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Harden calls his ejection ‘unacceptable,’ he is far from only one confused by referee choices

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Natalie and Kelsey Nicole Nelson assess how Joel Embiid's Flagrant 1 foul toward Nic Claxton during Game 3 against the Nets compared to what Draymond Green did to Domantas Sabonis, as well as James Harden's ejection.

There is one thing everyone in Philadelphia and Brooklyn can agree on: Nobody is sure what logic Tony Brother’s officiating crew was using in ejecting players from Thursday night’s Game 3 in Brooklyn.

James Harden was ejected late in the third quarter of Game 3 when his off-hand push caught Royce O’Neal in the groin.

Harden was livid postgame, here is his quote, via Tim Bontemps of ESPN.

“Unacceptable flagrant 2. First time I’ve been ejected. I’m not labeled as a dirty player and I didn’t hit him in a private area. Somebody is draped on you like that defensively, that’s a natural basketball reaction. I didn’t hit him hard enough for him to fall down like that. But for a flagrant 2,

Honestly, I didn’t think it was a foul on me. But that’s unacceptable. It can’t happen.”


Crew chief Brother explained the Harden ejection this way: “Based on the point of contact directly to the groin, it rose to the level of excessive and ejection.”

Making direct contact with the testicles appears to be at the heart of Brother’s logic, both for why Harden was ejected for contact that seemed an incidental part of pushing a defender off him, and also why Joel Embiid was not ejected in the first quarter for a blatant attempt to try and kick Claxton in the groin.

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

Put another way, Embiid missed his target, so he was not ejected. Which defies logic — Embiid’s intent was clear (even if he said after the game he didn’t remember the play), why is he let off the hook because his aim is poor? Nets coach Jacque Vaughn didn’t understand either.

“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, for him to continue to play, I’ve never seen that before in a game and a guy continues to play. Intentional.”

Nic Claxton rightfully picked up a technical for stepping over Embiid, leading to the kick. However, Claxton got a quick-trigger second technical and ejection in the fourth quarter — the referees need to swallow their whistles here, we want emotion in the game, we want to see that passion.

Claxton wasn’t happy about it but said he should not have put himself in that position. Here’s Claxton’s quote, via Brian Lewis of The New York Post.

“Yeah, when I watched it, it was a little excessive. I got to keep my emotions in check,” Claxton said after the game. “They need me out there. So that’s part of my growth, just keeping my emotions like that when I’m playing well and my emotions are really high. I got to look myself in the mirror and just be smarter in those situations.”

Claxton’s response might have been the most mature when compared to Embiid, Harden and Brothers.

Thanks to Tyrese Maxey taking over late, the 76ers won the Game and are now up 3-0 in the series, with Game 4 on Saturday.