While the Sixers were able to hold on and win Game 3 without him, James Harden was fuming after the game about the flagrant foul 2 and ejection he was given near the end of the third quarter on Thursday (Twitter video link).
As Tim Bontemps of ESPN writes, the game’s referees ruled that Harden made “excessive” contact to Royce O’Neale‘s groin while trying to create space against the Nets defender. The Sixers star referred to the decision as “unacceptable” and said he didn’t get an explanation from the officials during the game.
“First time I’ve been ejected. I’m not labeled as a dirty player, and I didn’t hit him in a private area. Somebody is draped on you like that defensively, that’s a natural basketball reaction,” Harden said. “I didn’t hit him hard enough for him to fall down like that. But for a flagrant 2, it’s unacceptable. This is a playoff game. We’ve seen around the league, things are much worse than what that play was. Honestly, I didn’t think it was a foul on me. But that’s unacceptable. It can’t happen.”
While Harden was ejected, his Sixers teammate Joel Embiid avoided a similar fate early in the first quarter. After falling to the floor, Embiid kicked Nets center Nic Claxton when Claxton tried to step over him (Twitter video link). The star center was assessed a flagrant foul 1, but was permitted to remain in the game, much to the chagrin of Nets head coach Jacque Vaughn.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen that in my career before,” Vaughn said. “For a guy to intentionally kick someone in an area that none of us want to be kicked at or towards, for him to continue to play, I’ve never seen that before in a game and a guy continues to play. Intentional.”
Here’s more from around the Atlantic:
- Claxton’s energy and fight helped keep the Nets in the game on Thursday, but his exuberance got the better of him when he picked up his second technical for taunting Embiid (Twitter video link) and was ejected from the game in the fourth quarter, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post. “Yeah, when I watched it, it was a little excessive. I got to keep my emotions in check,” Claxton said after the game. “They need me out there. So that’s part of my growth, just keeping my emotions like that when I’m playing well and my emotions are really high. I got to look myself in the mirror and just be smarter in those situations.”
- Shortly after arriving in Boston last summer, Celtics guard Malcolm Brogdon stressed that he was focused on team – rather than individual – success. He reiterated that message earlier this week, just a couple days before being named the NBA’s Sixth Man of The Year, per Jared Weiss of The Athletic. “All these awards are team awards,” Brogdon said when asked about the possibility of earning Sixth Man of The Year honors. “It takes a team for anybody to get an award because there’s always five guys on the floor. It would be great for the organization, the Celtics, to have me win the award.”
- Raptors president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri will hold his end-of-season media session on Friday, over a week after the team’s season came to an end. Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca wonders if Ujiri may have delayed his usual spring presser a little this year in the hopes of gaining more clarity on the team’s coaching situation.