The Boston Celtics took home a 110-107 win on Saturday night against the Philadelphia 76ers at Wells Fargo Center. It was familiar territory for these two teams, who’ve faced off in countless dogfights and playoff series over the past few seasons. With the Celtics win, they are 3-0 against the Sixers, and will have the chance to sweep the season series on April 4th.
The rivalry between theses franchises is fierce and competitive, and it’s clear that the two opponents do not like each other one bit. That animosity is reciprocated by the fans, and some lines were crossed multiple times in Boston’s win on Saturday. Multiple Celtics players shared their encounters after the game.
“I just look at it as each and every game, you take it with a grain of salt” said Jaylen Brown to NBC Sports Boston’s Abby Chin, “I’m sure we’ll see them again down the line, so [we’ll] just be ready when it’s time to go. It’s fun playing here [in Philly]. The crowd was a little bit hostile in moments, there were people on the side talking crazy, etcetera. But, you persevere, you make some plays, and you get the win.”
When asked if he enjoys that, Brown said “It depends. I started talking to one of the fans, because it got a little bit excessive, a little bit disrespectful, stuff like that.” Hostile crowds are no surprise in the NBA, including Boston, who heckled Klay Thompson and Draymond Green with vitriol and expletives during the Finals. Fans overstepping certain boundaries has gotten worse over the past few years, with other instances happening in Utah, Indiana, Milwaukee, and even in Los Angeles involving known Lebron fan Shannon Sharpe and Tee Morant.
Philadelphia was no exception, and according to Jaylen Brown, he even had some seriously messed up comments thrown at him as he entered the arena. “Even before the game, we were entering the arena, there were people saying ‘oh, I hope you tear your ACL.’ I understand people care and they love the team that they cheer for, but I think it gets a little excessive at times.” When Abby Chin asked if this happened outside of the hotel the team was staying at, Brown confirmed it. As of now, Jaylen Brown is out for Monday night’s matchup against the Knicks, although it’s unclear if there’s any correlation between his status and the comments made at him in Philly.
Celtics’ Marcus Smart getting into it with a Sixers fan during the timeout.— Josue Pavón (@Joe_Sway) February 26, 2023
No word on what was said but that fan was just kicked out pic.twitter.com/lNbZnLuG6D
In addition to Jaylen Brown, both Al Horford and Marcus Smart exchanged words with fans during the game, with at least one fan being removed after a verbal altercation with Smart. It was never made clear what was said between the fan and the players, but Smart was clearly animated as Grant Williams and Blake Griffin stood nearby while arena security had the heckler removed from his courtside seats.
looks like Al Horford had some words for a courtside fan after he hit his 3rd straight 3. Celtics cut 15-point deficit down to 4.— Souichi Terada | 寺田惣一 (@SouichiTerada) February 26, 2023
During Al Horford’s big run late in the game to cut into the deficit, the former Sixer drained four straight threes as he was exchanging words with someone in the crowd. Horford’s time in the City of Brotherly Love was extremely brief, and things came full circle as he came back to Boston for a career resurgence. “I like it,” said Horford on the back-and-forth with the Sixers fan, “I take it as respect. I wasn’t having my best game offensively, I feel like that kind of got me going.”
It’s unclear what was said to Horford, but he clearly used it as extra motivation and came up big for Boston in the moment. But the fact of the matter is, there needs to be something said when it comes to fan interactions and comments directed at players. Cheering expletives at players on national TV isn’t a good look, but chants and boos should be expected whether it’s in poor taste or not.
However, when it comes to wishing a player harm, or directly insulting a player in a one-on-one interaction, or racially-charged language directed at a player, or even death threats to players and their families, it’s a whole different realm of wrong. That’s not normal behavior, and it certainly isn’t something that fans should feel comfortable doing. They might seem larger-than-live, but NBA players are people with emotions and feelings, and it’s insane that this needs to be reinforced for some people.
The more aggravating wrinkle is what feels like an uptick in technical fouls assessed league-wide, after the NBRA released their “Respect for the Game” initiative back in October. NBA players aren’t able to freely express emotions without risking a tech, while fans continue to overstep and sling verbal barrages at guys wearing the jersey of a team they don’t like. Fans need to be better, and as for the NBA, there needs to be more than just lip service when it comes to promoting mental health, especially after the experience that John Wall was brave enough to share.