Joel Embiid and Karl-Anthony Towns got into a brawl that overshadowed a rout on the court.
Embiid scored 19 points before he was ejected for fighting with Towns, and the Philadelphia 76ers cruised to a 117-95 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday night for their fourth straight win to begin the season.
The Sixers were leading 75-55 midway through the third quarter when Embiid and Towns went at it. The two big men have a history of talking trash to each other. After they got tangled under the basket, Embiid shoved Towns, who answered with a punch that missed as both men fell to the floor. Ben Simmons jumped in and forcefully held Towns down as other players and coaches ran onto the court to separate everyone.
“I didn’t throw any punches, so I shouldn’t get suspended,” Embiid said.
ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported Thursday morning that the Wolves are rejecting the notion that Simmons served as a "peacemaker" in the incident. After the game, Simmons told reporters that he's "always got my teammate's back." Wojnarowski also reports that NBA executive vice president of basketball operations Kiki VanDeWeghe was in contact with the Sixers' and Timberwolves' front offices.
Wojnarowski also reported that the Sixers and GM Elton Brand are communicating to the NBA that they believe Towns was the aggressor in the scuffle.
Sources: Sixers and Brand are communicating to the NBA that they believe KAT was the aggressor in the scuffle with Joel Embiid. Also, they've "doubled-down" on referee assessment that Simmons was peacemaker --- and delivered that message to league office too. https://t.co/JOdGrWgeiC— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) October 31, 2019
Embiid and Towns were tossed after a video review.
“We deemed the altercation a fight. Therefore, by rule, they’re both ejected,” said Mark Ayotte, the officials’ crew chief. “I just saw them each lock arms. And that escalated to the fight.”
Embiid shadowboxed to the crowd’s delight on his way back to the locker room. Fans responded with “MVP!” chants.
“I was built for this city,” Embiid said. “The love they have for me, I can’t thank them enough. I appreciate all the love. That reaction was probably the loudest I ever heard them. That’s what the city of Philadelphia is all about. You gotta come in here, you gotta fight, you gotta play hard, you gotta be gritty, you gotta be a Broad Street Bully. We’re gonna keep on fighting and try to accomplish the goal we have set for us.”
Towns downplayed the fight.
“It’s a competitive game. As a team, we need to play better with our system. We didn’t execute our game plan,” he said. “I’m disappointed in the (loss). I don’t think we played our game. We were playing a different type of basketball. It wasn’t what got us to 3-0. We can learn a lot from this game.”
Embiid said the fight “happened out of nowhere,” but added: “I like to get in people’s mind.”
Sixers coach Brett Brown said he’s not concerned that Embiid will receive a suspension.
“I don’t see punches being thrown (by Embiid) and I don’t believe he was the instigator,” Brown said.
Here are the referee's comments to the pool reporter after the game:
Transcript: NBA Referee Mark Ayotte Comments to Pool Reporter after Timberwolves-76ers Game. pic.twitter.com/5OFAQpwbIO— NBA Official (@NBAOfficial) October 31, 2019
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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