NEW YORK – The 76ers are one win away from advancing to the Eastern Conference semifinals.
They posted a 112-108 come-from-behind victory over the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday at the Barclays Center in Game 4 of their opening-round series. The Sixers have a 3-1 series advantage. Game 5 will be 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Wells Fargo Center.
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The win “was really important because we wanted to get this one and go home and try to finish it,” Joel Embiid said. "It feels great to be up 3-1.
“We definitely don’t want to be in a situation like the Warriors three years ago [blowing a 3-1 lead in an NBA Finals loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers.] I’m just kidding, but we want to be able to close it out. So that was a big win.”
Embiid finished with 31 points, 16 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 steals, and 6 blocks after missing Game 3 with tendinitis in his left knee.
Tobias Harris added 24 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists, a steal, and a block. Ben Simmons had 15 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists.
Simmons’ biggest rebound came late in the game on the offensive end.
After pulling down the ball, he passed it to JJ Redick. The Sixers shooting guard nearly slipped, but he buried a three-pointer to put Philly up 107-106 with 50.0 seconds left.
After both teams turned the ball over on ensuing possessions, Joe Harris’ layup gave Brooklyn a 108-107 lead with 25.0 remaining.
But Mike Scott hit a wide-open three-pointer from the corner on an assist from Embiid to give the Sixers a two-point lead with 19.7 seconds left. The play started when Harris’ pass to Embiid was deflected. Embiid managed to get the ball with his right hand and passed it to Scott.
“Joel made a hell of a hustle play and saw me in the corner. Cashed out," said Scott, who finished with eight points.
That was the reserve power forward’s lone shot attempt and only points in the fourth quarter.
Jarrett Allen turned over the ball while being triple-teamed by Simmons, Embiid, and Harris on the ensuing possession. Simmons, who stole the ball, quickly passed to Harris, who was fouled with 4.8 seconds left.
He made both foul shots to give the Sixers a four-point cushion.
The game didn’t lack excitement, as Jimmy Butler and Nets forward Jared Dudley were ejected after an on-court melee with 7 minutes, 42 seconds left in the third quarter. That came 1:59 after Embiid shoved Dudley out of his way after the Net celebrated in front of the All-Star when he was called for a shot-clock violation.
The melee began when Allen was knocked to the court by Embiid on a layup attempt, and Embiid forcefully swiped at the ball.
Dudley took exception and rammed into Embiid. Butler then shoved the forward in the back underneath the basket. As players rushed in, Simmons was knocked into Dudley, sending both players into front-row seats on the baseline.
NBA referee crew chief Ed Malloy was also knocked down.
Dudley got up and had words for Embiid, while being separated. The Sixer had his arms raised above his head as if asking, ‘What did I do?"
Embiid received a Flagrant foul 1 for his actions. Dudley and Butler were ejected.
After the game, Embiid called Dudley “a nobody."
This was Embiid’s second flagrant foul for an action against Allen. He received one in Game 2 for elbowing him in the mouth.
The Nets didn’t like that Embiid and Simmons laughed while Embiid addressed the Game 2 incident during the postgame news conference Monday. Embiid later apologized for laughing and said he didn’t mean any disrespect by it. He said the laughter wasn’t directed toward Allen.
Dudley mentioned that after Saturday’s game. He also said he thought Embiid delivered a hard foul on Saturday.
“I thought he hit a little bit of the arm, the ball, and thought the follow-through kind of hit him on the head or hit him on like his neck area and fell down." Dudley said. “It was just something that’s just been escalating for a while.”
He thought Embiid’s elbow in Game 2 should have been a Flagrant 2.
Dudley said his action toward Embiid was a push to let him know the Nets weren’t having it. He wasn’t bothered by getting pushed in return. Dudley agreed with the double technical. He added that the referees could have issued both players flagrant fouls for their actions.
“For them to eject not only Jimmy but myself is just ridiculous,” Dudley said. “No punches were thrown. No one acted, no one said anything crazy out there. It was a good playoff push on my part, and then we go our separate ways.”
But Malloy said they were ejected for their role as escalators. He felt they took a controlled situation and escalated it to a heightened altercation.
But one had to sense tempers would flare up in this game.
After making a second-quarter three-pointer, Dudley spread his arms and stared down Simmons. This was a reaction to Simmons’ spreading his arms and staring down Dudley after the Net shot an air ball on a three-point attempt in Game 3.
He even shoved Simmons at one point during the first quarter. It was obvious that he intended to play that agitator role.
“We knew it was coming,” Embiid said.
“Yeah, we definitely thought it was coming,” Butler added while seated next to Embiid at the podium for the postgame news conference.“I don’t be paying attention to him too much. I just don’t think you should be running up on anybody like that.”
Embiid added “especially because the foul was actually all ball.”
Neither player believed Embiid should have received a flagrant on the play. But Malloy ruled it a Flagrant 2“because there was a windup with unnecessary contact we didn’t deem to be excessive.”
“We got a dub that’s all I’m worrying about,” Butler said. “So that’s it.”
Asked about the flagrant, double-technical fouls, and ejections, Scott said, “Great basketball.”
The Nets tweaked their starting lineup, inserting normal reserves Caris LeVert and Dudley.
LeVert got the start at shooting guard and Dudley got the nod at power forward. Normal shooting guard Joe Harris moved over to small forward.
LeVert did his part, finishing with 25 points. Sixteen came in the first half.
But a lot of the attention on the Sixers’ side involved Embiid’s return.
The team announced he would play just minutes before the tip-off.
Embiid had been officially listed as doubtful 90 minutes before the game on the NBA injury report. Coach Brett Brown said at the time that Embiid would be a game-time decision.
“My whole thing with Joel is and always will be -- it’s dictated by the doctors more than the coach -- is what harm are we putting him in? What unnecessary harm are we putting him in?" Brown said. "If the answer is none, then you play him.
“Then it gets down to whatever level it is, then you question it.”
Brown was asked if the apprehension was a result of Embiid’s pain tolerance or the risk of further injury to the knee. He declined to answer.
“You guy know what I know,” Brown said. " ... I’m a recipient of the news and I coach accordingly.”
The team said it has to do with Embiid’s pain tolerance and pointed out what he told the media Thursday. That’s when Embiid said his knee was getting better, slowly but surely.
“But we have to be smart how we handle it every single day," Embiid said. “I am sure these guys wouldn’t let me get on the court if there was a chance of anything bad happening. So I have to trust the process.”
He has been hampered by a sore knee all season and had missed 14 of the team’s final 24 regular-season games.
His knee was on people’s minds after the game, but the focus was on the hard-fought win in a physical game.