Nets held claim to a 33-30 lead through the first 12 minutes of action from the Wells Fargo Center, an arena that has become synonymous with 76ers’ victories in 2018. Embiid would contribute six of his 24 points in the first quarter, but it was an unlikely source of production that would keep Philadelphia within striking distance. Seldom used Justin Anderson found his stroke in the first quarter, knocking down three triples, two on consecutive drives, scoring nine of his 11 points. The 11 point night is the most he’s produced in over a month, dating back to February 10, when he added 12 against the Los Angeles Clippers.
For the Nets, D’Angelo Russell would get going early in the first quarter, dropping all eight of his game points in the first eight minutes of play. He would fall to find the stat sheet for the remainder of the evening, finishing 3-14 from the field. Spencer Dinwiddie picked up where Russell left off late in the first, adding nine of his 14 points in the period.
The 76ers came into the second quarter down three, but fell flat offensively. After J.J. Redick knocked down a three 15 seconds in to open the frame and tie the game, 33-33, the 76ers would not score again for over five and a half minutes of play before Dario Saric finally got them back on the board. Over that five minute stretch, the Nets scored 13 consecutive points, subsequently opening up a similar lead. Seven of those points would be scored by Caris Lavert, who had 16 in the game off the bench for Brooklyn.
Philadelphia would cut the lead to 11 twice more on their next two possessions, but each time they would score, the Nets would match their bucket with one of their own, extending the lead back to 13. With the Nets holding onto a 54-41 lead, the 76ers would spend the final two and half minutes attacking the Brooklyn defense. Philadelphia would connect on its final five shots of the half and go on a 14-4 run to trim the Brooklyn lead back to where it started to begin the quarter. And as has become customary to end halves at the Wells Fargo Center, the final possession saw the ball in J.J. Redick’s hands with the clock counting down. This time the buzzer beater came with 2.5 seconds on the clock, as Redick connected on one of his three made triples to cut the Nets’ lead to three, 58-55.
The three to end the half would give Redick a team high 13 at the break. He would add an additional ten in the second half, finishing with 23 points on 7-13 shooting.
The start of the third quarter saw a bit of role reversal out of the gate, as it was the Nets who struggled to find the scoreboard to begin the quarter. Brooklyn would record just a single made field goal for nearly half the third quarter, a DeMarre Carroll made three. Their second basket of the third came with 6:03 left on the clock.
Over that drought, the 76ers would capitalize, using a 10-3 run to the take the lead 70-64. Ben Simmons shined early in the third quarter, dropping the quarter’s first three points and nine throughout the 12 minute period. He would finish the contest as one of three 76ers, along with Embiid and Redick, to score 20 or more points, as he piled in 21 of his own. The 21 point night saw Simmons record his 25th consecutive game in double figures, the most consecutive by a 76ers’ rookie since Allen Iverson had 26 in 1997.
The 76ers would use that 10-3 run, along with four straight Joel Embiid points, including another buzzer beater, at the conclusion of the quarter, to win the third 31-23, and take a lead into the final frame, 86-81.
The two teams would trade blows in the final quarter of play, neither squad taking more than a six point lead at any time. With two minutes to go, DeMarre Carroll would knock down a three to give the Nets the lead, 113-110. Carroll picked up 18 points on 5-11 shooting and 11 rebounds for the double-double.
Robert Covington would come up big when it mattered most for the 76ers, however, as the swingman knocked down shots on consecutive Philadelphia trips, including the eventual game winner from 26-feet away to take the lead for good, 116-115 with just 35 seconds remaining.
Convington would finish the night with just ten points, but none more crucial than the five he produced in the final 90 seconds of the game.
The 76ers would knock down their final four foul shots, and hold on to defeat the Nets 120-116.
In a rare turn of events, all five 76er starters did not find double figures Friday night, as Dario Saric fell one point short of that mark. Then bench would contribute 33 points, however, in a good effort all around by Philadelphia.
The Nets were led by Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, who had 21 points on 7-13 from the field. Six different Brooklyn players scored in double figures, including three off the bench, as the Nets’ bench players produced 52 points.
The win gives the 76ers two in as many nights, and improves their record to 38-30. They now sit just a half game back of the Washington Wizards for the fifth seed and a game and half out of the three seed, the Indiana Pacers. The victory also improves Philadelphia to 21-11 at the Wells Fargo Center, and 14-1 at home since the start of 2018.
The Nets fall to 21-48, and are officially eliminated from playoff contention. The loss is the team’s third in a row and 15th in 17 games.
After playing back-to-back, the 76ers will get a few nights off before getting back to action Monday night, when the Charlotte Hornets back to the Wells Fargo Center for the second time this month. It’ll be the third matchup between the two teams in March, as well. Tip off is scheduled for 7 p.m. You can catch all the action on 97.5 The Fanatic!
-By Tyler Zulli