By Mark Gallagher
Joel Embiid had a career-high 49 points and grabbed 14 rebounds, Tobias Harris had 25 points and the Sixers beat the Atlanta Hawks 129-112.
That pulls Philly within a half-game of Miami for fourth place in the Eastern Conference following the Heat’s overtime loss at Cleveland.
Missing All-Star Ben Simmons for the second time in three games because of a back injury, the Sixers mixed up their starting lineup and got 15 points from Furkan Korkmaz in a reserve role.
”I said before the All-Star break I was going to have a different mindset, be aggressive,” Embiid said. ”I said I was going to get back to having fun. Having fun comes in different forms. I don’t have to always be smiling and laughing. I can have fun just dominating the game.”
The Sixers need consistency from Embiid to move into position for home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
Harris praised Embiid for his ”dominance” and added: ”He can do that every single night if he wanted to.”
Trae Young led Atlanta with 28 points despite missing nine of 11 from 3-point range. De’Andre Hunter added 22 and John Collins had 21 for the Hawks.
After trailing by 21 in the first half, the Hawks outscored Philly 23-9 to start the third quarter. They closed out the period with an 8-0 run and took a 92-91 lead into the fourth after Young nailed a 3.
The Sixers went up to stay on four consecutive free throws by Embiid. Harris sank a 3-pointer to extend the lead to 105-98.
Embiid’s dunk and 19-footer put the Sixers up by 15 with 3:08 left, and the All-Star center heard ”MVP!” chants when he went to the foul line in the final minutes. Embiid made 14 of 15 free throws and 17 of 24 from the floor. He hit a 3 in the final minute to set his personal best. His previous high was 46 against the Lakers on Nov. 15, 2017.
”Our guys were brilliant in the third quarter to compete and take the lead,” Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce said. ”Obviously, Joel is a handful.”
Simmons played five minutes in a loss at Milwaukee on Saturday before exiting. He had tests on Sunday and needs further evaluation.
Brown wouldn’t speculate on the extent of the injury or how long Simmons will be sidelined. But it appears the team is preparing to play without him for a while.