Officiating leaves something to be desired in Nets’ Game 3 loss to Sixers

Philadelphia 76ers’ James Harden (1) leaves the court after being ejected for a flagrant foul during the second half of Game 3 against the Brooklyn Nets during the first round of the NBA basketball playoffs Thursday, April 20, 2023, in New York.
AP Photo/Frank Franklin II

BROOKLYN — Even with the explanation from crew chief Tony Brothers, little made sense of several of the calls in the Nets Game 3 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers.

Joel Embiid remained in the game despite kicking Nic Claxton near his groin area, yet James Harden was issued a flagrant 2 and ejected for something that seemed far less serious than Embiid’s incident earlier in the game. To add insult to injury, Nic Claxton was given a technical foul later in the game, his second of the night, which resulted in an automatic ejection. 

Those were just the tip of the icebergs on Thursday night as the officials took the spotlight as much as Embiid, the Sixers and the Nets. 

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen that in my career before,” Jacque Vaughn said about the Embiid foul. “For a guy to intentionally kick someone in an area that none of us want to be kicked at or towards and for him to continue to play, I’ve never seen that before in a game. And a guy continues to be able to play. Intentional.”

Embiid incident with Claxton occurred after the Nets’ center made a play over the Sixers star knocking him to the ground. Claxton stepped over his legs, which appeared to prompt Embiid to kick Claxton.

In an explanation to a pool reporter, Brothers said a Flagrant 1 was issued to Embiid because the contact was deemed unnecessary, but with the point of contact being the leg it didn’t rise to the level of excessive. Replay appeared to show Embiid kicking Claxton between his legs and catching him on his inner thigh area. 

“I mean, it’s the MVP. I thought he should have been kicked out,” Claxton said after the game about the incident. “Like I said it’s not my job to referee. Maybe I should have sold it more instead of just clapping on the ground, like I was really, really hurt; but just gotta move on.”

Embiid said that he didn’t remember the incident when he spoke to the media afterward.

“I don’t know,” Embiid said with a bit of coyness. “I don’t remember. Like I said, we’re up 3-0, we move on, it takes me a lot to process a game after that type of fight. So I gotta go watch the tape, see what we can do better or what I can do better. I’m just happy to get the win.”

The decision became even more perplexing when Harden was assessed an ejection after making contact with Royce O’Neale in what appeared to be his chest area. O’Neale certainly sold it a bit more and the refs sent Harden to the locker room early.

“Based on the point of contact directly to the groin, it rose to the level of excessive and ejection,” Brothers explained about that play.

The officiating wasn’t the cause of the Nets’ loss, but the lack of consistency had to have been frustrating for Brooklyn.  

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