(AP) — Joel Embiid is no longer just trusting the process. Now he’s talking about the playoffs.
Embiid scored 20 points and the Philadelphia 76ers earned their 10th victory to match their total from all last season, beating the Brooklyn Nets 105-95 on Sunday.
The 76ers broke it open with a 17-2 surge in the fourth quarter to win the matchup between the NBA’s two worst teams and improve to 10-25 in their first season with former lottery picks Embiid and Dario Saric. They were 10-72 in 2015-16, just off their own record for worst finish in the 82-game schedule.
Embiid has looked at the standings and seen the 76ers are eight games back of eighth place in the Eastern Conference, and believes that should be a goal.
“I think we have a chance. We’ve been hot lately,” he said. “We’ve won three out of four lately, so I look at it and I think we have a chance and we’re really figuring things out. We’re starting to learn how to win games.”
Embiid did his damage without even reaching the 28-minute restriction he was limited to as he recovers from a series of foot injuries that delayed his NBA debut for two years. He left the court to chants of “Trust the Process!” in a nod to what he and others reminded fans while the Sixers lost big during Sam Hinkie’s rebuilding plan.
Even as the victories come, coach Brett Brown said the building process remains most important.
“We are winning basketball games more frequently than we have been, but for us it’s still, how are we doing what we do?” Brown said. “Are we doing our job? Are we not skipping steps? Are we putting in good days? And we believe as simple as that might sound that they will add up.”
Saric added 18 points, while Robert Covington and Nik Stauskas each had 15.
Brook Lopez scored 26 points for the Nets (8-28), who have lost six in a row.
The Nets led by 11 at halftime, but the Sixers scored the first 13 points of the third quarter to take their first lead at 59-57 on a jumper by Embiid. They opened the second half with a 30-9 spurt and went into the fourth ahead 78-73.
“I just didn’t feel like that third quarter, it’s like, ‘Why isn’t our energy the same?”’ Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said.
Brooklyn recovered to take an 85-84 edge but it was all Sixers from there, closing their spurt with 13 straight points to make it 101-87 on Covington’s 3-pointer.
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