With an 11-point lead at halftime, the Boston Celtics appeared to be on their way to a season sweep of the Philadelphia 76ers.
The turning point came 54 seconds into third quarter when tempers flared.
Marcus Smart took exception to Joel Embiid sticking out his left elbow on a hard pick that knocked Smart to the court. With Embiid’s back turned, Smart gave Embiid a two-handed shove that sent him sprawling toward the sideline. Embiid got up and had to be separated from Smart.
After reviewing the play, the referees gave Smart a Flagrant 2 foul, which comes with an automatic ejection. Embiid received a technical foul.
Embiid scored the next eight points to help Philadelphia pull within four.
“Stuff like that gets me going, gets the crowd going,” Embiid told reporters after the game. “Obviously, I was frustrated because it was a cheap shot. I didn’t see it coming.”
Embiid finished with 37 points and a career-high 22 rebounds, leading the Sixers to their sixth straight victory, 118-115.
Philadelphia moved four games ahead of Boston in the standings and improved to 7-1 in games in which they’ve had all the pieces of their new starting lineup together.
Assuming the Sixers finish with the No. 3 seed and the Celtics end up at No. 4 or 5, the two rivals could meet in the Eastern Conference finals.
In a span of three weeks, the Oklahoma City Thunder have fallen from the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference into a three-way tie for the No. 6 seed.
That’s what happens when you lose 10 of 15 games coming out of the All-Star break.
In the first game of a home-and-home series with the Toronto Raptors, the Thunder rallied from a 20-point deficit in the second half only to fall iin overtime, 123-114.
OKC will look to end their current four-game slide Friday night in Toronto.
Here’s a look at the playoff matchups if the season ended today.
Thunder retire Collison’s jersey
Oklahoma City retired Nick Collison’s No. 4 jersey in a pregame ceremony, the first time the franchise has so honored a player since its move to Oklahoma City in 2008. The Seattle SuperSonics drafted Collison out of Kansas in 2003 and he spent his entire 15-year career with the club.
“I could never have expected something like this,” Collison said. “But it’s really a special night for me and my family. It’s been a long run. To be able to have the career I had here and then have a celebration like that, I feel very fortunate.”
Among his former Thunder teammates who attended the ceremony were Kevin Durant of Golden State and Serge Ibaka of the Raptors.
Giannis Antetokounmpo missed his second straight game with a sprained right ankle, but he still made some NBA history when his younger brother, Kostas, made his NBA debut for the Dallas Mavericks.
The Antetokounmpo brothers became the seventh set of three brothers to play in the NBA.
Thanasis Antetokounmpo, currently playing in the EuroLeague, appeared in two games for the New York Knicks during the 2015-16 season.
Kostas checked in with 5:53 left in the fourth quarter and had one point, one rebound and two steals.
“It’s a great feeling, man,” Kostas said. “It’s a dream come true and I was excited I was able to score a point.”
With 33 seconds left, he made one of two free throws.
Spurs give Wade special gifts
Dwayne Wade’s farewell tour stopped in San Antonio, and the Spurs didn’t wait until after the game for the customary jersey swap.
Following a pregame video tribute, Gregg Popovich walked over to greet Wade and presented him with a gift box that included signed jerseys of Spurs legends Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker.
— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) March 21, 2019
Turns out Wade had a memorable parting shot of his own for San Antonio, drilling a 3-pointer from just beyond half court at the end of the third quarter. Wade finished with 11 points and two rebounds in 20 minutes, as the Heat snapped the Spurs’ nine-game winning streak with a 110-105 victory.
Stat of the night
James Harden scored 57 points (in a loss to the Grizzlies) — his seventh 50-point game of the season. That’s the third most 50-point games in a single season since the ABA-NBA merger in 1976-77:
- Kobe Bryant (10 games, 2006-07)
- Michael Jordan (8 games, 1986-87)
- James Harden (7 games, 2018-19)
- Kobe Bryant (6 games, 2005-06)
- Michael Jordan (5 games, 1988-89)