LOS ANGELES — The 76ers got a much-needed victory against a team with a winning record.
They defeated the Los Angeles Clippers, 119-113, Tuesday night here at the Staples Center in Joel Embiid’s return.
This game had its heated moments.
Jimmy Butler and Avery Bradley were ejected after a shoving match with 7 minutes, 1 second remaining. That came after the two were physical with each other while battling for a rebound. Taking exception, Bradley turned and shoved Butler, who shoved him back.
They had to be separated. Team security and Sixers assistant coach Monty Williams ran on the court to make sure things didn’t get out of hand. Butler and Bradley were kicked out of the game after officials reviewed video of the incident.
After the game, Butler said things had happened so fast that he didn’t really know what transpired. There was a little scuffle, technical fouls were called, and before you knew it, he was gone.
Also, Embiid and Patrick Beverley had to be separated after the Clippers point guard fouled Embiid with 9:32 to play. They received technical fouls.
Things might have gotten chippy because of the Clippers' over-aggressive play during their comeback attempt.
“We are playing physical,” Butler said. “We both want to win. Everybody on every team wants to win. Two people got too close to one another, and the same things happened. Some pushing and some shoving and we got techs and we got ejected.”
Butler was asked if the shoves warranted an ejection and if the officials gave him an explanation. He said that it’s not his call and that there was no explanation.
“He said, ‘Ejected,’ so I went to the locker room,” Butler said. “I mean, there’s nothing I can do.”
The competitive swingman, however, likes chippy play. He said teams are supposed to be enemies on the floor.
“That’s what Philly likes to see,” he said. “That’s what the league is there for: the competitiveness. Obviously, nobody wants to see a fight. But I like the energy that it brings.”
Embiid and Ben Simmons helped the Sixers, who had a commanding 24-point, second-quarter lead, avoid a total meltdown.
The Clippers went on a 10-0 run to close the gap to 110-105 with 3:34 to play. Embiid responded with four points to help give the Sixers a 114-108 lead with 1:21 left. But the Clippers pulled within four points, 117-113, on Tobias Harris' dunk with 15 seconds left.
Simmons responded with a dunk after a timeout. Then the point guard then blocked Lou Williams' three-point attempt on the ensuing possession with 10 seconds left. Embiid grabbed the rebound to seal the game.
The victory improved the Sixers to 24-14. It also marked just their fourth victory in 12 games against teams currently with winning records. They swept this season’s two meetings with the Clippers (21-16). Their other two victories against current teams with winning records came against the Toronto Raptors and Indiana Pacers.
“This is a huge one,” Embiid said. "We’ve been struggling on the road a lot. The last freaking game we had against Portland, we sucked. "
Embiid had a big hand in Tuesday’s domination after missing Sunday’s 129-95 road loss to the Portland Trail Blazers with knee soreness. The all-star center finished with 28 points, 19 rebounds, three assists and three blocks. This marked his NBA-leading 32nd double-double. Fifteen of Embiid’s points came in the first quarter on 5-for-8 shooting.
He said he was all right after the game. But Embiid added he wasn’t sure if he’ll play Wednesday night against the Phoenix Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena.
Simmons had 14 points, nine rebounds, and eight assists to go with his block.
However, Embiid and Simmons got in each other’s way during a play with 9:19 left in the third quarter. As Embiid grabbed the rebound, he was pushed in the back and into the direction of Simmons. Simmons, who was also going for the rebound, elbowed Embiid in the face. The center fell to the ground and was noticeably heated while walking to the bench. He yelled something about a rebound.
“I kind of freaked out also, because that’s the same [part of the] face I had the surgery on," said Embiid, who had surgery March 31 to repair a fractured orbital bone near his left eye. “That’s why I lost it.
"But it was a basketball play. Nothing to talk about.”
Last season’s injury came on a collision with Markelle Fultz on March 28 against the New York Knicks. Fultz was driving around his teammate when his right shoulder crashed into Embiid’s head.
He missed the final eight regular-season games and Games 1 and 2 of the Sixers' opening-round playoff series against the Miami Heat.
Simmons said he didn’t know what happened in Tuesday’s collision with Embiid.
“I mean, Coach tells me to crash the boards,” he said. “So I just went to the boards.”
The Sixers were a completely different team in the first half from their previous game.
The outcome Sunday was all but decided in the second quarter. The Blazers went into halftime up, 70-41. The 41 points were the fewest the Sixers have scored in a half this season. Portland went on to lead by as many as 43 points.
Then on Tuesday, Philly led by 76-58 at intermission. The 76 points were a season high for the Sixers in the first half. Their previous high was 72 against the Clippers back on Nov. 1 at the Wells Fargo Center.