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It’s About Contact With The Balls

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - APRIL 20: Joel Embiid #21 of the Philadelphia 76ers reacts toward referee Nick Buchert #3 against the Brooklyn Nets during the second half of Game Three of the Eastern Conference First Round Playoffs at Barclays Center on April 20, 2023 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. The 76ers won 102-97. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.
Sarah Stier/Getty Images

OK, pop quiz time. I am going to show you two incidents from last night's playoff game between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Brooklyn Nets. I want you tell me which one resulted in a flagrant 2 foul and an ejection.

First Incident: Joel Embiid Falls Down And Kicks Nic Claxton's Nether Region

Second Incident: James Harden Gives A Little Whack To Royce O'Neale's Groin

OK, so I realize the tweet caption on the second incident sort of gives away the game, but the point is this: How the heck did Embiid only get a flagrant 1 for briefly transforming into Draymond Green while Harden got run from the game for executing the kind of push-off that happens a half-dozen times per game? The Sixers, along with everyone else who watched the game, were certainly confused. "Unacceptable flagrant 2," Harden said in the locker room. "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, it's unacceptable."

But before we can pass judgment on what appears to be a fuck-up by the referees (though a relatively inconsequential one, given that the Sixers won the game), we have to hear from crew chief Tony Brothers, who attempted to explain after the game why Embiid was allowed to continue playing and Harden was not.

So there you have it. It's not about the violence or intent of the action, but what part of the body you actually make contact with. Here's an easy way to remember: Kick a guy in the thigh? That's OK, my guy. Tap a guy in the sack? You're out of the game, Jack!

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