James Harden hit two three-pointers and had a driving layup in the final four minutes against his former Brooklyn teammates and the Philadelphia 76ers stretched their winning streak to six games, outscoring the Nets 137-133
Tyrese Maxey led the 76ers with 27 points, and Joel Embiid had 26. Harden added 23, and Philadelphia was 35 of 36 from the foul line.
Seth Curry had a season-high 32 points for Brooklyn. Kyrie Irving had 30 for the Nets, who have lost five of the last seven games without Kevin Durant.
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The game was the first regular-season match-up between Embiid and former teammate Ben Simmons since a February 2022 trade that sent Simmons to Brooklyn for Harden. Simmons missed the rest of the 2022 season with various injuries, then Embiid was injured and missed the Sixers’ win in Simmons’ Philadelphia return last November.
The night started with Simmons matched up on the defensive end against Embiid, who decided to change from his traditional shot facing the basket and muscle down low.
Through the night, there were exchanges of words and stares between the two — including right before the start of the second half. It carried through the rest of the rosters, with six technical fouls called.
Simmons was roundly booed when he was announced in the starting lineup and throughout the night whenever he touched the ball. Missed shots and turnovers from the Aussie resulted in some of the loudest cheers of the night.
“First play, Ben [Simmons] is guarding Joel [Embiid],” Sixers coach Doc Rivers said.
“[The crowd] was like a party. It was hilarious. That’s when I turned to the crowd and said, ‘This is a boxing crowd tonight.’ They want to see ’em drop the basketball, turn and duke it out.”
Embiid jams on former teammate Simmons
There was a brief stretch of play in the second half where tempers threatened to boil over after Embiid dunked on and then stared down Simmons before forcing a turnover on the Aussie on the following possession.
Embiid then set a physical screen on an unaware Simmons who was backpedalling down the court before a timeout was called.
One of Embiid’s post-bucket celebrations also caught the eye of Durant, who missed the game with a knee injury.
Brooklyn would start to creep into Philadelphia’s lead in the second half. Simmons scored 10 points in the third quarter to keep the Nets close. Curry and Irving, however, would serve as the main catalyst in an 18-4 run that allowed the Nets to tie the game at 120 with four minutes left.
Harden took over after that, with a pair of step-back threes and a bounce pass to Tobias Harris that allowed Philadelphia to get some breathing room.
Maxey — who has been Philadelphia’s sixth man since returning from a broken foot on December 30 — had 16 of his 27 points in the first half.
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