Joel Embiid, 76ers rout Wizards to take 3-0 series lead

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Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21) gestures to the crowd after his dunk during the first half of Game 3 in a first-round NBA basketball playoff series against the Washington Wizards, Saturday, May 29, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Joel Embiid shook off the jeers from a missed dunk and made sure he did not miss his next attempt. After throwing the ball down through the rim, he cupped his hands to his ears to encourage the crowd.

“I had the opportunity where I actually made a dunk, so that’s why I went over to them and I wanted to hear more boos,” Embiid said.

Some booed. Many 76ers fans chanted “M-V-P! M-V-P!” in Embiid’s direction. After another valuable performance, Philadelphia is one victory away from a first-round sweep.

Embiid set a career playoff high with 36 points, and the Sixers routed the Washington Wizards 132-103 on Saturday night to take a 3-0 series lead. Embiid scored 25 points in the first half and finished 14 of 18 from the floor in 28 minutes before resting the entire fourth quarter.

That’s the second-fewest minutes by a player who scored 35-plus points since the NBA’s shot-clock era began in 1954.

“I can’t imagine anybody playing better than him,” Wizards coach Scott Brooks said. “That was MVP-level tonight. He’s definitely a handful.”

Embiid missing only three shots apart from the botched dunk made it almost impossible to guard the Sixers’ other stars. Ben Simmons scored 14 and had nine assists, Tobias Harris had 20 points, 13 rebounds and five assists, and Danny Green made five 3-pointers to finish with 15.

The 76ers shot 58.6% from the field, including 51.5% from 3-point range.

“When you shoot the ball that well, you’re going to win a lot of games,” coach Doc Rivers said. “We had one of those nights where everything fell for us.”

That brought mixed reactions from the crowd of 10,000, which was the largest to attend an indoor sporting event in the nation’s capital in 14 months. Wizards fans didn’t have much to cheer about because the game was never closer than four points beyond seven minutes in, and Philadelphia led by as many as 31 on the way to the franchise’s first 3-0 series lead since 1985.

The top-seeded 76ers will go for the sweep in Game 4 on Monday.

“That would be incredible,” Simmons said. “We want to do that. Obviously we want to get the sweep so we can get some rest, but they’re a tough team.”

In Game 3, the 76ers took advantage of the Wizards’ biggest stars nursing injuries, though they still produced. Russell Westbrook had 26 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists for the triple-double after being a game-time decision with a sprained right ankle, and Beal had 25 as he continues to get back to full health from a strained left hamstring.

Westbrook said he felt “so-so. Just trying to go out and do what I can. That’s pretty much it.”

LIMPING WESTBROOK

The Wizards planned to get Westbrook treatment in the locker room each time he checked out of the game. Problem was, they couldn’t afford to play without him, even as the ankle was bothering him.

Westbrook played almost 21 minutes in the first half and over 34 total before heading to the locker room late in the blowout.

“I kind of knew after last game he was going to play,” Beal said. “Even if it was for two minutes, he was going to play.”

GAMBLING HISTORY

The game was the first playoff contest to be played at a major sports arena in the U.S. with an active sportsbook. The William Hill venue, which was accessible for fans from the 200 level, opened Wednesday.

TIP INS

76ers: All five starters scored in double figures. … Joined the 2020 Utah Jazz, 2019 Golden State Warriors, 1987 Los Angeles Lakers and 1986 Boston Celtics in scoring 120-plus points in each of their first three postseason games. The Lakers and Celtics went on to win the NBA title. … Set a franchise record for points through three quarters with 109. … The 29-point margin was Philadelphia’s largest in a playoff game since 2001. … Green passed Paul Pierce to move into 12th on the playoff career 3-pointers list.

Wizards: Westbrook tied Jason Kidd for third in NBA history with his 11th career postseason triple-double. … Davis Bertans started in place of Raul Neto with coach Scott Brooks looking for more size. … Georgetown coach and former New York Knicks star Patrick Ewing was in attendance and got a nice ovation from the crowd when shown on video screens.

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