With 7:42 left in the third quarter and the Nets holding a six-point lead over the 76ers, a playoff basketball game broke out Saturday afternoon at Barclays Center and spilled into the seats on the baseline.
Sixers center Joel Embiid decked Nets center Jarrett Allen with a flagrant 1 foul for the second time in the series, prompting the Nets’ Jared Dudley to rush to his teammate’s defense and challenge Embiid.
Dudley chest-bumped Embiid and then was shoved from behind by 76ers guard Jimmy Butler, who drove Dudley into the baseline seats. Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons also went into the seats as players from both teams tried to get the shoving match under control.
Ultimately, Dudley and Butler were ejected. Embiid went on to dominate with 12 points and six rebounds in the fourth quarter of the 76ers’ 112-108 comeback victory in Game 4 that gave them a 3-1 series lead.
Dudley said his reaction was exacerbated by the fact that Embiid elbowed Allen in the face in Game 2 and then laughed about it with Simmons in the postgame news conference. “I thought it was just a good push to let him know we’re not having it today,” Dudley said. “I got pushed, which was fine. We get up, we go our separate ways. Double tech. For them to eject not only Jimmy but myself is just ridiculous. No punches were thrown.”
Asked if he intended to send a message, Dudley said, “Sure, it was a message. Joel Embiid is second in the league in flagrant fouls. So for that elbow he had before just to have a flagrant 1, no fine, laughing in the media, if you think a team I play on is going to have that, you’ve got another think coming . . . On this team, you stand up when you have to stand up.”
Allen downplayed the effect of Embiid’s foul, saying, “Honestly, I think it looked worse than it was. It was just another hard foul. I think it’s time to move on again.”
At the same time, he understood Dudley’s purpose in coming to his defense. “I love that he did that,” Allen said. “I don’t think we needed to go to that extent, but Jared Dudley wanted to show that we’re here to stay. We’re not going to give up. We’re going to fight until the end.”
Dudley had eight points and five assists and was doing an excellent defensive job on Simmons. Asked if it might have changed the game, he said, “Possibly. I was playing well. Me taking Ben Simmons out of the game, making other people have to play. This was going to the wire either way.”
Officials crew chief Ed Malloy told a reporter that Embiid received a flagrant 1 “because there was a windup with unnecessary contact that we didn’t deem to be excessive.” Dudley and Butler were ejected, Malloy said, “for their role as escalators, taking a situation that was under control and escalating it to a heightened altercation.”
Despite the impact of the ejection, D’Angelo Russell praised Dudley for his actions in response to repeated bullying by Embiid. “We’ve seen hard plays, we’ve seen hard fouls go against Jarrett Allen the last few games,” he said. “It just happened from the same player. For Jared Dudley to step up and react like that, I thought it was necessary because we’re getting the bottom end of that and the results of it.
“For one of our players to be on the ground after every hard play like that, that’s not what it’s going to be. If those guys [refs] aren’t seeing it from our perspective, we see it from that perspective. We’re going to handle it our own ways.”