NBA basketball is back, and the Boston Celtics couldn’t have started their season out on a better note. They took down the Philadelphia 76ers 126-117 as Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown combined to score 70 points. There were plenty of positives to take away from the night, but one negative incident stands out among the rest.
Early in the third quarter, Joel Embiid and Marcus Smart got tangled up while fighting for a rebound. Smart’s forearm got caught under Embiid’s elbow, and the Sixers big man yanked it when pulling the ball away, causing the Celtics guard to fall down in a heap.
Smart took exception to the maneuver, grabbing at Embiid’s ankle and causing him to fall over. This led to a scuffle which ended with Smart picking up a personal foul for the reach-in and a technical foul for the extracurriculars.
Smart and Embiid getting chippy pic.twitter.com/xkTEFj2NgU— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) October 19, 2022
The Celtics point guard was very unhappy with the way things went down after the game. He said that he would have been ejected if he had pulled a move like the one Embiid did.
“Went for a rebound. Basketball play. Went for the steal. Basketball play. Referee blows his whistle, calls a foul. I stopped play, my arm’s still stuck in there and he tries to break it. And then I’m the only one who gets a tech. I mean, everybody saw it. I don’t have to keep talking about it. If I did that, I’m probably ejected, suspended three games, four games, fines. But the fact that I was the only one who got something out of that is kind of beyond me. Especially the defending DPOY, and that’s how he gets treated? It’s tough. But, like I said, it’s maturity. I could have cracked his head open, but I didn’t. And that’s the maturity we had. So, we move on from it, it is what it is, and we control what we can control.”
Smart and Embiid have a bit of a history. During a 2019 game between the two teams, Embiid set a hard screen on Smart, knocking him to the ground. This prompted Smart to get up and shove Embiid in the back, which led to an altercation between the two teams.
Since then, they’ve made some backhanded comments toward one another. In January of 2021, Embiid shot 21 free throws in a game where the Celtics as a team only attempted 20. Smart accused Embiid of flailing, and in turn, Embiid pointed a finger back at the Celtics guard.
Needless to say, the beef between the two players runs deep. But Smart wasn’t alone in this battle. Brown was right there, ready to back his teammate up. As soon as Embiid pulled Smart to the ground, Brown ran over and ended up standing over Embiid.
“I seen the play. First, I thought that the rest of the game, Embiid was getting away with a lot of unnecessary pushing and shoving. Just being a big guy, that’s what he do, but he was throwing his weight around a little bit. I said something before in that moment, but they kind of let it go, brushed it off. So, in that play… it seemed like he was trying to hurt Smart, in a sense. Instincts just came right over… We got each other’s backs out there. We not taking no mess this year.”
Brown isn’t quite as fiery on the court as Smart, but he was fully prepared to go to war for his teammate. He even stuck a finger in Embiid’s face after the incident, assumedly accusing him of foul play.
He wasn’t the only Celtic with a firsthand look at the situation, though. Obviously, all the players were there to witness the altercation, but Grant Williams had a funny perspective. The Boston forward said that Embiid’s reaction to Smart grabbing at his ankle wasn’t genuine, calling it a “FIFA-type ordeal.”
“I think that, at the time, I think it was a rebound. Smart kind of had his arm locked in with Jo. Smart took a disliking to the rip of it, because his elbow was locked out. I didn’t think the trip was that bad. Like, he tripped him and Joel fell backwards. So, I think that was more of a FIFA-type ordeal. But, you know, we just have to stay locked in. When it happened, Al [Horford] brought us in together and said, ‘don’t let this affect how we approach every single play, how we lock in. Stay locked in. Let it affect them. Let’s be ourselves. Let’s be who we are.’ And we did a good job of that, just staying focused, letting every possession come to us. We did a great job of responding.”
From the moment of the incident on, the Celtics would outscore the 76ers 63-54. Boston won’t see Philadelphia again until February 8, when they’ll be back at TD Garden once again. But for now, the Celtics have to focus on the Miami Heat, as they’ll be traveling down for their first away game of the season on Friday night. That game tips off at 7:30 p.m. EST.