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Knicks-76ers: Joel Embiid’s strong Game 3 start marred by several controversial, arguably dirty plays

No NBA team has ever overcome a 3-0 playoff deficit to win a series, and Joel Embiid seemingly came into Game 2 against the New York Knicks knowing that. A home loss would drop his Philadelphia 76ers into a 3-0 deficit, and Embiid posted a huge 17-point first half to try to keep his team alive. However, his play hasn’t been the story in this critical game.

No. Through only two quarters of basketball, Embiid has already committed several fouls that range from “hard” to “probably dirty.” Two of them were committed in the same general region against different Knicks. In the first quarter, Embiid was assessed an offensive foul for seemingly hitting Knicks center Isaiah Hartenstein in the groin. In the second quarter, on a shot attempt, Embiid swung his leg upward unnecessarily and hit New York’s other center, Mitchell Robinson, in the groin as well.

Those plays, however, paled in comparison to another foul Embiid committed against Robinson. In the first quarter, Embiid got knocked to the ground by OG Anunoby near the basket. Anunoby passed the ball to Robinson, but Embiid, from the ground, grabbed Robinson’s leg and pulled him down to ground as well. He was assessed only a flagrant-1 foul for the play.

The NBA’s official rulebook determines that a flagrant foul penalty 2, which triggers an automatic ejection, is to be called “if contact committed against a player, with or without the ball, is interpreted to be unnecessary and excessive.” Obviously, this is a subjective definition. However, pulling a player’s foot from the ground while he’s attempting to jump not only seems excessively dangerous, but it is hardly a basketball play.

Robinson played through pain in the first half, but had a visible limp at points. He attempted to warm up to start the second half, but started the second half in the locker room and was eventually ruled out due to a left ankle injury. It is unclear what an impact the Embiid play had on him, as he was already listed as questionable due to an ankle injury entering Game 3, but it obviously did not help.

Whether a foul is dirty or simply part of the physical nature of the game is ultimately subjective. But Embiid got caught in that gray area three times in the first half alone. If nothing else, he’s making some enemies in New York tonight.

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