For once in this young season, the Sixers were enjoying sort of a breather, up by 20 and scoring at will. Then, a brawl broke out between two of the NBA’s premier centers.
Joel Embiid and Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns became involved in an old-fashioned melee on Wednesday night at the Wells Fargo Center.
Both were ejected from the game, as the Sixers led, 75-55, with 6 minutes, 42 seconds left in the third quarter.
The Sixers won, 117-95, and now they will be waiting to see whether they lose Embiid for any amount of time. The Sixers next play on Saturday in Portland.
“I didn’t throw any punches, and I tried to be as cool as I could in that situation,” Embiid said after the game. “Personally, I didn’t throw any punches, I shouldn’t get suspended.”
Towns didn’t discuss the fight in his postgame interview.
“It was just a competitive game,” Towns said. “I am disappointed we lost, we didn’t play the way we usually play, we didn’t play Minnesota basketball.”
Towns was being guarded by Ben Simmons when Embiid came down for a double team. The two centers collided, and Towns threw a punch that didn’t connect. Embiid and Towns tangled in a bear hug and tumbled to the floor as teammates moved in.
“We got him to turn over the ball over, and my hand was tangled up, and next thing I know he is holding me," Embiid said. "We are holding each other, but it is basketball. That is what I am good at -- I like to get in people’s mind … .”
Embiid left the court punching the air Rocky-style, to the delight of the sellout crowd, which included new Phillies manager Joe Girardi, Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz, and several of his teammates. The fans responded with a thunderous ovation.
“It was good for the city and good for me to see the reaction and the love they have for me,” he said. " I can’t thank them enough."
Referee Mark Ayotte told an Associated Press pool reporter: “We deemed the altercation a fight. Therefore, by rule, they’re both ejected.”
Lost in all this was the fact that the Sixers improved to 4-0, while dropping the 3-1 Timberwolves from the undefeated ranks.
Embiid finished with 19 points and 5rebounds in 20 minutes. He shot 7-for-14 from the field, while making his only three-point shot, and hit all four free throws. Towns, who entered the game averaging 32 points, had 13 points and 6 rebounds in 23 minutes. He shot 5-of-7 from the field, including 3-of-5 from three-point range, and didn’t get to the foul line.
Unlike previous games, the Sixers were having their way with Minnesota. The Timberwolves’ biggest lead was 3 points in the first half, but the Sixers built a 19-point lead by halftime.
In the previous two games, the Sixers needed to overcome 13-point deficits to win in Detroit and Atlanta.
By halftime, Embiid led the way with 13 points. The Sixers kept applying the pressure in the third quarter, before and after the fight.
The Sixers received a huge game off the bench from Furkan Korkmaz, who scored 17 points, one shy of his career high.
All of the Sixers starters scored in double figures. Tobias Harris had 18 points. Ben Simmons had 16 points and 7assists. Josh Richardson and Al Horford scored 12 points each, with Horford grabbing 16 rebounds.