Even though Philadelphia have taken a third-consecutive victory in their playoff series against Brooklyn with a 102-97 triumph this Thursday at the Barclays Center, the match was stained by many polemic calls by the referees which resulted in ejections for both squads.
And we aren’t talking about the ejection of any regular player, we are talking about veteran star James Harden, who was suspended late in the third quarter after officials considered that the guard hit Royce O’Neal in the groin.
The officials interpreted that he intentionally striked his opponent as the 10-time All-Star was driving towards the basket. Take a look at the exact moment when Harden was taken out of the contest and judge it yourselves:
James Harden has been ejected from Sixers-Nets Game 3 for his groin shot to Royce O’Neale 👀
Good ejection or bad ejection?pic.twitter.com/PdOV69VuZ6
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) April 21, 2023
The play was even more controversial considering that prior to this moment, Philly big man Joel Embiid avoided an ejection from the match after kicking Nets center Nic Claxton after he dunked the ball and tried to walk over the MVP candidate.
Recent decisions on ejections from the officials have baffled players, coaches, broadcasters and fans alike, as now everone is left uncertain with what constitutes a flagrant 2 foul. For example, Warriors’ Draymond Green was ejected and suspended a game for a play that seems similar to Embiid’s kick last night.
After the match, Harden told the press he was bewildered over the decision to remove him this playoff matchup declaring that he “didn’t hit him in the private area.
“Somebody draped on you like that defensively, it’s just a natural basketball reaction. I didn’t hit him hard enough for him to fall down like that. For a flagrant 2, it’s unacceptable. This is a playoff game,” he said.
Harden added that these types of rash decisions must stop. “I don’t think that was a foul. That’s unacceptable. That can’t happen,” he assured.
The referee crew chief for last night’s clash, Tony Brothers, explained the ejection once the game came to an end. “Based on the point of contact directly to the groin, it rose to the level of excessive and ejection,” he said.
Both 76ers and Nets coaches shared the same confusion over the officiating
“No, I have no idea what an ejection 2 is,” admitted Doc Rivers, head coach of the Philadelphia 76ers.
Ironically enough, Brooklyn’s head coach Jacque Vaughn also shared his rival’s uncertainty as the play came just days after Draymond Green was ejected for a similar action and the coach was not satisfied with the fact that Embiid stayed on court after he kicked Claxton.