Joel Embiid convinced himself he had to remain on the court despite labouring throughout the game and maybe being fortunate not to get disqualified for kicking a Nets player in the groyne region.
Even though the Nets continued striking him and making him lose his calm, he had to be there for his Philadelphia 76ers.
“You could tell what the strategy was. “You’ve got to hit him and frustrate me so I get ejected,” Embiid said. “So, I’m too mature to put myself in a position where I’ll be ejected, so I just went about my business, and we won.”
Due in part to his massive block at the conclusion.
With 8.8 seconds remaining, Embiid blocked a potential game-tying shot, and the 76ers defeated Brooklyn 102-97 to take a 3-0 lead in the first-round series.
Tyrese Maxey hit the game-winning 3-pointer with 44 seconds remaining for the 76ers, who can advance to the second round with a win Saturday in Brooklyn.
With James Harden disqualified for another groyne shot in the third quarter and Embiid not looking like his typical dominating self, Maxey took over the offence and scored eight consecutive baskets, converting a five-point deficit into a 99-96 advantage on his 3-pointer.
“Tonight, when our ballhandler, our leader, went out, take that role in the fourth quarter and help us get into our stuff, help us win the game,” Maxey said.
Spencer Dinwiddie hit one free throw and seemed to be on his way to the rim for a game-tying layup but Embiid leaped up and swatted it away. P.J. Tucker’s free throw made it 100-97, and the Nets turned the ball over on the following possession.
For the 76ers, Maxey had 25 points and Harden had 21. Embiid scored 14 points and 10 rebounds despite shooting 5 for 13.
Mikal Bridges had 26 points and Dinwiddie had 20 for the Nets, who have now lost nine consecutive playoff games and are on the danger of being swept for the second year in a row. Cam Johnson led all scorers with 17 points.
“I told the group they didn’t give up, and they grew up tonight,” said Nets coach Jacque Vaughn.
After checking out in the first quarter, Embiid went to the locker room for treatment and was limping many times afterwards.
The 76ers were fortunate that he was still in the game at that time.
Nets fans booed him for not being ejected in the first quarter for kicking his leg up towards Nic Claxton’s groyne after the Nets centre jumped over him after he dunked and Embiid fouled him and fell to the floor. Those who weren’t in the stadium turned to social media to question why he wasn’t ejected, as Golden State’s Draymond Green was in Game 2 of their series for stomping on Sacramento’s Domantas Sabonis. The NBA then banned Green for Game 3.
Claxton was penalised for a technical foul and was dismissed in the fourth quarter after receiving a second.
However, the verdict went against the 76ers in the third quarter when Harden flung out his arm and whacked the swingman, who dropped to the ground in agony.
Crew leader Tony Brothers said that Harden’s direct groyne touch constituted his punishment a flagrant 2, but Embiid’s was not due to his area of contact.
The Nets jumped off to a 19-11 lead, riding an emotional high from Embiid’s flagrant foul. However, Philadelphia recovered to lead 32-28 after one quarter, 51-40 on Maxey’s 3-pointer with 3:52 remaining in the half, and the margin stayed 11 at the half.
However, Bridges got the Nets off to a fast start in the third quarter, and Johnson scored 13 points to help the Nets outscore the 76ers 35-18 in the third quarter to take an 82-76 lead into the fourth.
TIP-INS 76ers: Tobias Harris led all scorers with 15 points.
Nets: Brooklyn’s previous postseason victory came in Game 5 of the 2021 Eastern Conference playoffs, when Milwaukee recovered to win the series and ultimately the NBA championship. In the playoffs, the Nets were 0-6 against the 76ers at home. They are 4-5 on the road, with one victory in 2019 and three in 1984, when they defeated the reigning NBA champions 3-2 in the first round.
Doc Rivers, the 76ers’ coach, was responding to a question about how the Nets were guarding Harden when he divulged something that caused some perplexed stares in the room.
“I don’t want to sound like I’m campaigning, but I am,” remarked Rivers. “In terms of missed foul calls, James and Joel lead the league.” They were fouled the most, which is not a Sixers statistic. I’m just saying.”
When asked for further information regarding this statistic, Rivers merely said, “I will just say that it’s a stat that we know is there.”