Philadelphia’s James Harden celebrates after making a 3-pointer during the 76ers’ Game 1 victory over Brooklyn on Saturday in Philadelphia. Derik Hamilton/Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA — James Harden hit seven 3-pointers and had 23 points and 13 assists, NBA MVP finalist Joel Embiid scored 26 points and the Philadelphia 76ers pushed back Mikal Bridges and the Brooklyn Nets in a 121-101 Game 1 victory on Saturday.

Tobias Harris added 21 points and the 76ers hit a postseason team-record 21 3s in the opener of this Eastern Conference playoff series. The Sixers are trying to win their first NBA championship since 1983 and advance past the second round for the first time since 2001.

The No. 3-seeded 76ers host Game 2 on Monday.

Bridges scored 30 points and helped the Nets at least hang around in the first half.

But Brooklyn’s starless roster was no match for Embiid, Harden and a playoff-tested roster expected to make a deep run in the postseason. The Sixers had a sellout crowd of 20,913 in a frenzy from the opening tip, then blew the game open in the fourth.

Philly got it done even without a vintage effort from Embiid.


Embiid made only 7 of 15 shots (and all 11 free throws) and was flustered at times around the rim. Embiid was smacked in the face on a missed dunk that sent him crashing to the court in an attempt to draw a flagrant foul. Embiid got heated when he had his arm locked up by Royce O’Neale and the two briefly tussled.

No worries. Harden, who topped the league in assists this season, picked up the slack.

Harden’s ineffectiveness around the rim in the first half – he was 1 of 8 on 2s – was offset by his 5-of-7 shooting on 3s. He buried two 3s late in the second quarter that stretched the lead to double digits.

Embiid, the NBA scoring champion, could not impose his will against Brooklyn as he had this season to become an MVP finalist. He only took seven shots in the first half.

Unlike the regular season, when the Sixers were crushed by the non-Embiid minutes, the reserves came through. De’Anthony Melton, Jalen McDaniels and Georges Niang all hit 3s – the 76ers made 13 of 21 in the half — to keep them in control of Game 1.

Bridges kept Game 1 from becoming an early rout in a homecoming effort.


Bridges attended Great Valley High School in Malvern, Pennsylvania, just outside Philadelphia, then played three seasons at Villanova. Bridges helped the Wildcats win two national championship – the 2016 and 2018 national championship banners hang in the Wells Fargo Center rafters. Bridges seemed he would stay in the area when he was drafted by the 76ers with the No. 10 pick in the 2018 draft.

Then came a pair of embarrassments in rapid succession: Bridges celebrated on draft night with his mom, who worked at the time for the 76ers. The feel-good reunion lasted about 15 minutes and Bridges was traded to Phoenix for Zhaire Smith. Bridges is now a bona fide NBA star while Smith flamed out after only 13 career NBA games.

Philly fans can only imagine Bridges in this lineup.

He made 10 of 16 shots for 23 points in the first half and kept the Nets, who opened the season with Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant and championship aspirations, within nine at halftime.

KNICKS 101, CAVALIERS 97: Jalen Brunson shook off foul trouble and scored 21 of his 27 in the second half, Julius Randle returned from an ankle injury to add 19 and visiting New York welcomed Cleveland back to the NBA playoffs by holding off the Cavaliers.

Brunson was limited to nine minutes in the first half, but hit several big shots down the stretch as the Knicks turned back Cleveland’s late rally led by Donovan Mitchell.


Randle was questionable until pregame warmups, when he tested the left ankle he sprained two weeks ago. The All-Star forward looked like himself while pacing the Knicks, who fell behind 93-92 with 2:12 left.

With Mitchell making plays all over the floor, the Cavs were within 99-97 in the final seconds when Brunson missed a pull-up, but Randle grabbed his 10th rebound and passed to Quentin Grimes, who was fouled with four seconds left.

Grimes made both free throws as the Knicks finished off the Cavs and disappointed a raucous, towel-waving Cleveland crowd that came alive in the fourth quarter when Mitchell scored 14 to bring the Cavs back.

Mitchell finished with 38 for the Cavs, who returned to the playoff stage for the first time since the 2018 NBA Finals. It’s been a long road back for Cleveland, which wasn’t as hurt by its inexperience as lack of bench production from the bench.

Josh Hart added 17 points – and hit a big 3-pointer down the stretch – for New York, whose reserves outscored the Cavs 37-14.

Jarrett Allen had 14 points and 14 rebounds for Cleveland.

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