CRÊME PHILADELPHIA – Joel Embiid enjoyed the opportunity to face James Harden and did not want to let a little tight in the back stop him.
Embiid had 32 points and 14 rebounds to lead the Philadelphia 76ers against compatriot Harden and Houston Rockets 121-93 on Monday night.
"I like playing against guys you say are better than me," said Embiid.
Harden, chosen Western Conference player of the week earlier in the day, finished with 37 points, which earned him 20 consecutive games with at least 30.
Philadelphia played without quadruple All-Star Jimmy Butler (wrist wrist on the right wrist) and Embiid largely compensated for his absence.
"It was really fun for us," said Embiid. "Do not think it was fun for them."
Before the game, Embiid was dubious with low back pains and head coach Brett Brown hinted that it might be better for the big Philadelphia man to miss out on that- this. Embiid clearly had other intentions.
"I want to fight with my teammates," he said. "Whatever I do, I'll do it for my team."
His 24 points in the first period allowed Philadelphia to take a 65-50 lead at half-time, and punctuated a fun opening of 24 minutes by scoring an attempt to put Harden off the bench with 7.5 seconds left. do for a block that will delight the crowd. The duo had to split with 38.7 seconds to play in the half-time, with each team receiving a technical score after Harden objected to Embiid's fault on him.
The 76ers opened the game in the dominant third quarter beating Houston 29-13 to take a 94-63 advantage in the fourth. Ben Simmons stole Harden's pass, did a layup and finished a three-point game after a foul from Harden to score 73-52. Lead was growing, reaching 31.
"We were expected for a game like this," said Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni.
Harden scored 10 points in the third period, but missed four attempts on six shots on goal as the 76ers chased him in defense with double teams and different looks. An air balloon tired of Harden with 12.3 seconds left in the third shows the effects of the Philadelphia defense – and, perhaps, Harden's offensive workload.
With the game out of reach, Harden sits in the fourth.
"It's not a good way to put it back, but we did it today," D'Antoni said.