LOS ANGELES — Doc Rivers despises coaching against close friends and former assistants.

So Friday night’s matchup was interesting on two accounts. Not only were the Los Angeles Clippers his former team, but Clippers coach Ty Lue was a former assistant, a close friend, and a mentee.

“I hate going up against Ty, [Phoenix Suns coach] Monty [Williams] and all the guys I have a relationship with,” the 76ers coach said before the 122-97 win at Crypto.com Arena. “It’s actually no fun. It’s fun when you win. But it is different, especially with Ty because Ty was with me in Boston, every practice. … And you know he has my complete playbook.

“So it’s fun, but it is different.”

On this night, the Rivers benefited from having an All-Star duo of James Harden and Joel Embiid. Harden finished with 29 points, 15 rebounds, and seven assists against his hometown team. He made 4 of 9 three-pointers. Twenty-five of his points and 11 of his rebounds came in the first half.

“I’ve been fairly aggressive, but tonight it was consistent and getting to basket and having confidence in my shot,” Harden said. “When shots are going in, it makes the game a lot easier. Like I told you guys a couple nights ago, I’m going to continue to put the work in.

“Some nights we got bad nights, some nights we don’t make shots. But most of the time, the shots are going to fall. And tonight was one of those nights where I felt good and we got off to a big lead and we just continued that wave the entire game.”

Meanwhile, Embiid scored 17 of his 27 points before intermission. The big fella also finished with 10 rebounds.

In addition to being on Rivers’ staff with the Celtics, Lue was a Clippers assistant two seasons ago. That marked Rivers’ seventh and final season with the team before being fired on Sept. 28, 2020.

» READ MORE: The Sixers consider James Harden’s hamstring recovery a work in progress: ‘He’s still not there’

Rivers, who had a hand in elevating the Clippers’ profile, is now 2-2 against his former team and Lue as the Sixers coach. The victory also moved the Sixers (46-27) into second place in the Eastern Conference. They are a half-game behind the first-place Miami Heat with nine games remaining.

“It’s so different than coaching than when you play against your best friend,” Rivers said. “When you play against your best friend, you want to destroy him. It’s amazing the difference. When you coach against the guy, it’s just a different vibe.”

Rivers was honored by the Clippers via a tribute during a timeout in the first quarter. He said he didn’t see the tribute, but that he “waved at the end.”

Then Rivers joked, “I don’t know how you can have a video tribute of a coach. I’m not dunking the ball. Should they show me getting a tech or getting thrown out of a game?”

He compiled a 356-208 record with the top winning percentage (.631) in franchise history during his seven seasons with the Clippers before being fired on Sept. 28, 2020.

Horrible-shooting Clippers

The Clippers (36-39) were at a huge disadvantage playing without All-NBAers Kawhi Leonard (right ACL recovery) and Paul George (right elbow ligament tear) in addition to Norman Powell (fractured left foot). But they had opportunities only to be doomed by horrid first-half shooting.

Los Angeles shot 33.3% in the first half, including making just 2 of 10 three-pointers.

North Philly’s Marcus Morris had the toughest time during the stretch, scoring two points on 1-for-9 shooting. He didn’t play in the second half. Reggie Jackson wasn’t much better with four points on 1-for-7 shooting. And Ivica Zubac shot 1-for-5 en route to three first-half points.

Taking advantage, the Sixers had a commanding 21-point lead in the first quarter. They extended it to 23 in the second before taking a 64-43 cushion at the break. The game was all but over at the point. The Sixers went on to extend their lead to 28 points in the fourth quarter.

Asked what stood out in the game, Rivers responded, “our defense.”

“We didn’t shoot the ball, we were what thirty-eight percent at half-time up twenty,” Rivers said. “That tells you the defense is good. Joel and James had it going. Actually, I thought Joel missed a lot of shots he makes on most nights, yet he still had a dominate game. That’s just who Joel is. But James was comfortable tonight offensively, but I just thought our defense stood out in the first half.”

Embiid, Harden free-throw tandem

One the most impressive things about the Embiid and Harden tandem is their ability to get to the foul line. Embiid led the league with 11.83 foul shots per game heading into Friday night’s contest. Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokoumpo was a close second at 11.52, while Harden rounded out the top three at 8.36.

The duo’s ability to get to the foul line with such frequency will come in handy in the postseason. It also was a bonus on Friday night.

Harden went 11-for-11 from the foul line, while Embiid made 7 of 8.

» READ MORE: Sixers coach Doc Rivers is still proud of his coaching accomplishments with L.A. Clippers

Balanced attack

Harden and Embiid were the best players on the floor, but this was a solid showing for the starting lineup as a whole. All five starters scored in double digits as the Sixers shared the ball. Harden was more assertive from the start. But for the most part, the Sixers passed up good shots for better shots, leading to Matisse Thybulle finishing with 13 points on 5-for-6 shooting. Meanwhile, Tobias Harris had 12 points and Tyrese Maxey 11.

What’s next

The Sixers play against the Phoenix Suns on Sunday at 6 p.m., the third and final game of their West Coast road trip.