PHILADELPHIA — Celtics guard Marcus Smart earned a flagrant-2 foul and was ejected from the game Wednesday night against the Philadelphia 76ers after shoving Joel Embiid from behind in a third-quarter flareup.
Smart, angry an Embiid elbow dropped him to the ground while trying to run through the big man’s screen, charged at Embiid from behind and delivered a firm two-handed shove that sent the 7-footer to the floor. Smart then stood his ground as Embiid sprinted in his direction before teammates and officials stepped in to prevent further escalation.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens said after the game that Smart can’t get himself tossed in that situation, in part because Boston was already shorthanded while playing without Gordon Hayward (concussion protocol) and Aron Baynes, who suffered an ankle injury in the first half.
"Now, I’m disappointed in Marcus. Like, we need you,” said Stevens. "Baynes is already out. We need him to be in the game. No matter what happens, we need [Smart in the game].”
As players rushed between Smart and Embiid after the shove, Smart waved for Philly’s big man to come at him and could be seen yelling that Embiid's original elbow was, “bulls—.” Smart was booed lustily by the Philadelphia fans as he returned to the bench and, like a wrestling villain, he called for more boos.
After video review, referees assessed Smart with a flagrant-2, which triggered the automatic ejection. Embiid was assessed a technical foul. Fans cheered loudly when the ejection was announced and Smart was escorted from the court.
Smart wasn’t present in the Celtics’ locker room when it opened to reporters. Embiid didn’t linger on the topic.
“Obviously, I was frustrated because it was a cheap shot,” said Embiid. "I didn't see it coming, it caught me off-guard. But, I mean, I don't really wanna talk about it, so I don't care.”
Embiid did admit the sequence re-energized the Sixers.
“For sure. I mean, stuff like that -- it gets me going, it gets the crowd going,” said Embiid. “And everybody knows that I play better when the crowd is involved. So that energy was definitely good for us.”
The Celtics were up 11 when Smart got ejected but Philadelphia, playing the second night of a back-to-back after winning in Charlotte on Tuesday, rode some of that energy in the building to make things close again. Boston still had chances to pull away late but endured defensive lapses that Smart’s presence could have helped prevent.
"Those things can’t happen, in terms of Smartie being ejected, especially when we’re in an environment like this,” said Celtics guard Kyrie Irving. "But we talked about it, we squashed it, and now we move on.”
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Added Marcus Morris: “Obviously, Smartie does Smart things. And he’s our best defender on [J.J.] Redick, so obviously, we needed him. We needed his toughness, we needed his defense. So it is what it is.”
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