NEW YORK – What a game?
We saw Dealing Rings, Scare Ball, and Trash Talk 101 come together on Thursdays at the Barclays Center. Over time, people will remember it as the night the 76ers defeated the Brooklyn Nets, 102-97, in Game 3 of the first-round series.
But in the immediate aftermath, what stands out is the ejection of Sixers point guard James Harden, Nets quarterback Nick Claxton and a tough night for Sixers quarterback Joel Embiid, who was called up for committing 1 foul and had a sub-par game overall.
In the process, the Sixers nearly blew a golden opportunity to take a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
» Read more: After nearly clawing his way out of Game 3, Joel Embiid is lucky to learn from the win | David Murphy
But thanks to Tyrese Maxey and a late block from Embiid, people left the arena wondering: Are the Sixers getting closer to their first playoff series in 32 years? Or will the Brooklyn Nets somehow find a way to extend the series?
We’ll find out at 1pm on Saturday in Game 4.
Maxey scored 10 consecutive points in the fourth quarter to give the Sixers a 99-96 lead with 44.7 seconds left in the game. Maxi scored his first points in the second half at 3 minutes 8 seconds, then ran.
“All the way up the stretch, I knew because James was out, and I had the ball in my hand,” Maxey said. “Once you have the ball in your hands, you kind of dictate where the ball goes. So I’ve been trying to get it to Joel. If I can’t get it to Joel, it’s time to get in the paint and make a play for someone else or myself.”
Then with the Sixers leading, 99-97, Embiid blocked a Spencer Dinwiddie layup with 8.8 seconds left. PJ Tucker grabbed the rebound and fouled. Tucker split a pair of foul putts with 8.0 seconds left. Brooklyn’s blunder dunked De’Anthony Melton with 5.4 seconds left, giving the Sixers their five-point margin of victory.
Maxi finished with a team high of 25 points. Embiid scored 14 points on 5-for-13 shooting, along with 10 rebounds and two blocks. Harden recorded 21 points, five rebounds and four assists before being ejected.
Maxey said, “For us to rally, even after everything with James’ situation…to come back and win the game is big time.”
Harden received a 2-flagrant foul and returned to the locker room after hitting swingman Ross O’Neal in the groin with 13.6 seconds left in the third quarter. Harden was originally called for a common offensive foul, but the offense was upgraded after the referees reviewed the play.
Read more: Sixers star James Harden called his Flagrant 2 foul and Game 3 eviction ‘unacceptable’
Soon after, Claxton was ejected for taunting Embiid after dunking the Sixers’ center with 8:48 left. Claxton received his second technical foul for his actions, which resulted in his ejection.
“The game was horrible,” Sixers coach Doc Rivers said. “It really was. It was a tough match.”
Things got tough
The Sixers knew curling up would be more physical and become provocateurs. When asked about his team’s rebounding inconsistency before the game, Coach Jack Vaughn didn’t mince words.
“You have to hit somebody,” Vaughn said of being physical. “If you want to win, you will beat someone.”
Well, I chased after the net with Joel Embiid. It was clear that their game plan was to mess with the Sixers’ MVP. Their tactic seemed to work early on.
The Sixers avoided losing Embiid after things got heated up between him and Claxton.
Claxton dunked Embiid 2:26 into the game. Claxton pushed Embiid off balance onto the field during the play. Then he walked over and stood over the MVP frontrunner as he appeared to say something. Embiid responded by kicking Claxton in the groin.
But instead of sending Embiid off, he conceded a single blunt kick. Claxton received a technical foul for skipping Embiid.
“Contact was deemed unnecessary and based on the point of leg contact, it didn’t rise to the level of excessive,” crew chief Tony Brothers said of giving Embiid one blunt rather than sending him off.
» READ MORE: Therese Maxe Cuts Through Game 3 Mayhem To Help Lift Sixers To Beat Brooklyn Nets
The brothers were asked if Embiid didn’t get Flagrant 2 because of where the connection is.
“The point of contact dictates that it’s just unnecessary contact and not excessive, so yeah,” he said.
In other words, Embiid remained in the match due to his missed goal.
This led to the Brothers explaining why Harden awarded Dawn 2 to elbow O’Neale.
“Judging from the point of contact directly with the thigh, it went up to overdrive and undercut,” he said.
» READ MORE: Charles Barkley, Shaq Think Joel Embiid Should Have Been Fired From Sixers-Nets Game 3
But this was not Embiid’s only incident.
He had to be separated from another Nets player after a break later in the first quarter. He was taken out of the game with 1:39 left in the quarter and headed straight to the locker room. Embiid also appeared to sprain his ankle in the second quarter before spraining his knee while yelling ‘with Cam Johnson under the basket after the break.
“The whole game, you could see what they were doing,” Embiid said. “Just trying to get up on me. I’m so valuable. Especially after the first one.” [play]I just understood that I am very valuable to get into these things.
“This is the second time [someone] Hit me in the back [and] This has not been reviewed. My back, my knees, they hit me every time…and that’s okay. It works for them. But, you know, you have to go on.”
Read more: Forgetting to win is a must. The Sixers are in a must-have situation with the Celtics looming in the second round. | David Murphy
The second round is binding
No team in the NBA has ever come back from 3-0 down to win a playoff game, and only three sets have gone into game seven after one team opened with a 3-0 lead.
The last time the Sixers swept an opponent was when they beat the Milwaukee Bucks, 3-0, in a best-of-five series in 1991. The last time they swept a best-of-seven series was in second place. round against the Bucks in 1985. The NBA’s first-round playoff series went to a best-of-seven format in 2003.
marginalization of the house
Danuel House Jr. was a late scratch with a non-COVID illness.
House played a total of five minutes in a reserve role in the first two matches of the first round series. He grabbed two rebounds and missed his only shot attempt. This came after the forward averaged 4.8 points and 1.7 rebounds in 48 regular season games.
» READ MORE: Tobias Harris dismisses claim he was more aggressive at Sixers-Nets: ‘I’m always locked in’
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