Joel Embiid took some inspiration from a 76ers great.
Embiid scored 17 of his career-high 33 points in the third quarter and hit a pair of crucial free throws with 12.5 seconds left to lead the Philadelphia 76ers over the Brooklyn Nets 108-107 on Sunday night in a matchup of two of the league's worst teams.
Embiid added 10 rebounds and also dived over the first row in an effort to save a loose ball, a hustle play that thrilled Philadelphia's gritty fans. A leading Rookie of the Year candidate, Embiid said plays like that are modeled after Hall of Famer Allen Iverson, who the 76ers honored during Friday night's game against the Lakers.
"A.I. kind of helped me with that," Embiid said. "It was like, 'Play like it's your last game.' That's what I think I've been doing. I'm sorry for that person. I think I stepped on his shoulder. I'm sorry, but I'm going to give my all every time I'm on the court."
Embiid was 12 for 17 from the field, including 2 for 3 from beyond the arc, and 7 for 8 from the free-throw line.
"He wanted to dominate the game," Philadelphia coach Brett Brown said.
Ersan Ilyasova had 22 points for the 76ers, who snapped an eight-game home losing streak while winning for the third time in 13 games.
Brook Lopez had 22 points, nine rebounds and eight assists for the Nets, who lost their ninth in a row on the road.
"We just couldn't get over the hump," Lopez said. "I don't know if there's that much analysis to it."
The Sixers (7-20) and Nets (7-19) are tied with Dallas and Minnesota for the fewest wins in the league.
Philadelphia scored the first 11 points of the fourth quarter to take its largest lead, 94-86, with 9:09 remaining on Ilyasova's long jumper. Embiid, restricted to 28 minutes by the team, went to the bench at the tail end of the run. He re-entered with 4 ½ minutes left and Philadelphia clinging to a 97-96 lead.
Lopez's drive gave the Nets a 98-97 lead before Embiid's 3-pointer from atop the key ended a nearly five-minute field goal drought and put Philadelphia in front 100-98 with 2:43 left.
Lin later stripped Embiid with the Nets down by one, but Brooklyn failed on two attempts to go ahead — Trevor Booker missed a 3-pointer and Sean Kilpatrick misfired on a short jumper.
Embiid got the rebound, was fouled and made both free throws with 12.5 seconds left to give the 76ers a 104-101 lead. Lin's tying 3-point attempt went off the rim.
Lin, playing in his eighth game of an injury-riddled season, had 16 points.
Joe Harris tied his career high with 19 points for the Nets.
"I like our competitive spirit," Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said. "That's been us all year. We're a team that fights and competes. Down the road, I think it's going to pay off, that attitude and grit."
EMBIID, OKAFOR START
Embiid and Jahlil Okafor started alongside each other for the third straight game. After saying Saturday that incorporating three big men — Embiid, Okafor and Nerlens Noel — into the lineup together would be an "extreme challenge," Brown said before Sunday's game that Noel only would play if Embiid or Okafor got in foul trouble.
Okafor went 0 for 10 from the field with three points but had 11 rebounds.
Noel complained about the crowded situation following Friday's 100-89 loss to the Lakers in which he scored two points in eight minutes.
"I think I'm too good to be playing eight minutes," he said. "That's crazy. They need to figure this (stuff) out."
Brown's solution was to bench a healthy Noel, who missed the first 23 games while recovering from offseason knee surgery.
"He hasn't been part of us," Brown said. "I don't believe at this moment (playing Noel) is best for our team."
In his 2 1/2-year career, Noel has averaged 10.4 points, 8.0 rebounds and 1.7 blocks in 29.8 minutes per game. He didn't appear at all against the Nets.
Nets: Lopez played in his 511th game with the Nets, moving into fourth on the franchise's career list. ... Brooklyn is 1-12 on the road this season.
76ers: Nik Stauskas (left knee soreness) didn't play. ... Philadelphia shot 12 for 28 (42.9 percent) from 3-point range.
Nets: Look to end a four-game losing streak to the Raptors when they cap a three-game trip on Tuesday night in Toronto.
76ers: End a four-game homestand on Tuesday night, looking for their second win this season over New Orleans after beating the Pelicans 99-88 on Dec. 8.