PHILADELPHIA -- The Philadelphia 76ers finally figured out how to beat a zone defense.
Joel Embiid had 21 points and 13 rebounds and Josh Richardson added 21 points to lead Philadelphia to a 125-108 victory over the Washington Wizards on Saturday night.
Ben Simmons had 14 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds for the 76ers, who snapped a three-game losing streak overall and a two-game skid at home.
Philadelphia suffered its first two home losses in its last two times out, Wednesday against Miami and Friday versus Dallas. Both teams used zone defenses that neutralized Philadelphia’s offense.
But the Wizards, playing without several key players, weren’t as effective when they tried to use the zone.
Simmons said it was because the 76ers kept the ball in motion.
“I think we did a lot better moving the ball,” Simmons said. “That’s really the key, we can’t hold on too long. I’ve been playing against it my whole life. It’s not new. Everyone has to be on the same page as far as moving the ball.”
Brown said before the game that he thought Simmons, the team’s star point guard, could be most effective against the zone as a “committed offensive rebounder.” Simmons had four offensive boards, and Brown was pleased overall with his players’ approach to the previously troubling defense.
“I give them a lot of credit for executing plays that would expose zone rotations,” Brown said.
Bradley Beal had 36 points, eight rebounds and six assists for the Wizards. Washington has lost three in a row and nine of 11.
“This is a championship team,” Washington coach Scott Brooks said of the 76ers. “We’re not close to that right now. We want to get there.”
Both teams were playing the second game of a back-to-back, and Philadelphia had all players available.
“I wish they could have had some load management games,” Brooks joked.
Isaiah Thomas added 20 points, but was ejected with 2:53 remaining for going into the stands.
Philadelphia took control with a 19-0 run over a nearly six-minute stretch in the second quarter, pushing a 34-30 advantage to 53-30 with 4:19 left in the half. Beal’s corner 3 with 1:40 left in the third got Washington as close as four, 84-80, but the 76ers scored the last four points of the quarter to take an 88-80 lead into the fourth.
The 76ers kept Washington at a distance throughout the fourth to improve to 15-2 at home.
Thomas said he confronted a spectator who thrice repeated two expletives while flashing the Wizards guard two middle fingers. According to Thomas, the fan apologized when confronted and said he was upset Thomas made a free throw because a miss would’ve given fans a milkshake from a local establishment as part of a team promotion.
Ish Smith, coming off a perfect performance in Washington’s 122-118 loss at Toronto on Friday, went scoreless in 20 minutes. He was 0 for 7 from the field, including 0 for 2 from beyond the arc, and missed both of his free-throw attempts. Smith scored 26 points while going 9 for 9 from the field, including 4 for 4 from 3-point range, as well as 4 for 4 from the free-throw line on Friday.
BROOKS ON BARKLEY
Brooks fondly recalled his time playing for the 76ers and teammate Charles Barkley during Brooks’ first two seasons (1988-90) in the league. Just don’t ask him to tell you the stories, he joked.
“One of the best times of my life,” Brooks said of playing in Philadelphia. “Living with Charles Barkley, great memories and stories to be told – only to my closest friends.”
Wizards: Rookie Rui Hachimura (groin), who scored 27 points in Washington’s 119-113 win over the 76ers on Dec. 5, missed his third straight game. … Moritz Wagner (ankle) sat for the fifth consecutive contest. … Dropped to 4-10 against the East and 4-13 on the road. … Thomas entered the arena wearing a throwback Allen Iverson Sixers jersey.
76ers: The teams play two more times, March 16 in Philadelphia and April 3 in Washington. … Have won seven straight over the Wizards in Philadelphia.
Wizards: At New York Knicks on Monday.
76ers: At Detroit Pistons on Monday.
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