Embiid, 76ers top undermanned Nets 123-117 for 1st in East

Full Screen
1 / 6

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

Philadelphia 76ers' Joel Embiid (21) celebrates after scoring during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Brooklyn Nets, Wednesday, April 14, 2021, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

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.