Joel Embiid scored a season-high 50 points and had 13 rebounds to help the Philadelphia 76ers beat the Washington Wizards 131-126 on Wednesday night.
Embiid reached 50 points for the sixth time in his career. He had a career-best 59 on Nov. 13, 2022, against Utah.
The reigning NBA MVP was 19 of 24 from the field, making a 3-pointer on two attempts, and hit 11 of 13 free throws. He also had seven assists and six turnovers in just over 38 minutes after returning from a two-game absence with an illness.
“Sometimes your team needs you to be a playmaker, sometimes they need you to score and I felt like it was one of those nights where I had to be aggressive and get it going,” Embiid said. “But they made passes, they made the right plays every single time and I just finished them.”
Tyrese Maxey added 26 points and also had seven assists.
“He should have had 60,” Maxey joked about Embiid’s night.
“It was quite 50,” teammate De’Anthony Melton added. “He was just going out there effortlessly shooting the ball and scoring.”
Jordan Poole led Washington with 23 points. The Wizards are 3-17.
Trailing 99-95, the Wizards opened the fourth quarter with a 5-0 run to retake the lead in a game that featured 22 changes and 13 ties. But after leading 102-101 with 8:48 remaining, the 76ers pushed the advantage to eight and held on.
Washington cut it to 122-119 on Poole’s 3-pointer with 2:17 remaining, but it was the closest the Wizards would get.
“In general, I thought the effort, the overall intent was better tonight. The defensive disposition was much better,” Wizards coach Wes Unseld Jr. said. “So you come up short, but I thought that was somewhat of a bounce-back for us.”
Embiid was assessed a technical for slamming the ball down after being called for traveling with 2:36 remaining in the third as Washington extended its lead to 95-89. But Embiid’s frustration was a spark, and Philadelphia ended the quarter on a 10-0 run.
“He’s our safety valve – offensively, defensively. That’s why he’s the MVP,” Melton said. “He covers up for a lot of our mistakes defensively and then offensively he can bail us out late and make some shots.”
Melton had 18 points for Philadelphia. Kelly Oubre Jr. returned after missing 11 games after being struck by a vehicle on Nov. 11 in a hit-and-run incident in downtown Philadelphia. He had 12 points in 19 minutes.
“I was worried about him a little bit,” 76ers coach Nick Nurse said. “I was worried about him in the half about what kind of rotation I was going to use with him in the second half, but his second half was amazing. I thought he was kind of the spark with a bunch of stuff, so really happy.”
Tyus Jones had 20 points for Washington, Daniel Gafford added 18 and Kyle Kuzma and Corey Kispert each had 16.
76ers: Host Atlanta on Friday night.
Wizards: At Brooklyn on Friday night.
Reporting by The Associated Press.
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