WASHINGTON - After the Philadelphia 76ers lost NBA MVP finalist Joel Embiid to a sore right knee late in the first quarter Monday night, they lost their Game 4 lead — and the Washington Wizards staved off elimination to take the playoff series back to the City of Brotherly Love.
Bradley Beal's 27 points, Russell Westbrook's 12th career playoff triple-double and Washington's strategy of fouling Ben Simmons whenever possible down the stretch all helped the Wizards beat the 76ers 122-114 to cut Philadelphia's series edge to 3-1.
Game 5 of the best-of-seven Eastern Conference first-round series is Wednesday at Philadelphia.
Won't be easy for that one to be as eventful as this one was, including the third-quarter sight of a fan running out of the stands and onto the court before being slammed to the ground by a security guard.
Nothing had as much of an effect on the outcome and, potentially, the rest of this postseason for Philadelphia, the East's No. 1 seed, as what happened to Embiid, who came into the night averaging better than a point per minute in the series.
In Game 3's 29-point win for the 76ers, for example, he produced a playoff career-high 36 points in 28 minutes against the Wizards, who needed to go through the play-in round just to get the No. 8 seed.
But the center headed to the locker room late in the first quarter after taking a hard fall behind the baseline when his shot was blocked by Robin Lopez. Embiid tried to play on, wincing and leaning over during breaks in play, before checking out eventually and limping off.
He never returned and finished with eight points and six rebounds in 11 minutes.
Philadelphia led by as many as 11 in the opening period but that was down to 61-60 at halftime.
And Washington took over briefly in the third quarter, leading by as much as 92-78 in its final minute. A back-and-forth fourth quarter was tight down the stretch after Danny Green's layup with under 4 1/2 minutes to go made it 106-all.
That's when Washington basically took the ball out of Philadelphia's hands, sending Simmons to the line repeatedly down the stretch with a version of the old Hack-a-Shaq strategy that Shaquille O'Neal used to face.
Simmons came into the night 0 for 9 on free throws in the series and was 1 for 3 for the night before Hack-a-Ben went into full effect — he made 1 of 2 tries each of the final four times he stepped to the line to end up 5 for 11.
He had 13 points and 12 rebounds. Tobias Harris led the 76ers with 21 points and 13 rebounds.
Rui Hachimura had 20 points and 13 rebounds for the Wizards, including a corner 3 off an assist from Beal to put the home team up 118-112 with 45.6 seconds left. That prompted a chant of "Wiz in 7!" from some in the crowd of 10,665 — about 50% of capacity and the most allowed under current coronavirus restrictions.