PHILADELPHIA — Brett Brown described Joel Embiid as the 76ers’ crown jewel, and the dynamic 7-footer illustrated the reason for such praise. Even at less than 100 percent, when his status was unknown minutes before opening tipoff, the two-time All-Star was a force.
His sore left knee wasn’t a limitation Monday night, as Embiid was dominant in 21 quality minutes, scoring 23 points and adding 10 rebounds as the 76ers evened the opening-round playoff series at one apiece with a 145-123 blitzing of the Nets at Wells Fargo Center.
Before the game, Brown revealed he had two game plans, one if Embiid was available and another if he wasn’t.
“There’s night and then there’s day — that’s the truth,” the 76ers’ coach. “It’s Joel Embiid.”
He proved his worth against the Nets, owning the night and producing a plus-26 rating. His health, however, is still a concern, after missing 14 of the last 24 regular-season games.
“Let’s face it; it’s not ideal, but I have been used to this and whatever it takes with Joel in relation to his health, I’m so far past the anxiety of getting information late,” Brown said. “I’m numb to it, I’m past it. My belief, and that’s shared with Joel and our management and our owners and so on, we’re in a phase, we’re in a stage, where we’re buying time. This is just the path we’re on with Joel. There is zero doubt he’s our crown jewel.”
While Embiid played well in Game 1, logging 22 points, 15 rebounds and five blocks, the other 76ers struggled, shooting 3-of-25 from 3-point range as a team. Ben Simmons notched a triple-double with 18 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds, and Mike Scott scored 15 points and added three 3-pointers.
The 76ers put up 51 points in the third quarter Monday, and never looked back again. It all started, however, with Embiid, who had 11 points in the stanza, keying the breakout 12 minutes immediately with a jumper and three-point play.