Dave McMenaminESPN Staff WriterClose
- Lakers and NBA reporter for ESPN.
- Covered the Lakers and NBA for ESPNLosAngeles.com from 2009-14, the Cavaliers from 2014-18 for ESPN.com and the NBA for NBA.com from 2005-09.
“He came in here and said a few cuss words — shocked me a little bit to tell the truth,” said Jimmy Butler, describing Brown’s tirade. “But I like it; that is the type of energy I love — make sure everybody did their job, letting them know we can’t have it, it’s not winning basketball — and we came out and did what we were supposed to do.”
Sixers backup center Boban Marjanovic said it was the angriest he has ever seen Brown. “He’s supposed to do that,” Marjanovic added. “He gave us that energy to show us what we can do.”
It might have taken a game and a half, but the No. 3-seeded Sixers finally arrived at their first-round series against No. 6-seeded Nets with the type of effort that could take them places in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Leading by just one at the half after dropping Saturday’s Game 1 at home to fall behind in the series, the Sixers outscored the Nets 51-23 in the third quarter with a dazzling display of precision on both ends.
Joel Embiid, a game-time decision because of discomfort in his left knee, got things started, going on a personal 8-0 run. Embiid’s spark extended to the entire team as Philadelphia pushed the run to 21-2 in the first four minutes of the quarter. Philadelphia shot 6-for-8 (corralling the offensive rebound on both of those misses) while Brooklyn went just 1-for-8 (0-for-3 on 3-pointers) with three turnovers in that span.
“I mean, I was out there playing for my teammates,” said Embiid, who finished with 23 points and 10 rebounds in 21 minutes, sitting out the fourth quarter with the win all but secure. “I feel like we as a group, sometimes they need me, and I just felt like just playing through the pain and playing for them, and I just really tried to give whatever I can.”
Embiid, asked after the game about a potential left ankle injury, said he was fine despite rolling his foot in the fourth quarter when Nets forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson stepped on it while going up for a basket near the rim. Embiid left the game, went to the bench and grabbed the ankle, wincing. But he stayed on the bench and did not appear to receive treatment for an injury.
Embiid’s third-quarter outburst wouldn’t have been possible if not for the referees allowing him to stay in the game after reviewing a foul he made on the Nets’ Jarrett Allen, catching the big man in the face with his left elbow with 35.6 seconds left in the second quarter. The officials deemed it a flagrant 1 after consulting video of the contact. A flagrant 2 would have disqualified Philadelphia’s All-Star center.
“I saw the replay and obviously it wasn’t intentional,” Embiid said. “I got him pretty good, and I’m sorry about it.”
As Embiid apologized during his postgame news conference, he and Ben Simmons started laughing.
“I’m not usually humble, that’s why he’s laughing,” Embiid said. “But, yeah, I was just trying to be aggressive.”
Brooklyn coach Kenny Atkinson sidestepped a question about the severity of Embiid’s punishment for the elbow.
“I think their coach said before the series started that it’s going to be a fistfight, and they threw a couple punches,” Atkinson said. “And I have no comment on the call or anything. Again, very, very physical. Great experience for our guys to understand what playoff basketball is all about. I know this: We have to respond.”
Nets forward Rodions Kurucs showed some physicality shortly after the Embiid-Allen encounter, getting called for a flagrant 1 of his own for slamming his body into Simmons while positioning for a rebound with 2.1 seconds remaining in the half.
Kurucs told reporters afterward that the contact was motivated by Simmons’ dismissive comments on Sunday about the defense by Jared Dudley and “that kid” on him in Game 1. Kurucs took the “that kid” comment to be about him. “I want to let him know that he knows my name,” Kurucs said, according to The Athletic. “I’ll play hard. I’ll go at him, and I’m not scared of him.”
Simmons (18 points, 10 rebounds, 12 assists) posted his second career triple-double, and Brown credited Simmons’ third-quarter defense on D’Angelo Russell (0-for-2 in the third; 6-for-16 for the game) as keying Philly’s run.
Simmons had some fun with the crowd, too, holding his hand up to his ear to prompt more cheers the way Allen Iverson used to do, a game after the Philadelphia faithful let the Sixers hear it for their poor effort in the series opener.
“I was thinking about the boos from last game,” Simmons said.
As the series shifts to Brooklyn for Game 3 on Thursday, there could be more boos in store for Simmons and the Sixers.
“But I got a lot of love for this city,” Simmons added. “The fans here know that every time I step on the floor, I try to play as hard as I can, and I was just showing that. The hustle I give every game is not only for my teammates, not only for my family — it’s for this city.”