Tempers in an already chippy first-round playoff series between the Philadelphia 76ers and Brooklyn Nets finally boiled over in Saturday afternoon’s Game 4 when Jimmy Butler and Jared Dudley were both ejected during the third quarter after a dust-up near the baseline that spilled into the seats.
Brooklyn’s Dudley sparked the extracurriculars after teammate Jarrett Allen’s landed hard after a foul by Joel Embiid, rushing in to shove the Sixers’ 7ft star center with two hands. Butler then hurried to Embiid’s defense, pushing Dudley from behind and the fracas tumbled into the floor seats beneath the Nets’ basket.
An extended video review resulted in a flagrant 1 foul for Embiid and double technical fouls for Butler and Dudley. Yet the Sixers, who trailed 67-61 at the time of the incident, overcame the loss of their high-scoring off guard behind Embiid and Ben Simmons for a 112-108 victory to stake a commanding three-games-to-one lead in the best-of-seven-games series.
It's a full blown fight at Barclays Center.— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) April 20, 2019
Tensions have reached peak. pic.twitter.com/U9RAd3987U
Dudley, the 6ft 7in forward whose peripatetic 12-year NBA career has included seven stints with six teams, has taken on a principal role in the first-round series that belies his modest regular-season averages of 4.9 points and 2.6 rebounds per game. He’s been a pebble in Philadelphia’s shoe both on and off the court, thriving as a stretch five in Brooklyn’s Game 1 win, dismissing Simmons an “average” half-court player after Game 2 – which sparked a brilliant 31-point breakout from the young Aussie in Game 3 – and playing with a physicality the young Nets have rallied around in their upset bid.
The 33-year-old veteran, who had eight points at the time of the incident, insisted that he had no regrets over Saturday’s abrupt exit.
“If anything I should have got him worse,” Dudley said. “Me being a veteran of this team, showing these young guys a certain way you have to (play). If anything I probably would have got my money’s worth a little bit more on that push. That push wasn’t even that bad.”
Embiid, who was limited to five points in the first half but finished with a game-high 31 points, 16 rebounds, seven assists and six blocked shots in 31 minutes, said afterward he was unbothered by Dudley’s gamesmanship.
“He’s a nobody,” Embiid said. “Opponents try to do stuff like that just to try and get us out of the game. That’s why I didn’t react. I did not do anything and I didn’t think it was a flagrant foul because I played the ball. In that type of situation I just got to stay composed and be mature and let it go because my teammates need me more than [the Nets] need him.”
Head referee Ed Malloy, speaking to a pool reporter, said Embiid’s foul rose to the level of a flagrant 1 because “there was a windup with unnecessary contact that we didn’t deem to be excessive”, adding that Simmons and Brooklyn’s D’Angelo Russell were not penalized despite their proximity to the melee for serving as peacemakers.
Butler said the Sixers were ready for anything from Dudley, who’s openly embraced his agitator role in an effort to discompose the third-seeded Sixers.
“We definitely thought it was coming,” Butler said. “I don’t pay attention to him too much. I just don’t think you should be running up on anybody like that.”
Philadelphia coach Brett Brown believed the flare-up helped the Sixers lock in after a mostly lackluster first half, particularly in the interplay between Embiid and Simmons, who finished with 15 points, eight rebounds and eight assists, plus a lone steal with 4.8 seconds remaining that sealed the game for the visitors.
“There was a deeper connection after Jimmy (Butler) was ejected and offensively and defensively you can see what might make you say that,” Brown said. “When we lose Jimmy, that’s a key factor for our team on both sides of the floor. For us as a team we had to regroup ourselves, gather, get back out there and play the way we want to play. It was huge. We got into a lot of pick-and-roll situations and we were able to find shooters and Joel.”
The Sixers can advance to the Eastern Conference semi-finals for a second straight year when the series resumes on Tuesday night with Game 5 in Philadelphia.