Simmons leads 76ers past Wizards; Westbrook injured
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Ben Simmons put a spin move on Russell Westbrook that sent him sprawling to the floor several minutes before an ankle injury sent the NBA’s triple-double king to the locker room and nearly into the stands to confront a misbehaving fan.
With Simmons soaring and Westbrook ailing, the Philadelphia 76ers beat the Washington Wizards 120-95 on Wednesday night to take a 2-0 lead in the first-round playoff series.
Game 3 is Saturday night at Washington.
Westbrook went down after colliding with Furkan Korkmaz early in the fourth quarter. He limped off the floor and then was restrained by security after a fan threw popcorn at him as he was headed under the tunnel.
“We’ll see,” Westbrook said about his availability for the next game. “Hurt it twice in a short amount of time. We’ll see what happens.”
As for the incident with the fan, Westbrook said: “I wouldn’t come up to me on the street and throw popcorn on my head, because you know what happens. ... In these arenas, you gotta start protecting the players. We’ll see what the NBA does.”
Valerie Camillo, president of business operations for the Wells Fargo Center rebuked the fan in a statement.
“This was classless, unacceptable behavior, and we’re not going to tolerate it at Wells Fargo Center,” Camillo said.
LeBron James spoke out about it on Twitter: “By the way WE AS THE PLAYERS wanna see who threw that popcorn on Russ while he was leaving the game tonight with a injury!! There’s cameras all over arenas so there’s no excuse!”
Simmons and Joel Embiid each scored 22 points and Tobias Harris added 19 for the top-seeded Sixers. Simmons added nine rebounds and eight assists after becoming just the sixth player in NBA history to have at least 15 rebounds and 15 assists in a playoff game in a 125-118 win in Game 1
The three-time All-Star still heard plenty of criticism in Philadelphia following that stellar performance because he only scored six points and missed all six of his free throws.
Simmons was aggressive from the start, scoring the team’s first two baskets on his way to 12 points in the first quarter, including three dunks.
He said he wasn’t trying to prove a point but rather making plays available.
“I thought it was pretty hard to get 15 assists and 15 rebounds in the NBA in the playoffs,” he said. “That’s pretty impressive. And we won. ... I don’t know. For me, I’m here to win, and I’m doing what I need to do to help my team win. A lot of these (critics) never played basketball at a high level.”
Bradley Beal had 33 points and Westbrook finished with 10 points and 11 assists for sub-.500 Washington.
Embiid scored on a driving layup, got knocked to the floor and sank a free throw to complete a three-point play in the final minute of the second quarter. Dwight Howard led the crowd’s chants of “M-V-P! M-V-P!” for Embiid, who raised both hands and soaked in the adoration.
The Sixers withstood 24 first-half points from Beal in the first half and led 71-57 at halftime. They maintained a double-digit lead throughout the second half.
Embiid was happy to see Simmons take advantage when Washington chose to double-team him.
“With the way they were guarding me, guys were open and he was the recipient of that,” Embiid said. “He was aggressive. I told him: ‘You have all the space in the world. Just attack and be aggressive.’”
Wizards: Have lost all five games vs. Philadelphia this season. ... Davis Bertans fouled out in the opening minute of the fourth quarter. He had no points in 24 minutes.
76ers: Pat Croce, who was team president when the Sixers reached the 2001 NBA Finals, fired up the fans when he rang the ceremonial bell to start the game. .. They’re 28-5 with Simmons, Embiid, Harris, Seth Curry and Danny Green in the starting lineup. .... Curry left the game with left ankle soreness. ... Meek Mill sat courtside.
Croce’s Sixers lost in five games to the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals 20 years ago but his favorite memory from that season came in the series-opening win on the road. Allen Iverson scored 48 points to lead Philly over the Lakers in Game 1 and made highlight reels for eternity when he nailed a jumper in the corner and stepped over Tyronn Lue on his way back upcourt.
“Bubba Chuck stepping over Tyronn Lue to me is the epitome of the whole season,” Croce said.
NOT THE FIRST TIME
Philly fans have mistreated Westbrook in the past. A few years ago, a fan was ejected for making an obscene gesture with both hands at Westbrook.
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