PHILADELPHIA – The Nets played without starters from the opening tip. The 76ers tried to rest theirs in the fourth quarter.
But with Brooklyn's deep reserves making it a game late between the two top teams in the East, Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid checked in to bail out the checked-out Sixers.
Embiid had 39 points and 13 rebounds and Philadelphia beat Brooklyn 123-117 on Wednesday night in an anticipated matchup that fizzled with the Nets missing their biggest stars.
“When the playoffs start, it’s a whole new beast. And we’ll be ready for them," 76ers coach Doc Rivers said. "And I’m sure they’ll be ready for us.”
The Sixers (38-17) moved into first place in the Eastern Conference and hold the tiebreaker in a game played without James Harden, Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge. With the Nets standouts hurt or just rested, the game had more of a preseason feel than a possible preview of the conference final this summer.
No matter, the Sixers moved back atop the standings and have the No. 1 seed in sight with just 17 games left this season.
“It makes sense to try and have as many home games as possible," Rivers said.
With good reason -- the Sixers improved to 21-5 at home.