LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – The Philadelphia 76ers showed they could hold it together — at least for a little while — without All-Stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.
Simmons left the game in the third quarter with a knee injury, and Embiid battled through late foul trouble to finish with 30 points and 11 rebounds as the 76ers held on to beat the Washington Wizards 107-98 on Wednesday.
There was no immediate word from the 76ers on the extent of Simmons’ injury, which occurred when he landed awkwardly after grabbing an offensive rebound. At the next break in the action he walked gingerly to the locker room and did not return.
He was shown leaving the locker room in street clothes late in the fourth quarter.
Coach Brett Brown said after the game the team doesn’t know anything on the extent of the injury but that "obviously, I’m very curious.”
Tobias Harris added 17 points for the 76ers, who pulled within a game of the Pacers for fifth place in the Eastern Conference standings.
The win was anything but easy for the 76ers, who needed others to step up when their two stars had to sit down.
Embiid picked up his fourth and fifth fouls within a span of 20 seconds and left the game with 6:55 remaining and the 76ers leading 89-83. But Harris made a jumper and Shake Milton converted a 3-pointer and a turnaround jumper to help maintain the lead before Embiid returned to help close the game out.
When Embiid played, he was dominant.
“I think that he is at the best place he has been since I starting coaching him," Brown said.
Teammate Al Horford said Embiid is being more aggressive since returning to action in the NBA bubble at Disney World.
“He's being more assertive,” Horford said. “You can tell that he has been taking care of his body and really being ready on the court."
Embiid finished with just three assists, but Brown was impressed with his court vision.
“What I feel like he is doing better than he’s ever done is he’s passing out of the post at a highly efficient rate,” Brown said. “He’s strong with his decisions, especially in crunch time.”
Thomas Bryant had 19 points and 10 rebounds for the fast-fading Wizards, who have gone 0-4 since the restart and would have been eliminated from playoff contention if Orlando and Brooklyn won their games later Wednesday.
Washington has the worst record (24-44) of the 22 teams in Orlando.
Philadelphia is trying to make the most of a favorable schedule. This was the second game in a five-game stretch in which the 76ers play opponents currently seeded seventh or lower in their respective conference.
The 76ers held the offensively challenged Wizards to 42% shooting. That came after Brown publicly blasted his team’s defensive effort, saying it “stinks” after allowing 126 and 130 points in their first two games in Orlando.
For the Wizards, the season is all but over but guard Troy Brown said he likes the improvement.
“I feel like our communication is better and we are heading in the right direction,” Brown said.
76ers: Josh Richardson had 15 points and Milton added 14.
Wizards: Attempted just 21 3-point shots, making seven. .. Outrebounded the taller 76ers 48-41.
BRYANT STEPPING UP
The 23-year-old Bryant recorded his third straight double-double and had three blocks.
Sure, Embiid still scored 30 points, but Wizards coach Scott Brooks still called it "the best defensive game I have ever seen him play. He's a young player and he is developing. He was aware and anticipating. ... I felt he was outstanding on both ends."
Said Bryant of defending Embiid: “I was trying to make stuff difficult for him and trying to impact the game as much as I can.”
76ers: Play Magic on Friday.
Wizards: Play Pelicans on Friday.
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