New York — Joel Embiid took off his warm-up gear and changed into street clothes, his left knee feeling too sore to play.
Even with the All-Star center sitting down, the Philadelphia 76ers were flying high in Game 3.
Ben Simmons scored a career playoff-high 31 points, Tobias Harris added 29 points and 16 rebounds and the 76ers shook off the absence of their leading scorer to beat the Brooklyn Nets, 131-115, on Thursday night for a 2-1 lead in the first-round series.
The 76ers relied on Simmons slashing to the basket, and Harris and JJ Redick shooting from the perimeter.
“We have the pieces to get games, to complete games and I think everybody in the organization knows that,” Simmons said.
Simmons was 11-for-13 from the field, repeatedly getting to the rim even with the Nets sagging well off him in hopes he would shoot a jumper. He added nine assists and eventually quieted a crowd that loudly booed him every time he touched the ball early.
Harris had his playoff highs in both points and rebounds, and was 6-for-6 from 3-point range. Redick was 5 of 9 behind the arc and finished with 26 points.
“Listen, I think their big players came to play,” Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said. “Ben had a great game, I thought JJ was great, Tobias also hit some big 3s.”
Embiid warmed up before the game but the 76ers announced shortly before the start that the All-Star center wouldn’t be available because of a sore left knee. Greg Monroe started in his place and had nine points and 13 rebounds.
“Just came in, obviously with Joel down that’s a big scoring loss that we had there,” Harris said. “So just had to be aggressive from the start.”
D’Angelo Russell and Caris LeVert (Michigan) each scored 26 points for the Nets, who host Game 4 on Saturday afternoon. They have dropped the last two games after surprising the No. 3 seed in the opener in Philadelphia.
Energized by a lively Brooklyn crowd seeing playoff basketball for the first time since 2015 and perhaps by the absence of Embiid, who averaged 22.5 points and 12.5 rebounds in the first two games, the Nets started well but then stalled. They went about 4 1/2 minutes without a basket and Philadelphia took advantage to lead 32-24 after one.
“When, arguably, their best player sits out, you have to take advantage of that and we just couldn’t perform on it,” Nets center Jarrett Allen said.
The lead quickly went into double digits in the second before LeVert got going. He scored six straight points and had Brooklyn’s first 14 of the period to tie it at 38. The 76ers regained control and opened an 11-point lead with about 2 1/2 minutes remaining before halftime, but LeVert had another burst to cut Philadelphia’s lead to 65-59 at the break. He finished with 19 points in the period.
Redick hit a pair of 3-pointers sandwiched around Harris’ three-point play, pushing it to 81-67, and another 3 by Redick had the Sixers leading 97-81 with 1:16 left in the third. But a four-point play by Spencer Dinwiddie highlighted Brooklyn’s run of nine straight points to end the period and trim it to 97-90.
The Nets cut it to six in the fourth on Russell’s 3-pointer, but the 76ers soon pulled away again.
It was another poor defensive effort by the Nets, who allowed just 102 points in Game 1 but an average of 138 in the last two games.
“We didn’t do a good enough job of getting stops,” guard Joe Harris said. “You can’t have three guys go for 30 and expect to win games.”
Jimmy Butler scored 16 points for the 76ers and backup big man Boban Marjanovic finished with 14 points and eight rebounds.
►Golden State 132, (at) L.A. Clippers 105: Kevin Durant scored 38 points, Stephen Curry added 21 playing with five fouls, and the Warriors dominated from the opening tip to beat the Clippers and take a 2-1 lead in their first-round playoff series.
The Warriors began the game on a 22-9 tear and went on to shoot 73 percent from the floor in the first, taking the crowd out of it early.
Durant was perfect, making all five of his field goals and both free throws for 12 points. He and Curry picked up two fouls each, but the Warriors still built a 19-point lead.
Kevon Looney, again filling in for injured DeMarcus Cousins, shot 4-for-4 in the first, dunking three times in a row.
Game 4 is Sunday at Staples Center.
►(At) San Antonio 118, Denver 108: Derrick White had a career-high 36 points and the Spurs beat the Nuggets, withstanding a first-half lapse to take a 2-1 lead in the first-round series.
Nikola Jokic had 22 points, eight rebounds and seven assists for Denver.
Game 4 is Saturday in San Antonio, where the Spurs are 3-0 against the Nuggets this season.
White attacked Nuggets point guard Jamal Murray from the opening tip after being on the receiving end of Murray’s career outing Tuesday night. Murray had only six points, a game after scoring 21 of his 24 points in the fourth quarter to help Denver overcome a 19-point deficit to even the series.
White set his career high after being fouled by Paul Millsap on a driving layup that bounced off the side of the rim, hit the backboard and fell in to give the Spurs a 99-89 lead with 8:52 remaining. White added five rebounds, five assists and three steals while shooting 12-for-17. The point guard matched his overall career high with 26 points in the first half.
DeMar DeRozan took over after that, scoring 21 of his 25 points in the second half. LaMarcus Aldridge added 18 points and 11 rebounds, and Rudy Gay had 11 points and 10 rebounds. Malik Beasley added 20 points for Denver.