The Philadelphia 76ers won their grudge match against Ben Simmons and the Brooklyn Nets 137-133 on Wednesday as Damian Lillard erupted for 60 points in Portland’s victory over Utah.
After an acrimonious split from Philadelphia last year, Simmons returned to his former home to face a hostile reception from the Sixers crowd.
The game marked the first time that Simmons has faced former team-mate Joel Embiid since his trade to Brooklyn last February that sent James Harden to Philadelphia.
Simmons left Philadelphia last year after locker-room tensions with Embiid, and the lingering bad blood was evident from the outset.
The high-scoring first quarter was dogged by trash-talking as the sides scored 41 points apiece and gave up a combined 13 fouls.
Despite his team coming away with the win, Sixers coach Doc Rivers was unhappy with Philadelphia’s “emotional” approach to the game.
“There’s a difference between intensity, playing with emotion and being too emotional,” Rivers said afterwards.
“I thought our side honestly were on the wrong side of that a lot tonight. We have to be better at handling our emotions.”
Tyrese Maxey led the Sixers’ scoring with 27 points, while Embiid finished with 26 and Harden 23.
Seth Curry led Brooklyn’s scorers with 32 points while Kyrie Irving added 30. Simmons was restricted to 12 points.
Lillard hits 60
In Portland, Lillard bagged the fourth 60-point performance of his career as the Trail Blazers won a thrilling shoot-out with the Utah Jazz 134-124.
Lillard nailed nine three-pointers while shooting 21 of 29 from the field as Portland improved to 23-25 in the Western Conference standings.
“That was incredible,” Blazers coach Chauncey Billups said of Lillard’s performance. “You don’t get to see that very often.”
Lillard is one of only six players in NBA history with multiple 60-point games. Wilt Chamberlain holds the record with 32 60-pointers, while Kobe Bryant achieved the feat six times.
The other players on the list are Michael Jordan (5), Elgin Baylor (4) and Harden (4).
“Even when things weren’t going our way, I always felt I could get us back in the game,” Lillard said afterwards.
“When you get in that type of zone you feel like you can control the outcome.”
Elsewhere Wednesday, Jordan Poole hit a go-ahead layup with 2.4 seconds remaining to give the NBA champion Golden State Warriors a thrilling 122-120 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies in San Francisco.
A frenzied clash between the two Western Conference rivals saw Stephen Curry ejected for only the third time in his career.
Curry was tossed out of the game with 1min 14 remaining after throwing his mouthguard in frustration after a rushed three-point attempt by Poole.
However Poole made up for it with his game-winning layup to seal victory in a see-saw clash that saw no fewer than 24 lead changes.
Despite the ejection, Curry led the Warriors’ scoring with 34 points, making 10 of 19 from the field.
Klay Thompson added 24 points while Poole finished with 21 points.
Ja Morant led the Memphis scoring with 29 points.
In Los Angeles meanwhile, Anthony Davis returned from a 20-game injury absence for the Lakers with 21 points in their 113-104 win over the San Antonio Spurs.
LeBron James added 20 points while Patrick Beverley chipped in with 18.
In other games on Wednesday, Giannis Antetokounmpo’s 33-point haul helped the Milwaukee Bucks score a 107-99 victory over the Western Conference-leading Denver Nuggets.
Antetokounmpo delivered a dominant display which also included 14 rebounds and three steals as the Bucks took full advantage of the absence of Nikola Jokic to defeat Denver.
Aaron Gordon led the Nuggets’ scoring with 26 points.