Full-fledged Sixers-Knicks fan freakout: ref error, flagrants & the Empire State Building!? (2024)

The Sixers got their first win of the 2024 NBA Playoffs at The Center on Thursday, a 125-114 victory over the New York Knicks. Joel Embiid, battling discomfort in his knee from his surgically repaired meniscus and a reportedly minor case of Bell’s Palsy on top, was simply masterful... that is assuming he should have been allowed to finish the ballgame.

But the way this series has played out, the tension almost makes it feel like a throwback to some of the rugged playoff series the Knicks were used to back in the days when Patrick Ewing, Charles Oakley and Anthony Mason were doing all they could to strike the fear of god into all challengers — including dynasties that had them significantly out-talented.

(I’m talking about the passion, not the gameplay, Oak would probably call everyone wimps, the players and fans, for whining for such marginal contact).

Neither fanbase has enjoyed an NBA title since 1983. Neither has enjoyed a Conference Finals or Finals run since 2001. There’s been The Process in Philly, the James Dolan quarter-century in NY, so it all makes some sense there’d be some rabid interest from all sides...but unlike the last time the Knicks had a really good team in 1999, Twitter and social media have added rocketfuel to what surely would have been an already blazing fire.

Pop the reigning MVP’s name into Twitter and scroll through. Instead of seeing highlight reels from one of the best playoff games a player has ever had vs. the Knicks, you’re likely to be bombarded with compilations of #EMFLOP, dirty plays, drooping eye gags and general “f—k Embiid” mayhem.

This frame says it all… Wilt, Chuck, Moses, Doc, Iverson must be proud of the fight in Joel Embiid. pic.twitter.com/V09VnUkjb0

— DaveEarly (@DavidEarly) April 26, 2024

Even the suddenly nervous Empire State Building is wimpily closing its doors to Joel after another dominant performance.

Joel Embiid has been banned from the Empire State Building

— Empire State Building (@EmpireStateBldg) April 26, 2024

The Liberty Bell, by contrast, remains unflinching under pressure — battle-scarred, stoic, prepared to welcome all visitors regardless of creed or allegiance, with Liberty, and Justice for All.

Just look at its hardened, steely-ice game-face now:

Full-fledged Sixers-Knicks fan freakout: ref error, flagrants & the Empire State Building!? (1)

Embiid, battling through discomfort in his surgically repaired left knee, and an unfortunate case of Bell’s Palsy, is unlike The Bell, opting for at least the brace and some pregame shades.

But some Knicks fans seem to think it may merely be NBA propaganda.

f*ck this sympathy propaganda lmao https://t.co/2VFTLIOOiU

— ShwinnyPooh, national championship enjoyer (@shwinnypooh) April 26, 2024

Thanks to NB3131 in today’s KFS Substack comments for making this point: genius PR move by the Sixers to release the Bell’s palsy tidbit as a way to curry sympathy / shift the narrative away from Embiid being a petulant child who intentionally tried to take out multiple Knicks.

— F CK EMBIID (@JCMacriNBA) April 26, 2024

The F-Embiid stuff began in the series during first couple of games at MSG. It seems in The Big Apple, there is a real loathe for your favorite team’s hero.

Why exactly it exists (long before Game 3) is a difficult question to answer. But from my experience as a NYC dweller, The Process fomented an inherent resentment (yeah, we may stink but at least we’re not doing it on purpose) towards the Sixers that’s only bud and blossomed over time with Embiid’s personal attempts to justify Sam Hinkie’s controversial maneuverings to try and land a future Hall-of-Famer or three.

And now both fan bases are frothing at the mouth.

The cheers once people realize Embiid’s hurt is disgusting

Just absolute scum of the earth sh*t pic.twitter.com/Ocb8DYoVtS

— Sean Barnard (@Sean_Barnard1) April 20, 2024

Stuff that enraged people from Game 1 now feel like a decade ago, after the L2M from Game 2 came out, and Game 3.

I won’t bother reminding you about the gory details, but Game 2 was one of the worst losses in franchise history.

The difference in Maxey’s whistle and Brunson’s whistle is INSANE.

And that isn’t a Brunson diss lol

— Harrison Grimm (@Harrison_Grimm) April 21, 2024

The truth of the matter is that this series features two foul hunters in Embiid and Jalen Brunson, but only one really has the national reputation for it to date.

Maxey vs. Brunson per game through 3

Maxey: 31 ppg, 5 rpg, 7 apg, 39% 3p, 2.7 TO
(69 total FGA, 50.7%)

Brunson: 28.3 ppg, 5.7 reb, 8.7 ast, 26.3% 3p, 3.3 TO
(82 total FGA, 35.4%).

Brunson: 27 free throw attempts!
Maxey: 12 FTA

— DaveEarly (@DavidEarly) April 26, 2024

And it’s hurt the Sixers in more than one playoff series now (you remember how you couldn’t sneeze on Trae Young, while the umps really let Joel and Clint Capela throw some haymakers back in 2021).

And now Embiid has committed a series of controversial, if not outright dirty, fouls in Game 3.

Crew chief Zach Zarba on why officials deemed the Embiid foul on Robinson a flagrant 1 and not a flagrant 2: "The crew was unanimous along with the replay center official in Secaucus that this foul was unnecessary but did not rise to the level of a flagrant 2."

Full quote here: pic.twitter.com/bTv5w07q9X

— Fred Katz (@FredKatz) April 26, 2024

Joel Embiid’s textbook flagrant 1 foul should be used in the NBA’s educational materials so fans can understand the difference between flagrant 1s and flagrant 2s

— Ben Detrick (@bdetrick) April 27, 2024

If I’m being honest, I think Embiid probably could have been ejected in that game; but because the officials missed his swift groin kick on Mitchell Robinson, they didn’t even review it. In those instances, it’s not uncommon for the league to upgrade a foul to a flagrant, or simpy fine a player after the ballgame.

But had Joel been ejected, I might have spent the rest of my life wondering how any Knicks didn’t receive similar repercussions for perhaps even more blatant tactics recently:

Donte DiVincenzo did literally this to Kelly Oubre a month ago oh my god I hate the Knicks so muchpic.twitter.com/N5T5PSjtuQ https://t.co/8ALzCF8M3J

— Chris OIIey (@chrisoIIey) April 26, 2024

That play from Donte DiVincenzo above occurred on Mar. 10 at MSG. The Nova star appeared to mistakenly think Kelly Oubre Jr. was taunting him and goes full Georges St-Pierre on the takedown.

Somehow it was ruled a double technical on DDV and Paul Reed (who came over in the aftermath). Isaiah Hartenstein also got hit with a T.

It was essentially the same penalty for Divincenzo as some players have received for bouncing a ball the wrong way towards a testy official.

But you know it’s bad when even Josh Hart feels Embiid crossed a line.

Knicks' Josh Hart ejected from Bulls matchup after kick to head of Javonte Green

Here’s what Scott Foster said about it:https://t.co/nxSY9yenx1 via @nypostsports

— Stefan Bondy (@SbondyNBA) April 6, 2024

BREAKING: Jimmy Butler went down with an ankle injury after colliding with Josh Hart.

Jimmy stayed in the game, though! pic.twitter.com/unFHU1ShJ2

— Courtside Buzz (@CourtsideBuzzX) April 30, 2023

Josh Hart gets hit from non existent contact and nearly takes out Jimmy Butler’s ankle… again pic.twitter.com/H3fSyopy4f

— hoops bot (@hoops_bot) May 7, 2023

The NBA admitted to a slew of blown calls disadvantaging the 76ers in the waning moments of Game 2.

We’ll see if there are any post-Game 3 notes for the Sixers.

Blame the refs not the players

But for my money, the league is most at fault here for the current divide and wrath coming from the Knicks fan base at Embiid’s Sixers, and from the Sixers fanbase at officiating.

Sixers fans should feel free to enjoy the talent and splendor of Jalen Brunson without thinking to themselves: Maxey should spend his entire summer learning how to blow by his defender, then start posting him up sideways and backwards looking for contact rather than getting into his floater to hunt fouls like JB.

Sixers fans shouldn’t have to wonder for perhaps an eternity if they lose this series: man, what if on that final play of Game 2 the refs hadn’t missed two fouls on Maxey, AND two timeouts called by Nick Nurse. John Goble’s crew really went 0-for-4 in under 4 seconds? Even Nick Anderson could do better.

Knicks fans shouldn’t have to wonder why Embiid was permitted to get away with so much in Philly or about Mitchell Robinson’s health or if it was all mostly allowed because the NBA simply wanted to make up for their Game 2 blunders.

And Sixers fans shouldn’t have to pull up dirty and dangerous plays from Knicks players within the last few weeks and say how dare you call HIM dirty when you just blah, blah, blah....

Look you just can’t expect everyone to thrive under the pressure of MSG lights pic.twitter.com/wQPdAiGscq

— DaveEarly (@DavidEarly) April 23, 2024

This series has long gotten away from the officials, plenty of it is irreversible. Mitchell Robinson got unfortunately injured (though it was actually the opposite foot that Embiid grabbed), and didn’t even occur on the play ruled a flagrant.

The Sixers should have stolen home court in Game 2, something they won’t have a chance to do again until Game 5. And it’s all turning some fans into nutbags making fun of Embiid’s eye, banning players from landmarks, and general wackiness.

Is it me, or would there not be much hate if it was Tobias Harris who committed these offenses Embiid committed...I have to assume the fact that Joel is capable of channeling Hakeem Olajuwon and Reggie Miller all in the same game that makes it all so much worse to see him out there cooking.

This thing is so weird that we barely even have time to to discuss Maxey’s flu, De’Anthony Melton’s back, Kelly Oubre’s car crash, Embiid’s shocking ailment luck or Josh Hart’s channeling Ray Allen.

Game 4 should be some more must see TV. I wonder if the league can put forth the same type of effort Embiid displayed in Game 3. Because lost in the shuffle was one of the best games anyone has ever played vs. New York in the playoffs.

Full-fledged Sixers-Knicks fan freakout: ref error, flagrants & the Empire State Building!? (2024)


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