Philadelphia 76ers stars Joel Embiid and James Harden will face no further punishment from the league for their actions in Game 3 of the team's first-round series against the Brooklyn Nets and will be available for Game 4. Harden was ejected for a Flagrant 2 foul, while Embiid received a Flagrant 1 in separate incidents in the Sixers' 102-97 win on Thursday night.
"There are varying degrees of things that reach the level of a Flagrant Foul Penalty 2," NBA Senior Vice President, Head of Referee Development and Training Monty McCutchen said on NBA Today. "Some are right at the limit of Flagrant Foul Penalty 2 or Flagrant Foul Penalty 1 and therefore the in-game penalites suffice. Some exceed those extremes that need a post-game upgrade in terms of further punishment. In this instance, the league felt that the in-game punishments were appropriate."
after Nic Claxton dunked on Embiid, sending the big man to the ground in the process. Claxton then stepped over Embiid, who kicked his leg up. Embiid was given a Flagrant 1 for the unnecessary contact, while Claxton received a technical foul.
"I don't think I've ever seen that in my career before," Nets coach Jacque Vaughn said. "For a guy to intentionally kick someone in an area that none of us want to be kicked at, or towards, and for him to continue to play. I've never seen that before in a game and a guy continues to be able to play. Intentional."
. With seconds remaining in the third quarter, Harden was driving to the basket and extended an arm to create some space against Royce O'Neal. His arm struck the Nets forward below the belt and Harden was given his marching orders.
"Unacceptable flagrant 2," Harden said. "The first time I've been ejected. I'm not labeled as a dirty player. I didn't hit him in the private area. Somebody draped on you like that defensively, it's just a natural basketball reaction. I didn't hit him hard enough for him to fall down like that. For a Flagrant 2, it's unacceptable. This is a playoff game. You've seen it around the league, things that are much more worse than what that play was — honestly I don't think that was a foul. That's unacceptable. That can't happen."
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While Harden was understandably upset, the referees and the league did not agree with his view. McCutchen explained further that where the offending player makes contact in situations like this is a key aspect of determining the punishment.
"Where the contact takes place really is important," McCutchen said. "With Harden, it actually to the groin, with Embiid he hits the back of the hamstring, the back of the leg in a glancing blow to make sure he's getting Claxton off of him if you will. That preciseness is important when you're having to get the play adjudicated... We really do have to be precise about where that point of contact took place. Embiid's was on the back of the leg and Harden's was to the groin, and there is the distinction."
The good news for the Sixers is that they won the game anyway and will have both of their stars available for Game 4 when they'll have a chance to sweep the Nets and advance to the second round.