Brooklyn Nets center Nic Claxton reacts with forward Cameron Johnson...

Brooklyn Nets center Nic Claxton reacts with forward Cameron Johnson afar being called for a second technical foul during an NBA Round One Game Three Playoff game against the Philadelphia 76ers at Barclays Center on Thursday, April 20, 2023. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Before the Nets and 76ers began their playoff series Saturday, Nic Claxton knew 76ers center Joel Embiid wouldn’t be shy talking on the court. He couldn’t get frustrated if Embiid dominated with his play or his mouth.

It backfired in Game 3 Thursday at Barclays Center. Claxton was fouled by Embiid after a first quarter dunk and stepped over the 76ers center, earning a kick in the groin from Embiid. In the fourth quarter, they met again with Claxton dunking over Embiid and taunting him while glaring down the court.

Embiid received a flagrant foul-1 for his kick. Claxton, however, got separate technical fouls in both incidents and was ejected, which he thought he deserved.

“It was a little excessive,” Claxton said of his actions. “I got to keep my emotions in check. My team, they needed me out there. That’s a part of my growth.”

The Nets were outscored 21-10 after Claxton left and now trail 3-0 to the 76ers. It was even more painful since Claxton had an efficient 18-point game, shooting 8-for-9 from the field.

Royce O’Neale called it a big loss given how well Claxton held his own against Embiid.

“Those moments we need him, he knows that. He’s played with a lot of emotion, he played well for the whole game. It got us going,’ O’Neale said.

Coach Jacque Vaughn called it a teaching moment. As mad as he was Embiid wasn’t ejected, Vaughn also hoped Claxton learned from his own mistake.

“I told the group they didn’t give up, they grew up tonight,” Vaughn said. “Whether that is Nic understanding how important he is to us, he and I conversated after the first tech. I warned him no hanging on the rim, nothing extra, to get himself kicked out.”

Claxton was well-versed in Embiid’s baiting tactics but he got a harsh reminder how costly it can be going too far to match him word for word.

It'll debatable whether or not Claxton should’ve been ejected since taunting is normal. But facing elimination in Game 4, he took accountability watching his team give back a lead and not being able to help in a must-win game.

“I was just trying to calm my emotions down but this is a good, growing lesson for me. I’m definitely going to use today for my career,” Claxton said.

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