PHILADELPHIA — Joel Embiid made a fade-away jumper from the foul line with 1.1 seconds left to give the Philadelphia 76ers a 120-119 comeback victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday night.
Embiid scored 39 points, shaking off a double-team from Jusuf Nurkic and Damian Lillard on the winner. The basket gave Philadelphia its first lead of the game they trailed by 21 points late in the first half as Embiid — arms extended toward the sky — basked in the glow of the sellout crowds’ chants of “M-V-P! M-V-P!”
“As I dribbled, I knew I had to step back,” Embiid said. “But I knew that I had to get to my spot, which is in that area. That’s a perfect spot from my previous years. At the top of the key, the court is wide open because guys don’t want to give up threes.”
Portland’s last-second attempt after a timeout was tipped away on the inbound play, with Lillard’s shot coming after the horn. It marked the third time this season that the 76ers (44-22) were able to rally from 20 points down.
“Down 20, guys could have been saying the game is over and we moved on to the next one,” Embiid said. “But these guys keep on fighting. But we have to stop putting ourselves in these position.”
James Harden added 19 points for Philadelphia despite struggling from the floor. Tyrese Maxey and DeAnthony Melton each had 13 to help the 76ers win their fourth straight game.
“It was not the prettiest win, but we’ll take it,” Harden said.
Anfernee Simons led Portland with 34 points on 8-of-12 shooting from 3-point range. Jeremi Grant had 24 points and Lillard 22.
“We played a tough game and we played physical,” Lillard said. “Defensively, we got stops. When you play against a good team, it’s going to come down to those possessions at both ends of the floor. And I thought we competed. We had a lot of good possessions.”
Simons was a game-time decision coming into the night after missing seven of Portland’s last eight games because of sprained right ankle sprain. He was 5 of 6 on 3s in the first half as Portland hit 26 of its first 38 shots from the floor to build a 21-point lead.
“For the most part, we had a great game,” Simons said. “They had a little run, but we played hard and we did everything we needed to do to win the game.”
After surrendering 71 points in the first half, Philadelphia made a defensive switch at the start of the second half with Embiid moving to a roving mode out to the perimeter and P.J. Tucker anchoring the middle as the center. In the second half, Portland shot 4 of 17 from 3-point 5range after shooting 11 for 19 in the first half.
“The trapping was effective and trapped Lillard everywhere,” Philadelphia coach Doc Rivers said. “You can’t trap Lillard and Simons when they are both on the floor, but you can trap Simons when Lillard was off. I thought that was very effective.”
Trail Blazers: Matisse Thybulle — who was traded from Philadelphia to Portland as part of a three-team trade at the Feb. 9 trade deadline — made his return to Wells Fargo Center. He had five points in 19 minutes.
76ers: The game was the sixth in the last eight games that Philadelphia has allowed better than 40% shooting from beyond the 3-point arc. The Sixers entered the game with the sixth-best defensive 3-point field goal percentage defense at 35.1%.
Trail Blazers: At New Orleans on Sunday night to complete six-game trip.
76ers: Host Washington on Sunday night.
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