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Joel Embiid, 76ers Edge Kyrie Irving, Nets with Kevin Durant, James Harden Out

Paul KasabianFeatured Columnist IIApril 14, 2021

PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 14: Kyrie Irving #11 of the Brooklyn Nets controls the ball against Joel Embiid #21 of the Philadelphia 76ers in the first quarter at the Wells Fargo Center on April 14, 2021 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

The Philadelphia 76ers took sole possession of first place in the Eastern Conference with a 123-117 home win over the short-handed Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday at Wells Fargo Center.

Philadelphia center Joel Embiid's 39 points and 13 rebounds led the 76ers, who saw their 22-point lead cut to three on three separate occasions late in the fourth quarter.

However, the 76ers responded with points on each of their ensuing possessions and knocked down enough free throws late for the win.

Tobias Harris' 26 points complemented Embiid's efforts. For the Nets, Kyrie Irving returned after a one-game absence due to personal reasons with a team-high 37 points and nine assists.

Brooklyn was without Kevin Durant (left hamstring, injury management), James Harden (right hamstring strain), LaMarcus Aldridge (illness) and Blake Griffin (left knee, injury management), among others.

Philadelphia improved to 38-17 after winning its third straight game. The 37-18 Nets sit one game behind the 76ers in the East standings.

       

Notable Performances

Nets G Kyrie Irving: 37 points, 9 assists, 2 steals

Nets G Landry Shamet: 17 points

Nets C DeAndre Jordan: 12 points, 14 rebounds, 5 assists

76ers C Joel Embiid: 39 points, 13 rebounds, 2 blocks

76ers F Tobias Harris: 26 points, 5 rebounds

76ers G Ben Simmons: 17 points, 9 assists, 3 steals

     

Embiid Puts on Clinic in Big 76ers Win

The NBA MVP candidate pulled out all of the tricks in his arsenal en route to dropping 39 points Wednesday.

He started early with a baseline fade over DeAndre Jordan:

Philadelphia 76ers @sixers

Hit 'em with the fade.@JoelEmbiid | #HereTheyCome pic.twitter.com/m5hie1hp2j

The big man also went 3-of-6 from three-point range, including this one from the corner:

Philadelphia 76ers @sixers

.@SniperShake x @JoelEmbiid <br><br>📺 @espn pic.twitter.com/xAcdkLQ8Kt

Embiid also got work done in the paint, driving past Jordan and throwing down a dunk with authority:

Philadelphia 76ers @sixers

https://t.co/ZduAK04K4i pic.twitter.com/PGX1pum1Rp

The former Kansas star was a burden to deal with all night for any of the Nets big men. Not all of Embiid's efforts ended with buckets, in part because the Nets sometimes had no choice but to foul him.

On this one, Embiid's power allowed him to muscle down Jeff Green en route to the free-throw line, where he finished 10-of-11 on the evening.

ESPN @espn

Embiid playing bully ball 💪 pic.twitter.com/EqCfZbyAri

He returned to the key later in the third quarter after moving past Jordan and putting home a circus shot.

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

EMBIID IS DOMINATING THE NETS 😤<br><br>(via @NBATV)pic.twitter.com/xSQUlG78cD

Embiid finished with 37 through three quarters en route to his game-high 39, and that effort has propelled Philadelphia into first place.

The 76ers are looking to earn their first No. 1 seed since 2001.

    

Kyrie Puts on Show, Nearly Wills Nets to Win

The short-handed Nets were severely outmatched on paper heading into their game against the nearly completely healthy 76ers, but Irving's four quarters of magic nearly put Brooklyn on top anyway.

The 76ers stood little chance in defending him. The 10-year veteran got going early, getting past Ben Simmons and finding Jordan for the dunk:

Brooklyn Nets @BrooklynNets

BIG finish 🔨 pic.twitter.com/fUh2RDfeSh

Irving dribbled between his legs, crossed over and spun to the hoop en route to finding space from Matisse Thybulle's defense and finishing for two:

Brooklyn Nets @BrooklynNets

spin on 'em @KyrieIrving pic.twitter.com/uJ6ptP2zgZ

Thybulle is an excellent defender in his own right, and he's eighth among qualified shooting guards in defensive real plus-minus, per ESPN.

The second-year pro did well enough on this ensuing possession to deflect the ball away from Irving, but once again, it was totally irrelevant.

Brooklyn Nets @BrooklynNets

just...how?? pic.twitter.com/gmC4GE7dfV

Simmons and Embiid both tried to stop Irving on the same possession, but that didn't work out either:

Brooklyn Nets @BrooklynNets

Can't contain @KyrieIrving pic.twitter.com/LojwsJFiQl

Irving ended up posting 23 points and 7 assists by halftime, allowing the Nets to hang with the 76ers, who led 65-58 going into the break.

It was more of the same in the second half, with Irving getting by Thybulle for another bucket to keep the 76ers in sight:

Brooklyn Nets @BrooklynNets

KAI to the cup pic.twitter.com/HLRpOGncoA

Despite Irving's best effort, the Nets fell behind by as many as 22 in the fourth quarter, trailing 112-90 with 8:21 remaining. However, Irving's teammates took over from there, going on a 21-2 run to cut the 76ers' lead to three.

It wasn't meant to be, but Irving's sensational performance nearly helped Brooklyn pull off one of the most impressive wins in the Association this year.

         

What's Next?

Both teams will play at home Friday.

Brooklyn will host the Charlotte Hornets at 7:30 p.m. ET in Barclays Center. Philadelphia will welcome the Los Angeles Clippers into town at 7 p.m. ET.

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