Embiid’s late block helps 76ers take 3-0 series lead over Nets

Joel Embiid, limping throughout the game and perhaps lucky not to have been ejected for kicking a Nets player in the groin area, blocked a potential tying basket with 8.8 seconds left and the visiting Philadelphia 76ers beat Brooklyn 102-97 on Thursday night to take a 3-0 lead in the first-round series.

Tyrese Maxey made the tiebreaking three-pointer with 44 seconds left for the 76ers, who can sweep their way into the second round with a victory Saturday in Brooklyn.

With James Harden having been ejected in the third quarter for another groin shot and Embiid not looking like his usual dominant self, Maxey took over the offence and scored eight straight points, turning a five-point deficit into a 99-96 lead on his three-pointer.

Spencer Dinwiddie made one free throw, then appeared to have a path to the basket for a tying layup before Embiid rose up and swatted it. P.J. Tucker made a free throw to make it 100-97, and the Nets turned it over on their next possession.

Maxey scored 25 points and Harden had 21 for the 76ers. Embiid shot just five for 13 but had 14 points and 10 rebounds.

Mikal Bridges scored 26 points and Dinwiddie had 20 for the Nets, who have lost nine straight playoff games and are on the verge of being swept for the second straight year. Cam Johnson scored 17 points.

Embiid went to the locker room for treatment after checking out in the first quarter, then was limping multiple times later.

The 76ers might’ve been lucky he was still in the game at that point.

Nets fans loudly booed the decision not to eject him for kicking his leg up toward Nic Claxton’s groin in the first quarter and those not in the arena took to social media to ask why he wasn’t, as Golden State’s Draymond Green was for stepping on Sacramento’s Domantas Sabonis in Game 2 of their series. Green was then suspended by the NBA for Game 3.

But the ruling went against the 76ers in the third quarter when Harden, while closely guarded by Royce O’Neale, swung out his arm and struck the swingman, who fell to the court in pain.

The Nets raced to a 19-11, riding an emotional boost after Embiid’s flagrant foul. But Philadelphia would recover to lead 32-28 after one, extended the lead to 51-40 on Maxey’s 3-pointer with 3:52 left in the half and the lead remained 11 at the break.

But Bridges got the Nets off to a quick start in the third and Johnson scored 13 points, helping the Nets outscore the 76ers 35-18 in the third to bring an 82-76 edge to the fourth.

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