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James Harden ejected, but not Joel Embiid for groin-area shots to Nets

Harden was dribbling while defended closely by Royce O’Neale when he swung out his arm and hit O’Neale, who fell to the court in pain. Referees reviewed the play and called Harden for a flagrant foul 2, an automatic ejection

Philadelphia 76ers' James Harden reacts to a foul called on him during the second half against the Brooklyn Nets in Game 3 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Thursday, April 20, 2023
Philadelphia 76ers' James Harden reacts to a foul called on him during the second half against the Brooklyn Nets in Game 3 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Thursday, April 20, 2023, in New YorkAssociated Press/LaPresse (APS)

James Harden made direct contact when he swung at a Nets player’s groin. Joel Embiid’s kick to a different player landed in a safer spot.

That’s why Harden was thrown out and Embiid dodged an ejection Thursday night in Philadelphia’s 102-97 victory in Game 3.

Harden was dribbling while defended closely by Royce O’Neale when he swung out his arm and hit O’Neale, who fell to the court in pain. Referees reviewed the play and called Harden for a flagrant foul 2, an automatic ejection, after seeing evidence of where he had hit O’Neale.

“Based on the point of contact directly to the groin, it rose to the level of excessive and ejection,” crew chief Tony Brothers said.

Two quarters earlier, the 76ers were perhaps lucky the same penalty wasn’t given to Embiid.

He kicked his leg up toward Nets center Nic Claxton’s groin, a play that looked worse than Harden’s but was given a lesser flagrant 1.

Claxton had just dunked and Embiid fell to the court after fouling him. Claxton then slowly stepped over Embiid, who kicked up his leg into Claxton’s upper leg area before players from both teams rushed in.

After a video review, Embiid was given a flagrant foul 1.

Embiid joked at first that he couldn’t remember the play, but then said after it happened he knew he couldn’t get mixed up in any more altercations.

“The whole game you could see what they were doing, just trying to get a rise out of me,” Embiid said. “I’m too valuable, especially after the first one.

“I just understood I’m too valuable to get into this stuff.”

Nets fans booed after the decision, angry that the two-time scoring champion was not thrown out. Golden State’s Draymond Green was ejected from Game 2, then suspended for Game 3, of the Warriors’ series against Sacramento after stepping on Kings center Domantas Sabonis.

“The contact was deemed unnecessary and based on the point of contact to the leg, it didn’t rise to the level of excessive,” Brothers said.

Nets coach Jacque Vaugh couldn’t believe Embiid wasn’t ejected.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen that in my career before, 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,” Vaughn said. “I’ve never seen that before. In a game and a guy continues to be able to play. Intentional.”

Claxton was given a technical foul for stepping over Embiid and ended up getting ejected when he picked up a second tech in the fourth quarter.

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