PHILADELPHIA (AP)The 76ers have gone more than a year without losing in Philadelphia, a stretch that included a coaching change, a roster revamp, and a pandemic hiatus.
The constant? Joel Embiid simply dominant down the stretch.
Embiid scored 15 of his 29 points in the fourth quarter and grabbed 14 rebounds to lead the Philadelphia 76ers to a 113-107 win over Washington on Wednesday night and spoil Russell Westbrook’s triple-double Wizards’ debut.
The Sixers haven’t lost at home since Dec. 20, 2019.
Westbrook and Bradley Beal were fantastic in spurts in the opening-night backcourt pairing that nearly handed 76ers coach Doc Rivers a loss in his Philadelphia debut. Westbrook had 21 points, 15 assists and 11 rebounds to wow the Wizards after being acquired in the big deal that sent former cornerstone John Wall to the Houston Rockets. Beal, a two-time All-Star who was second in the league in scoring last season, had 31 points.
”Not good enough. I’m kind of disappointed in myself,” Westbrook said. ”There were plays where I could have had a better game.”
Embiid, sensational in the fourth, and Shake Milton, who scored 19 points off the bench, were the go-to scorers late, and Ben Simmons sealed the win with a monster dunk in the waning moments. Simmons had 16 points – one less than Embiid scored in the fourth.
”He’s the focal point. The ball is going to Embiid on every single play,” Beal said. ”He’s a hassle down there.”
Embiid was nearly unstoppable in the post in the fourth, getting the ball on five straight possessions at one point and turning them into buckets that wiped out a 10-point deficit. His driving layup with 1:09 left put the Sixers up 105-103, and he finished 10 of 17 from the floor.
”I don’t think anybody can stop me, especially with the mentality I have this year,” Embiid said.
The Sixers made their major change on the bench, hiring Rivers to replace Brett Brown and wake up a team that was swept out of the first round of the playoffs last year. Rivers has to find a way to make the Embiid-Simmons pairing work – two All-Stars who have yet to get the most of their prodigious talents and have frustrated fans with their flaws.
Simmons showed an early willingness to try and fix his – making shots from beyond 15 feet.
Simmons was encouraged by new teammate Dwight Howard, who won a ring last season with the Lakers, to stick around postgame and work on his shooting. Both players stayed on the court and Howard waved toward the stands – mostly security guards and team employees – to get louder during a shooting drill. Simmons was the subject of trade rumors, though new head decision maker Daryl Morey said the guard was not on the trading block.
”Dwight’s been pushing me to get better. He wants me to be great,” Simmons said. ”I really appreciate that. It makes you want to work.”
Wizards: Israeli teen Deni Avdija scored seven points in his NBA debut for the Wizards. The 19-year-old was the ninth overall pick in the draft and had played for the Tel Aviv Maccabi club in Israel’s Premier League. ”I know he’s only 19 years old but he plays with a passion, plays with a determination that I like,” coach Scott Brooks said. … Beal and Westbrook each had six turnovers and Washington had 20 overall.
76ers: The 76ers bench largely outplayed the starters. Howard had 10 rebounds, Furkan Korkmaz scored 11 points and first-round pick Tyrese Maxey was a burst of energy early and had six points.
SIR CHARLES PREDICTS
TNT analyst Charles Barkley played with Brooks and roomed with him, too, when they played for the 76ers. Barkley put some pressure on his old teammate when he predicted the Wizards would make the playoffs.
”I’ll tell you what, he’s guaranteed a lot and very rarely it comes through,” Brooks said. ”My job is to take care of my former roommate and pay him back. … Hopefully, we can have a good year and make the playoffs. I like our chances.”
Brooks is entering the final season of his five-year, $35 million contract.
The 76ers had drummers, the cheer team held signs that read ”Make Some Noise,” a DJ blasted music and the mascot Franklin roasted the Wizards with humorous signs to liven up an empty Wells Fargo Center.
Wizards: Home opener Saturday against Orlando.
76ers: Saturday at New York.
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