Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid lastly face one another as opponents

PHILADELPHIA — The followers right here within the Metropolis of Brotherly Love waited nearly a yr to see Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid face one another as opponents for the primary time in an NBA sport.

It did not disappoint.

In entrance of a raucous sellout crowd at Wells Fargo Middle on Wednesday night time, it was the 76ers who got here away with an exciting 137-133 victory over the Brooklyn Nets — although the rating was a mere backdrop to the continued drama surrounding Simmons and Embiid lastly going through each other.

“Nothing,” mentioned Embiid, when requested about the way it felt going up in opposition to Simmons for the primary time. “Just, like every single night, [I am trying to] just freaking kill whoever is in front of me. My mentality is always about scoring. If I get doubled, make the right pass, but if I get played one-on-one, or I see an opportunity to go score, I’m going to go score.”

Only a minute into the sport, Embiid aggressively posted up Simmons — the primary of three post-ups he would try to execute on his former teammate.

And whereas none of them was a basket — he missed a shot, obtained stripped and was fouled, respectively — it set the tone for a way the night time would play out, with the group roaring for every of them.

“The first play, Ben is guarding Joel and it was like it was a party,” 76ers coach Doc Rivers mentioned later with fun. “It was hilarious. That’s when I turned to our coaches and said, ‘This is a boxing crowd tonight. They want to see them drop the basketball, turn and duke it out.’

“And [Simmons and Embiid] went at one another, which is enjoyable and good.”

It had been 583 days since the two former co-stars had been on this — or any — court together. That day — Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinal series between the 76ers and the Atlanta Hawks — is infamously remembered in these parts not only because Philadelphia lost, but because of how it did. It is specifically remembered for Simmons passing up an open dunk in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter.

Someone without any context about Wednesday’s game would have understandably been mistaken for believing it, too, was a playoff contest. Any time Simmons got the ball, a wall of noise was hurled in his direction — just as it was whenever he and Embiid were matched up against one another in any context.

But that energy extended far beyond the two former co-stars and helped lead to a combined 45 fouls, seven technicals — six on players and a seventh on a delay of game penalty — 63 free throws and 27 turnovers.

“It wasn’t the prettiest,” James Harden said, “however we’ll take it.”

Harden, like Embiid, tried to downplay the significance of playing against his former teammates. So, too, did Kevin Durant — who remains sidelined with an MCL sprain — on Tuesday, who said rivalries are “probably not a factor” in the NBA these days.

But the actions of all involved said otherwise Wednesday, and Rivers himself admitted that he thought his team got caught up in all of the energy and excitement around Simmons and Embiid finally squaring off.

“I believed the staff general did,” Rivers said. “We obtained caught up in all of the crap occurring tonight. There was plenty of chippiness, and that is good, however play above it, keep above it. Hold taking part in. I did not suppose we did that.”

Embiid finished with 26 points, 10 rebounds, three assists and two steals in 34 minutes, while Simmons had 12 points — all in the second half — five rebounds and five assists.

Simmons looked like a far different, and more aggressive, player in the second half, after taking only attempt in the first half — a half-hearted hook shot in Embiid’s vicinity that fell short.

“He simply made a alternative,” said Kyrie Irving, who had game highs of 30 points and 10 assists. “He simply made a option to put his head down, be aggressive for our staff and we’d like him to try this. Simply got here to the bench and inspiring him as we do each single day so when he is aggressive like that being Ben Simmons, then we glance very, excellent and it provides us alternatives that typically we do not get if he is not. So, we’re simply going to maintain supporting him and simply him to proceed to try this.”

But while Simmons was more aggressive in the second half, he found himself rooted to the bench for the final 8 minutes, 57 seconds — a stretch that included Brooklyn wiping out a 14-point deficit with an 18-4 run to tie the score and turn the finish into a roller-coaster ride for the hometown fans. Nets coach Jacque Vaughn said Simmons was benched to give Brooklyn more shooting and spacing on the court.

The game was finally decided when De’Anthony Melton, again starting in place of Tyrese Maxey, converted a pair of free throws with 12.4 seconds to go, and Embiid stole the ensuing inbounds pass. It was the sixth consecutive victory for Philadelphia and it kept the 76ers in sole possession of second place in the Eastern Conference ahead of the Milwaukee Bucks.

The Nets, meanwhile, are 2-5 since Durant exited the lineup with his injury.

But, after so much hype and buildup for Simmons and Embiid to finally share the court together, Rivers was pleased he and his team could put the game behind them.

“Now,” he said with a smile, “we will get again to repeatedly scheduled programming.”