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Joel Embiid, Sixers get the best of Ben Simmons and the Brooklyn Nets

It didn't take long for Sixers fans to get the matchup they wanted, and as they had hoped, the Sixers emerged triumphant, even if Joel Embiid did not have a high-scoring night against the Nets.

Joel Embiid (right) and Ben Simmons square off during the first half on Wednesday. It was Embiid's and Simmons' first time facing each other.
Joel Embiid (right) and Ben Simmons square off during the first half on Wednesday. It was Embiid's and Simmons' first time facing each other.Read moreCharles Fox / Staff Photographer

The boos were back.

On Wednesday night, the 76ers fans booed Ben Simmons from the time he led the Brooklyn Nets on to the court — just like on Nov. 22.

And just like that night, the Sixers (31-16) defeated the Nets at the Wells Fargo Center, prevailing, 137-133, this time.

Having Joel Embiid, Tyrese Maxey, and James Harden was one of the few differences in this one. And that was a good thing for the Sixers.

Maxey finished with a team-high 27 points off the bench. Harden scored eight of their final 17 points to finish with 23 points, seven assists, and three rebounds. And Embiid had 26 points, 10 rebounds, and two steals in his first game against Simmons. His steal with 11.7 seconds remaining — stepping in front of a Royce O’Neale pass — all but clinched the game.

The trio enabled the Sixers to overcome Brooklyn’s 64.5% shooting.

» READ MORE: Sixers credit brotherhood for their season turnaround and road success: ‘It’s a we season’

There was a lot of hype surrounding Embiid facing Simmons for the first time.

Simmons, who forced a trade to the Nets in February 2022, didn’t play last season. Meanwhile, Embiid missed the Sixers’ 115-106 home victory over Brooklyn on Nov. 22 with a sprained left foot.

So the biggest subplot of this game was what would happen if Simmons had to guard Embiid in the post on a switch.

That’s because it’s no secret that the two standouts didn’t see eye-to-eye during theior days together as Sixers. Embiid got his points, scoring at least 26 for the eighth consecutive game. However, he struggled to score when guarded by Simmons.

“Fun,” Simmons said of guarding Embiid. “I only had to guard him in practice a couple of times, so … ”

But it didn’t matter as the Sixers extended their league-best winning streak to six games. The victory pulled the Eastern Conference’s second-place team within three games of the first-place Boston Celtics (35-14). The Sixers also handed the fourth-place Nets (29-18) their fifth loss in seven games.

And on this night, the Sixers won with balance.

De’Anthony Melton (19 points, three blocks), Tobias Harris (18 points), and Matisse Thybulle (10 points, three steals) were their other double-digit scorers. Thybulle played just 12 minutes, 11 seconds.

Former Sixer Seth Curry made 7 of 10 three-pointers to lead all scorers with 32 points. Kyrie Irving had 30 points and 10 assists, and Nic Claxton had 25 points (11-for-12 from the field) and 11 rebounds while Simmons had 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting to go with five rebounds and five assists.

The Sixers made 35 of 36 foul shots, led by Embiid’s 13-for-13.

Simmons vs. Embiid

It didn’t take long before the fans got the matchup they wanted.

Embiid posted up Simmons on the Sixers’ second offensive possession. But the 6-foot-10, 240-pound Simmons didn’t back down. He actually held his own against the 7-2, 280-pounder. Embiid ended up missing a 6-foot jumper 1:13 into the game. Then after grabbing his own rebound, Embiid missed a quick putback layup.

Embiid then had his shot blocked by Simmons while trying to post him up 47 seconds later. Then Simmons fouled Embiid when the Sixers center posted him up with 9:07 left in the quarter.

With Simmons on the bench with two fouls, Embiid scored his first basket — a dunk — to knot the score, 32-32, with 3:34 left in the first quarter. The Sixers standout finished the quarter with six points on 1-of-5 shooting along with three rebounds and two assists.

Embiid made his first basket in the second quarter, a three-pointer, before scoring on a layup and driving dunk. However, he missed his final three shots in the half. The first two misses — a 27-foot turnaround three-pointer and a 16-foot jumper — came while guarded by Simmons. His last shot attempt was a 6-foot heave before time expired in the half.

Embiid finished 4-for-11 in the half and was 6-for-18 for the game. He denied trying to go at his former teammate.

“If you look at the way I play, it doesn’t matter whatever matchup every single night,” he said, “whoever’s in front of me, there’s always the same aggression. There’s always a similar aggression as far as trying to score ball. Tonight, that was the same thing.

“I missed a lot of shots today, which hasn’t happened in a while. So I had a bad night. But I’m happy we got the win.”

However, coach Doc Rivers, who wouldn’t single Embiid out, felt the Sixers played with too much emotion.

He’ll take the victory.

“But we have to be better in handling our emotion is games like that,” Rivers said. “It’s good to have emotion. You want to have intensity and emotion. But you don’t want to be emotional. I thought we were a lot of that tonight.”

No Simmons Zone

Sixers fans still voiced their disdain for Simmons.

But he gave the impression that the boos didn’t both him.

“What did I say last time?” Simmons said. “Last time was probably like an eight? So in the playoffs if we come here for the playoff it’d be a 10.″

What was it Wednesday?

“Probably a 7 ½?” he said.

But the point guard was booed whenever he touched the ball and when he checked back into the game. The fans screaming obscenities at him began 11 minutes before tipoff.

However, this time there was a group of Nets fans cheering for Simmons in Section 217. They chanted “Ben Simmons … Ben Simmons!” But the Sixers fans caught on quickly and chanted “Sucks!” in response to the Nets fans’ “Simmons” chants. In the second quarter, a group of Sixers fans started chanting, “[Bleep] Ben Simmons … [Bleep] Ben Simmons.” That came moments before he missed his first shot attempt — a 3-foot jumper — with 4:31 left before intermission.

Simmons made his second shot attempt, a 14-foot hook, with 9:32 left in the third quarter before missing a 13-footer moments later. For the quarter, he made a pair of foul shots with 8:41 left. Another basket came on a dunk with 1:56 to go. Then he scored 14-foot jumper with 0.7 seconds left. Simmons added two points on his only shot attempt in while the first 3:03 of the fourth quarter.Brooklyn replaced him Joe Harris to close out the game.

» READ MORE: The Sixers need to hang on to Tobias Harris — at least through the end of the season

And the boos kept coming, especially after Simmons was called for a technical foul with 10:43 left. That’s when the crowd kept chanting, “[Bleep] Ben Simmons ... [Bleep] Ben Simmons.”

But Nets coach Jacque Vaughn told Simmons before the game to approach this matchup like it was just the next game on the schedule.

So my conversation wasn’t any different than it was versus Golden State,” Vaughn said of the Nets’ last opponent. “So no extra conversation tonight. What he will be asked to do is play extremely hard in his minutes. To do what he needs to do to help his teammates win a ballgame. To be counted on tonight to provide force on both ends of the [floor.]”